His marital bounds are tested when Simone returns, eight years later, to be a friend, and to see if their relationship would have worked. Humorous and dark, sad and complex, Malaise wanders through the life of Jonathan and his women, as he searches for love and peace in his emotionally barren world.
ForeWord Clarion Book Review
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.81(d)|
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By E J Eisman
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 E J Eisman
All rights reserved.
Jonathan McVoy walked into his usual coffee shop, which was almost directly across from his apartment, across an empty field. He was there much later than usual, and it was empty except for the woman for which he now held the door. It was a Friday night, as he entered the shop, and most revelers were testing their livers to see how much it they could withstand. The smell of java filled his senses. The drive-through provided plenty of action for the employees. An employee was working the house, Cindy, worked a little hand broom and dust bin cleaning up empty paper straw covers, discarded coffee stirrers and whatever that baby threw on the ground in the corner of the shop. She was in her twenties, college kid, short, sweet and her dirty-brown hair was in a ponytail, was usually there and had been on a first nod basis with Jonathan.
"Hey!" she stopped to greet him.
"Hi." He said softly as he made his way into the store and over to the counter to place his order.
The other employees of various different sizes and shapes had changed frequently over the year and a half since he had started going there.
"Cin? Do you want me to get this one?" A tall woman behind the counter yelled out.
Jonathan could make out the name tag hanging off of her left breast as "Rebecca." She had the drive-through headset hanging off of her head.
"Thanks Beck!" Cindy called and continued her rounds. "He's going to order a large, decaf, sugar-free cinnamon dolce latte."
"You know me too well." Jonathan responded.
"Well that makes it easy." Rebecca said staring at the register screen while logging into the system. She looked up. "Is that what you want?"
Jonathan nodded with a smirk. Rebecca keyed in the amount. Jonathan paid and turned around to the seating area. Rebecca went to work creating this masterpiece.
The place was well stocked with an abundance of coffee related items for sale. Against one wall there were various of mugs of all sizes, French press coffee makers and countless types of coffee. Jonathan feigned interest as he browsed them while he waited for his drink to come up. There was a lot to look at, and he took his time absorbing as much as he could. His mind was littered with what had transpired within the last forty-eight hours.
He sat down at one of the tables with his drink in hand. He never needed to add sugar or sweetener. He always found it just right when they made it. He sat at his favorite table, and picked up a section of the paper that had been strewn there. It was the classified section, but he drew interest in the ones that had red circles around the houses for sale that someone else had drawn. The circles told a tale; the person that highlighted them was looking for a bargain. Jonathan studied them for a while; his mind went blank sipping his latte.
A customer, blond, in her 30's, with a nice shape, stopped in for a cold coffee and was on her way. He was suddenly aware of the music playing in the shop; some jazz. His mind again wandered to the field in the distance. A new sign had been placed there, he was thinking. Or was it? He couldn't remember but he thought at last the field would be useful again. Miller Investment Group, LLC, was a blaze in bright red letters as the new owners.
An amber glow wallpapered the room through the bank of windows in front of him. The sun was going down. Jonathan took time to watch it for a bit. A few busy people made their way into the parking lot in front of him, all with someplace to go and something to do. This was the place where he was supposed to be. He was waiting for someone, and he was hoping that she would show. His mind turned to remembering what made him leave his wife that morning and what brought him here.
"God must hate me."
He stood in the empty parking lot of his work in the rain, just long enough to be soaked to the bone. And still he stood there; his drenched navy suit jacket sticking to him and making him feel uncomfortable; his wet Cordovan loafers and feet now in puddles. Thunder and lightning accented Jonathan, thirty years old, stocky build, average height and brown sandy hair with twinges of gray on both sides of his head and full beard. The sky and the parking lot were murky except for one amber-sodium glowing street light far from him. The rain pouring on his face and body was nothing compared to the torment that was going on inside of him.
Standing there, a drained man, he was wondering how long it would take to get her face out of his mind; the teary eyes, her pale cheeks, her red lips, her short-cut jet back hair played with her eyebrows, the gold cross around her neck, her expressive brown eyes and the way she lit up a cigarette, as she was wont to do, to excess. And that curious smile that always pursed her lips as if she was in "the know" and wasn't going to let you in on the secret. He thought of the pinky that brushed her lip, keeping her hand with the cigarette a safe distance from her face. And of course, the hollow tone of her voice as she said the last word of 'goodbye.'
"This can't be the end," he thought.
They had tried once before to break it off but this was it. No more. Nada. The fragrance of her perfume was still wafted in his fixated mind. The rain was coming down harder with the rhythm of an old blues melody: unwavering, tight, and unchanging.
"What am I going to do?" he sighed as his jaw still lying on the ground with his lower lip catching the rain.
