Jennifer and Stephen


Jennifer and Stephen

“We’ve had this discussion how many times now? How many?” She is talking in that tone of voice, the patient tone she uses with unfortunate people, and Stephen feels unfortunate, which makes him want to leave even more.

“We’ll keep having this discussion until we can make some kind of decision that we can both be satisfied with,” he says, meeting her tone for tone. He mediates for a living, has the conflict resolution skills of a grand master, and feels like tearing his own face off of his head and running through the streets of Santa Fe screaming until someone calls a task force in to take him down. He sighs.

They’ve been talking to Sofia, their daughter, about the discussion, but have refrained from fighting in her presence. In retrospect, Stephen thinks this may have been a bad idea, a throwback strategy to his parents generation. Staying together for the children, never go to bed angry, and so on. They’ve talked and processed and reasoned their way through every step of their relationship, from day one, when they practiced “When you say this, I feel that” in their interpersonal communications forum for undergraduate students at Santa Cruz. Stephen wishes now that he’d majored in theater instead of communication, or design, or engineering. Something less or more something. Contained. Rational. Soft science with a hard frame. Jennifer has her parallel regrets, Stephen knows. Right now, he doesn’t care.

In the airport

Ms. Desiree Staunton listens to people on their cellphones as they rush by on their way to and from. Knits together their snaggled conversations into word blankets and collages made of paper and wood and glass and hair and sells them to the designers guild to put in model homes in developments all across the Southwest. Round shapes, a letter here and there, a confession, a complaint. The corner of someone’s face, caught without notice. An invasion of privacy into a conversation taking place publically and very close to a runway. A runaway, Desiree calls these.

 

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