Ben stood on the patio in his bare feet, arms outstretched like a scarecrow or Jesus. He was waiting for the sun to warm the red stones, making it impossible for him to remain where he was. This was the ritual he had stumbled onto and performed religiously every day of the month since his father died. He wore what he jokingly called his work clothes: cut-off jeans like he wore as a kid, bare-chested to boot. Not finding this funny, Kay had made him agree to wear a shirt when he worked in the front yard.
Thinking of his wife, Ben glanced at the wall of picture windows above him, but the glare made it impossible to see if she was watching him. But Kay was there, he knew, drinking coffee and worrying about when he would return to his normal life and stop acting strange. She would stand there a few more minutes and then join the commuters flowing out of the houses around them. He’d soon be alone with his plants.
Morning was the hardest part of the day. The ritual helped. All around him, garage doors opening and closing, breadwinners (mostly men) hitting the Kennedy Expressway in their BMWs, Saabs, and the occasional minivan. He was glad Kay’s hours were forgiving, though she took her assistant curator position more seriously than most of those around her.
Ben heard the distinctive roar of the yellow school buses driven by recovering alcoholics while electricians, plumbers, and handymen were hitching up their pants and fantasizing about the lady of the house being a nympho-mom. Hispanic maids hopped out of beater Fords laughing and waving goodbye. Men began spraying lawns with toxic chemicals from vans ornamented with ecologically friendly logos.
Ben knew if he could get through this last hour of the rush hour, he would be free once again to pretend the world beyond his backyard didn’t exist–especially the world of jobs. Somewhere he still had (as far as he knew) a desk, a secretary, work piling up, and young men eyeing his office hungrily. He was fully aware that by all standards—Kay’s, his secretary Evie‘s, and surely those hungry young men and some women (who had named themselves the Young Turks)—his sabbatical had already crossed over from acceptable grief into questionable sanity. He would have to make a move soon, take a stand.
The patio stones were heating up fast.