He moved to his car slowly as if partially paralyzed and got in; the water from his clothes soaking into the fabric of the car seat. Still weakened and his heart racing, his feelings overwhelmed him all at once; he began to cry knowing what was waiting for him at home; his wife. He waited just a little longer. This time hoping that she would again turn around and head back to be with him, as she had done before. Instead his wet hands tightly gripped the steering wheel as his stared at the titanium wedding ring still on his finger.
Up the road at a red traffic light, she, Simone, thirty, sat in her burgundy Fiat 500. She was also crying and felt the painful loss as well. The light changed, and she drove through, only to pull to the side to catch her breath and get her bearings. She took a deep breath in her soaked tan blouse and once flowing flowery print skirt which was now clinging. She lit up a cigarette; alone with her thoughts and the sound of the pitter patter of the angry sky.
Her relationship with Jonathan was a complex one. He was emotionally and intellectually supportive of her; everything she knew her husband was incapable or unwilling to do. She was drawn to Jonathan. She felt comforted by him. She wanted him to be her lover. But this was final. They had tried before to break up, and every time it became more difficult. This, although only a few minutes old, was excruciating. She rung her hands through her hair and tugged trying to find some way to change her mind's chemistry. Simone remembered a time when she thought she wouldn't ever need a man, and now she was felt like a little girl who had just walked out on her best friend. This must be how her mother when she had walked out on her father. That night brought out some bad memories that she had been suppressing for years, and she wished they had stayed there.
There was a tap on her window that made her jump. In her own world, she hadn't noticed the police officer that had pulled up behind her with his lights flashing. He shined in his flashlight into her car as he stood out in the rain. He, again, gently tapped her window gently.
"Are you OK, Ma'am?" Simone did her best to wipe her running mascara and lower the window a crack.
"I'm OK." She said unconvincingly. "I just pulled to the side 'cause it was raining too hard to see."
"Simone?" The office questioned.
"Billy?" She tried to see, but she was blinded by his flashlight. Because of her husband's job as a paramedic, she knew a lot of the police in Queensboro.
"Does Paul know you are out here? You should probably get home." The officer suggested.
"I'm coming home from work." She looked behind her briefly at his car. "I worked late. I was on my way." She responded. "It just started coming down, and I couldn't see."
"Yeah, it's quite a downpour." He looked up. "You take it easy and lookout for flash floods. Oh, and River Road is out."
"OK, thanks." She put out the cigarette and lit another.
"No problem. Drive safe." He walked back to his patrol car and turned off his red and blue emergency lights.
Simone rolled up her window. Her little talk with the officer had cleared her head just enough to make her think her emotions and her life without Jonathan was manageable. There was a long road ahead, but she breathed in her cigarette smoke and it did even more to calm her. When she was through, she tossed the cigarette out the open window. The rain had slowed, so she pulled out into the minimal traffic and continued home back to her husband.
Jonathan McVoy walked into his apartment located in Nottinghem1, still dripping wet but drier than he was standing out in the rain. Inside the door, he quickly slipped off his shoes, but paid no bother to the dripping and sloshing of his dress socks. He headed straight for strong drink; he knocked back a shot of Jack, neat. And then another and another. The effects were not enough to allow him to say what he was going to have say to his wife. Yet he was beginning to feel pleasant. His mind was still fixated on Simone; the face that drove away that night and with her the happiness he had known.
After finishing a quarter of the bottle, his mind reflected to their first meeting, which now seemed like too long ago. The thought that a mere remembrance could cause that feeling, in his body; warmth, tenderness, beauty and humor and then anger, betrayal, finally hate and an ache for all of this, again. By now he was slouched on the tan faux leather couch, cuddling the bottle and whispering to it like a child wishing upon a star at night hoping he would get his wish when he woke in the morning. With a push he forced down the last drop of the smoky liquid and drifted into a sleep; a tear welling up in his closing brown eyes.
Claire, Jonathan's wife was 32 years old beauty, with long blond hair. She was unnaturally thin and tall, blanketed in bed, wearing her baby blue satin pajamas. Claire had her heard him come in, but continued to pretended to be asleep. Wondering when he would find his way to bed, then hearing him wetly plodding down the hall thinking he was just going for some food. She looked at the clock and waited; her patience waning. After there was silence for awhile she decided to check.
At first she was worried when she saw him sleeping on the couch, but then she saw the Jack Daniel's bottle. Her pity turned to anger. She decided to leave him there and let him sleep it off. Her brows wrinkled with concern at how wet he was, and what a mess his damp clothes were making on the sofa. She bent over to give him a kiss and smelled an unmistakable aroma; a fragrance that had recently become familiar to her, although she didn't know why. It was a woman's fragrance. She took a good whiff and decided to look him over more carefully when she noticed some makeup smeared on his collar and on his jacket.
