The whistle snuck up on him as he walked down Reflection Street, a tune from his twenties, “We all fall in love, but we disregard the danger, something, something, something, why were you so surprised that you never saw the stranger? Did you ever let your lover see the stranger in yourself” Then, suddenly, with great clarity and precision, he saw Bartleby's window and the blank brick wall before him. The whitewash that obscured the view inside was the glaringly similar to his own outlook, the blankness of the wall, not unlike his heart. Bartleby’s had succumbed to the inevitable and gone out of business. Leaving an empty shell of what had once been thriving, alive and magical. Those similarities to his life pissed in his ear as he wandered home.
She had come into his life unexpectedly, a coworker, no one special. Oh, how wrong he’d been. She shook him up, his insides liquefied. He was no longer in control of himself, no longer solid and no longer blank. She tore away the veil of his run-of-the-mill life and she had seen him for the man he was and as no one else ever had, not even himself. She has awoken the stranger. That year they spent together, the promise they made to each other while coupled on the sofa that Labor Day afternoon were real and deep and at the time, life altering for both of them. She had moved him, touched him, consumed him and oh how she made his teeth rattle!
But his life was set. The job, the one he had been chasing for year was finally his. After all a job is what defines the man; at least that is what his father had always told him. It was at the core of his self-esteem. His family; the status quo. A stay at home wife who no longer acknowledged his needs or most of the time his existence, two great boys, a sprawling house in the ‘Burbs, a couple of dogs and a the brand new sports car. You know, all that things that humans are supposed to accumulate to measure their worth. From the outside it worked. The twelve plus hours a day he spent between work and commuting left little time for a home life, which, since her he had come to realize was exactly why he kept those hours. It all came down to less awake time. Less time to be bored, less time to think about the life he had worked so hard to create and that had turned so unbearably mundane. The house, his stuff, the outward manifestation of his success, he was finally better off than the Jones. For once his dad was proud. But she was always on his mind and just hearing her voice could send shock waves to that place that lay dormant in his everyday life, sending him on a wild ride of heat and heart. To her and only her he’d showed the stranger, with her and only her, he had been alive.
He never intended for it to happen, he never expected he would have to make a choice. In the end, when that choice had to be made, he like Bartleby’s took whitewash to his heart, rebuilt his wall, moved the dog and settled into his recliner, because when all was said and done, for him it was all about the stuff.