the anniversary present
This will show you exactly how messed up their marriage was. Neither of them could remember
who originally came up with the idea of how to celebrate their 30th anniversary. Maybe it was
just a natural progression, as long as you are comfortable using the term natural to describe
something so messed up.
The writing was on the wall for everyone to see. Well, the cake anyway. Every year they put a
number of candles on it equal to their years of marriage plus one for luck. This year there were
thirty candles. There was no candle for luck. Did they each feel somehow that a candle for luck
would be unlucky?
It wouldn’t even be fair to say they hated each other. I mean, it would be accurate to say they
completely loathed the very sight of each other, but not fair. Fair seems to indicate blame and the
terrible truth is that each one of them individually would have made someone else a good spouse.
Not a great spouse but not a bad one either. Not as bad a spouse as they made the other anyway. I
guess it’s judgmental to say a truth can be terrible in the first place. The truth is just the truth.
And the truth was that they had kids so divorce was never an option. They were stuck together
and they both knew it. Each heard the gavel come down and the sentence handed out in their
own way. A sentence that always seemed to stretch out just a little further. At first there seemed to
be a light at the end of the high school tunnel. Get the kids off to college and then they
could go their separate ways and enjoy what dwindling years lay before them. Then came the
realization that they would need to stay together until each child started a family of their own.
Then came the realization that having the grandkids splitting time with each of them on holidays just
Then came the final realization that they were truly fucked. Realization… resignation. Whatever.
Perhaps it was when their family and friends asked them what they really wanted for their 30th
anniversary that the idea came to them. Each had been thinking it since their 5th anniversary.
Maybe it was as late as their 7th but it had been there lurking in both of them for a long time.
So after the last of the well-wishers had departed they sat at their kitchen table. He placed the
gun on the table.
You would think that at a moment like that there would be more drama but there wasn’t. It was
almost without any animosity at all. He put in a single bullet and spun the chamber.
Neither of them really cared how it turned out, just as long as it was finally over. That might be
the hardest part to believe but it was true.
They each produced their notes and placed them on the table in front of themselves. Written on
the paper was a well thought out explanation of what drove them to suicide. There were little
hints about the sad state of their relationship but what was the point of dragging old demons into
the light at this point? Instead, they described a general malaise mixed with a fear of aging. It
would make perfect sense to both loved ones and the authorities.
Did I mention that neither of them really cared how it turned out just as long as one of them was
You might think that his gesture of asking if she would like to go first might suddenly ignite
some small spark of sympathy or even allow them to rediscover some small bond between them
but clearly you haven’t spent thirty years wishing nothing more than to hear the tragic news of your
partner’s sudden and unexpected demise, only to see their stupid face still breathing in bed next to
you night after night.
She deferred. He took the gun, placed it to his head and squeezed the trigger.
He did so without any hesitation and was almost sorry to hear the firing pin hit an empty
He handed the gun over. An act completely devoid of malice. Robotic.
She looked at him and for a moment it appeared that she would speak but then thought better of
it and simply placed the gun against her forehead, closed her eyes and pulled the trigger.
Trigger is a funny word. It means to cause or generate or elicit. What it meant for the bullet is
different than what it meant for the man. For the bullet it meant beginning a short journey
through her cranium. For the man it meant putting away his letter, dialing the police in mock
horror and starting his life again.
She was smiling.