"It could have been mine" she thought. "But that perfume was not!" She wanted to hit him, but she refrained. It would be better wait until the morning. She wandered back to bed and slipped under the heavy covers. She thought about the fragrance as she tossed and turned; also she was concerned about Jonathan. It wasn't until 3:00 a.m. that she drifted to sleep.
* * *
"Coffee time!" Claire yelled impatiently to Jonathan from the kitchen.
It was already morning, and she was dressed in her burgundy jacket and skirt with grey blouse.
"Wake up already! Work! Remember?"
She moved over to the couch where he was still cradling the bottle of Jack and snoring lightly. She looked at him with pity and scorn and then anger. She lashed out by starting to slap his face lightly, at first and then harder.
"Wake up already!" She repeated with the slapping.
Jonathan continued to snore as Claire became even more enraged.
"All right," she thought. She wrote a letter, found a baby safety pin and pinned it to his shirt. She stalked over to the vertical blinds that cover the glass slider which lead out to the porch. Claire pulled the blinds to the right as far they could go, flooding the living room with the blinding morning sun.
"That will teach him!" she scowled. Claire grabbed her coffee and left the house; slammed the door behind her as she headed to work.
Four hours later Jonathan woke with drool on his face, a heaviness on his chest, and a morning sun in his eyes. He woke up to a blinding light and still felt disorientated from last night. His personal space was occupied by his grey and white long haired cat named Zoltan who had been using his shirt, tie and coat as a warm and cozy space to hang.
A paper was pinned to his shirt, "We have to talk," was written on it. He was sure it was his wife's handwriting, but didn't remember her leaving that morning or seeing her home last night. His stretching scared the cat away to a safe place on the other side of the living room.
The Jack, from the previous night, still talked to him as he made his way from the couch, to the kitchen and threw-up. He stood wobbling over the kitchen sink, his clothes still damp and musty. Jonathan was feeling nauseous in the only the way imaginable considering he had a bottle of whatever the previous night. He wished to God he could take it back; his body wanted to turn itself inside out; the dry heaves. This feeling continued for what seemed like several eternities and then some. Each spasm, Jonathan couldn't help but think that it might be easier to cut himself open and remove his stomach by hand. Weak and blurry he made his way back to the couch; the sunlight streaming into this bright and unnatural cheery room, made his life unbearable. Slowly he got up and closed the blinds the best he could and collapsed back on the couch, and closed his eyes in an attempt to block out the entire world the best he could.
Jonathan's thoughts fixed on Simone leaving him. "What kind of a world is it that would let this happen," he thought. "Could I go on?" Would he want to in his semi-loveless marriage to Claire or would it be better to be alone?
Jonathan laid there on the couch wishing the hang-over, Simone's breaking off the relationship, and having to deal with Claire was all over. His first instincts were to call Simone, but he knew he had to make a clean break. Now it was time to suck up to Claire and that was like venom in his mouth. This woman was draining him emotionally, if not physically. It's not like he didn't love Claire. There was a time when they first met when things were different. He laid there he longed for the time when he seemed to mean as much to her as she did to him. Now, it seemed like he was her puppet to command as she wished.
The phone rang and his head started to vibrate with it. Should he get it? What if it was Simone? What if it was Claire? What would he say? To either woman? The phone rang again. AW FUCK! I need to get this one way or another. I should take my lashings now or at least get this GOD-DAMNED NOISE OUT OF MY HEAD!! RING, RING! WHO IS IT?
Jonathan started to drink Jack Daniels the minute he got home from work. He sat on the porch staring out into space wondering how he could live without Simone and tell his wife or should he even say anything. He was always good to blame his moodiness and emotional distance on his bipolar medications in order to hide his growing emotional attachment to Simone. He'd been blaming the medications for detachment since he was diagnosed as a kid. But, this was a painful moment for him, and he didn't want his hurt and pain to spread it to anyone else. He was a reserved person but his insides were about to explode anticipating Claire returning home from work.
That evening Jonathan sat on the couch in the living room. An amber glow, from the table lamps in the corners of the open normally sterile white living room, fell on all the surroundings. His head was in his hands, and Claire stood above him staring down at him with a furrowed brow. The minute she had walked in the door, exhausted from another long day of sale, he had started to argue. Things just got worse up until this point, when he stopped. He fell unto the couch and started to cry. Claire shook her head and seemed confused about this outburst of emotion, but she remained calm and cool.
"What is up? What do you really want to tell me Jonathan?" She asked hesitantly.
In his stupor his mind raced. How was he going to tell her? He was holding this burden, and it was painful. How much more pain would be caused by telling her?
"I don't know." He said slurring from the alcohol.
"Something is up Jonathan. I know there is. You've shaved your beard."
Excerpted from MALAISE by E J Eisman. Copyright © 2013 E J Eisman. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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