The Permanent Roommate

Lucy knew what she wanted. She wanted the laundry to fold itself. She wanted a house with a yard and a small space for a tiny garden of herbs and vegetables that she used all the time so that she could have them fresh and waiting for her to cook with. Lucy wanted a dog, nothing too big or too small or fancy. Nothing with a long name that sounded more like a gourmet entrée in a French café than a dog breed. She wanted hardwood floors and long drapes to frame some windows that looked out onto that large yard in back. A home she could call hers.

Lucy also wanted to have another child. Her first two were growing fast, faster than she could have ever imagined. They were growing out of their shoes and pants quicker than she could keep them fed. She was proud of her children, of all their little accomplishments. But she yearned for another go at pregnancy and the infancy of new life. She ached to be needed by a small baby with pudgy hands and rolls of chub along their legs.

As Lucy put away the freshly folded laundry, still warm from the drier and smelling of cotton and sweet flowers, she reflected on all the things she wished for and sighed. All these things, these dreams and wishes, were once not only hers, but they were also Ray’s dreams, too. Dreams they shared oh those many years ago before marriage and children. The days long ago when they were more than friends. When they were lovers.

But life had changed in the last couple of months. Ray’s job offered him a new position, one that was more demanding of his time and efforts but afforded them more luxuries like a healthier savings account and for Lucy to be able to quit her job and stay home. While life was easing into this new phase, their romantic inclinations were slowly fading away. Lucy couldn’t tell if it was the stress of the job or just the waning interest in a long term partner that had struck their intimate life down, but, either way, Lucy felt the pangs of desire but didn’t know how to approach her husband.

Bending to pick up a pile of books left in the hallway by the kids, Lucy thought back, trying to remember when it all started. As she racked her mind to pinpoint the moment their relationship shifted into this complacent, friendly area, she spotted a corner where a cobweb had been missed. Tsking her own work, Lucy put down the woven laundry basket resting on her hip with the pile of children’s books placed on top of the dirty clothes inside and reached into her back pocket for the dusting rag she had tucked away. Waving the rag around in a half-heart manner, she swiped at the accumulating webs and scattered dust from the corner. Stepping back, she felt pleased and considered that area now done when her eyes glanced at a framed picture of the two of them, laughing in a swinging hammock together. Her heart sank as she saw the glimmer of adoration in his eyes that she longed to see again.

She married Ray for his laugh and the way he could turn a simple meal into a two hour conversation about anything and everything. He always spoke with passion and interest. And it wasn’t very long ago that she was the subject of that passion. He always took the time to tell her how he felt about her, to hold her hand even when simply grocery shopping, and he made sure they had a date every so often to spend time just being together, alone. Those days were gone. Her role as wife was now more of a glorified best friend. As a permanent roommate.

Lifting the basket and slowly placing it against her hip, Lucy realized she had unwillingly slipped into this role as she supported Ray in his new job by being there and not asking too much. In doing so, she had become no more than a housemate; always there, always pitching in and sharing the space around them but nothing more. They talked and laughed occasionally over a dinner of macaroni and cheese. He’d hug her after a long day and she’d scratch his shoulders if he asked while they caught up on the news after the kids were asleep. There was always love and devotion, an unwavering vow of fidelity tacked on the walls between baby pictures of the kids and their honeymoon in Tahiti. But that was it.

Lugging the heavy basket into the kids’ room and depositing the missing books into their book-bin, Lucy stifled a sob. They didn’t fight or argue. They still got along wonderfully. Nothing was out of place and she was even granted the gift of staying home to tend the house and the kids when needed. But that was the growing problem, no one needed her. Not really. Ray could take care of himself as he always had been able to and the kids were growing more independent with every blink of an eye. And while Lucy would take being needed by either her husband or her children, just being wanted would have been enough. It would have filled the hole that had been growing steadily. The feeling of being wanted by those she loved would have mended the tear across her heart.

She no longer cared to be a wife or a mother. Or a roommate or a best friend. As she cried tears of grief and loneliness on her way down to the garage where the bulking silver washing machine awaited her with freshly washed clothing, Lucy realized she would like nothing more than just to be wanted.

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