Iowa Writes

The Blue Line

In my therapist's office there is a painting of two children holding hands. I'm early today and I regard it while my therapist gets herself organized. There are a million variations of this scene. I see them everywhere. A boy and girl, sometimes in a field, sometimes a park. I don't know if my therapist has children; but she's young, and I suspect she doesn't. It's not easy to take advice from someone so young, so close to your own age. But I'm getting there. In the painting the boy and girl are also close in age—a year apart perhaps. Their backs are turned and the light is coming in at an angle from one side. The girl is shimmering in it. The painter has captured her mid-bound, blonde, weightless. If not for the shadowed boy beside her you could swear that she, not the sun, is the source.
     My therapist sits down. "So tell me about your week," she says, holding a notebook in one hand and supporting it against her thigh. A pen rests poised and waiting in the other.
     "There isn't much to share. I went to work. I went home. I read. I slept," I tell her.
     This is every week. I could mail it in. Save us both the effort.
     "Anything stand out?"
     Yes. Nothing. I want to say but don't.
     I can't seem to get over this painting. I think maybe it's supposed to mean something. Why children? Why with their backs turned? "I've thought a lot about what you said about opening up," I say. "About sharing, but the truth is, I don't know where to begin."
     She writes this down. Funny—I say nothing; she writes it down.
     "Where did you get that painting?" I ask.
     "Oh, that is a gift from my husband."
     Something funny there—the present tense.
     "Don't you mean was?"
     "Well, I suppose it depends on how you look at it. Does a gift ever cease to be a gift?"

After our session I walk to the bus stop and wait with strangers for the blue line. They call it the blue line because its route is marked in blue on the large map above the bench under the bus stop canopy. If I'd chosen a therapist on the other side of town, I might have taken the green or even the red line.
     But no, my life travels the blue.
     After a few minutes a red line pulls up. Its brakes exhale. Its doors open. It breathes in a woman. The doors close. The engine groans, automotive indigestion. It pulls away. Not long afterward, from the pocket of a man standing next to me, Roberta Flack sings out: Strumming my pain . . .  I haven't heard that song in ages, not since Liz brought the Fugees' version home on cd. . . . When was it? Must have been 2000. Then I feel it coming. It always happens like this: when and where you least expect it. Jesus, pull yourself together.  The man answers, begins speaking in French. I don't speak French and can't understand what he's saying but I know he speaking to his wife. It's a tone. Girlfriends are different. A green arrives, and I bite the inside of my cheek, hoping the pain will prevent me from weeping like a mental patient here on the street in front of the other commuters. The man steps onto the bus still speaking into his phone. The doors close. The bus pulls away. It is easier once he's gone. An orange comes, a yellow, finally, the blue.

It's dark by the time I reach my apartment, and I'm blind inside. I feel my way to the kitchen before turning on the light. I walk to the fridge and extract an apple and some cheese seasoned with peppers. I don't see the use in cooking for one. Slicing apples, cheese, a baguette is about as close as I come. I've still got a half bottle of wine so I fill a glass and carry my simple meal to the table where I sit, open, and begin again to read from a copy of A Farewell to Arms, a gift from my late wife.


About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

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Aaron Kelly is an Iowa State graduate living in Beaverdale, IA. He is currently working on his first novel, a detective mystery set in the rural Midwest.

This page was first displayed
on February 01, 2017

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