All imaginations had been too late. All fated relations, and the love and hate within, had been too solid to change. But when I walked by the cobbled road behind the Institute, I still could not refrain from imaging another trajectory of his life if he had been alive. He illustrated himself in all kinds of ways, one of which appeared the most: he’d been 36-year-old, walking to me along the cobbled road. A leaf sticked beneath his sneakers. I believed is was an autumn because those orange leaves seemed like his hair. “How about having a game of chess?” The image of him would tapped my shoulder, smiling cleverly, in a 16-year-old way. I would have known my fail, but I accepted the challenge. Then he and I would bought a tin of Coke for each, filling our throat with that sweet, brown liquid, so as we used to do in 16.
I was 36. It was a shining age for a man who has just been tenured. On the day before yesterday, Paula, the clerk in our research group, wearing a mysterious face, handed me a tin box in the morning. I opened it in my office, finding a few butter biscuit with a card that read “Congratulations on your tenure!” Soon after, my name hit the headline on the homepage of Physics Department. My portrait was selected in the most obvious place on the bulletin board. Celebration e-mails from students poured into my mailbox as heavy snow. Countless sizes and fonts of “Camus” were everywhere. All of these are tiring —— if the word tiring not went too far.
I bought a tin of Coke, sitting on a bench near the cobbled road. Drops were condensed on the tin can, then making a trickle, dropping into soil alongside my hand. The sunshine was warm on the cobblestones and leaves above. The smell of dust drifted in the air. It is upsetting with such a sunny day. I thought it would be raining later. A word, if, wandering in my mind all the time. If I had told him about my wish, if I had not let him go, if he had been still alive today, on a normal trajectory, with his sneakers, he would have been tenured years earlier than me, I think. “I beat you again!” I felt almost his voice and his eyes: those aggressive, warm, purely young eyes.
It was raining, but my umbrella was not in my office. I felt my clothes was wet little by little. Then, for many minutes, the downpour confined my like a dense web. I looked up but my eyes were obscured by rainfall. I just saw a blurred figure walking to me, holding an umbrella. This was him, I thought at once, until the figure’s voice came doubtfully, “What are you doing?” I realized it was Sinmore —— his sister and my wife.
She looked exactly like her brother, both with ginger hair (yet hers was curlier than him), pale and weary face like wax paper. They did not seem to have much in common apart from that. Of course I was nearly impossible to make her out from the distant rain, finding him from her shadow. Maybe I would misidentify anyone as him, I thought.
I raised the Coke up as a response. This was a lame excuse because of the unopened wet tin.
“Let’s go home,” said Sinmore with little concern, “I just drove my car now.”
I went out in the rain, taking my bags from my office. At that time Sinmore drove the car at the door of the Institute. I got into the passenger seat and passed her the tin box with butter biscuits, like treating a child rather than wife. My comfort was in vain —— I had never been a skillful husband.
Quietly, she take a biscuit out of the tin box, putting it in her mouth, and then placed the box onto the dashboard, nearing a ceramic squirrel which was her birthday gift chosen by her brother and me. Just like a squirrel, high-calorie foods, like biscuit and nuts, are her favorite. Her belly and hips were therefore becoming plumper and plumper, as if her body was ready to pregnant. However, I had never attempted to make her pregnant at all.
“The biscuit was squashy. The tin was not fully contained.” She said. “Oh, because the weather is too wet.” A few seconds later, she added.
So it was weather’s fault, not mine.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
She turned to look at me, sarcastically and desolately. “You should say you hate me,” she said, “so that I could feel better.”
“Sorry,” I said again. “Sorry for those years you married me.”
Sinmore did not reply. She started the car. The windshield wipers slid on the glass over and over again. She wiped her eyes with her elbow, and at once, I saw her tears sparkling in her eyes. It was about twenty minutes to home, but due to the heavy rain, it might be longer, about thirty minutes. But I did not know how long our home can be regarded as home. Maybe only a day. We agreed to file divorce tomorrow, which was her intention. I had no opinions on that, nor interferences.