I was at the sink rinsing my coffee cup when he left at 7:30, as usual. And as soon as the garage door closed, I saw their curtains disappear.
Well, that caught my eye. She was ripping them down like there was no tomorrow. I knew then something was wrong, this being mid-December and no time for spring cleaning. I stood for awhile, peering between the blinds. I like to know what’s going on in my neighborhood.
She stood at the window for a minute or two, staring at the neglected lawn, naked trees, and cement-colored sky. I raised up my hand just in case she looked but she didn’t. The dog—his dog—didn’t notice a thing, big dumb lunk licking himself on the front lawn like it was the only thing to do.
She took the things he never liked: the pillow she’d embroidered with the words “Happiness Is…”, the gloomy family portrait from the mantel, the one they had taken at the mall just after the baby was born. When he yelled that only morons say cheese, and why do we need a picture when we own a camera, she didn’t answer. I heard it all through their kitchen window, which opens a mere ten feet from mine.
I watched her throw her and the boy’s clothes into bags. She packed up the blanket and one pillow but left the sheets looking gray and wrinkled as skin. She grabbed the coffee maker and the frying pan and threw the ivy-patterned china into a box. I saw her put the food from the refrigerator into a cooler and drag it to the garage, but she left the dog food.
The boy sat at the kitchen table eating cereal and when she ripped the clock off the wall, he didn’t even look up, just kept lifting the spoon to his mouth like that was the meaning of life. A lot like his dad, that one.
I made myself a sandwich and ate over the sink, remembering when they moved in seven years ago. I was the welcome wagon, figured I might as well get acquainted, seeing as our houses were so close. Nobody else minding things around here; somebody’s got to do it.
When the loaded minivan took off and pulled out the garage, I waved, but they didn’t see me. I stood at the sink for a long time watching those windows like empty sockets. It was hours before he pulled in. He stood in the dark kitchen like he didn’t know how to turn on the light. Last I looked, he was standing at the kitchen sink, staring out the window like it was the only thing to do.