March Madness In Martha’s World
Blogger Note: I observe people all the time . . . and I wonder about them. On my daily walks, from time to time, I have seen a woman whose demeanor interests me. I do not know her. I know nothing about her. However, I am using my memory of her forlorn face to create a simple characterization. Perhaps someone may relate although the piece below is pure fiction.
Martha had been floundering on a sea of sadness for days. She wasn’t depressed. She wasn’t unhappy. She was simply sad. Does that make sense? The question was one she asked herself often. No answer was forthcoming, however; no resolution to her emotional quandary seemed in the offing. As a result, she moved through her days, relying on routine to see her through. The truth was that weeks, months even, had passed, and not once had she mentioned her silent suffering to anyone. She kept it all inside. Just how long have you been melancholy, Martha? Forever. She asked and answered without so much as a blink of an eye. Guess I was born this way. And I’ll die someday in the far distant future carrying this wretched feeling with me, the damned thing attached like a second skin.
It was odd, really, that Martha could feel so despondent. She had everything – a loving husband, successful kids, a furry fat cat, two slobbery boxers, a career, no financial worries, and a house filled with “stuff” – things brought home from vacations, from shopping sprees, from God only knew where. She lacked for nothing. And she was grateful. She was. Life is good. She reminded herself every day. She even wore the phrase on a t-shirt – Life is Good, the words scrawled in cursive and decorated with hearts and flowers. So why such sadness? Am I mad? Am I a fool for acknowledging this feeling? Am I making it up? What’s missing?Questions bombarded her. And she didn’t have one damned answer for any of them. Was it old age? She was sixty-two, the grey showing, the gait slowing. Is this what happens when people grow older? Do they suddenly look back on life as a one drawn-out loser? But life’s been good. She reminded herself with emphatic certainty.
She remembered turning forty. “I’m over the proverbial, damned hill,” she had told herself. “I have wrinkles, undereye bags. Shit! And my midsection. What happened there?” Babies. That was the excuse. And now, twenty years later, it still was the reason why she no longer fit into a size two.
As for her relationships, she had few – her husband, John, who didn’t listen anymore, her lifelong friends, four of them, all drifting along on streams and currents different from hers, her daughters who married well and had lives of their own. Communication was sparce with her girls. The kids are busy, she told herself. Kids. They’re not frickin’ kids. They should know better. Her internal dialogue was a constant battle. They hurt her feelings, but she’d never say so. She had vowed early on not to interfere with their life choices, though some, she confessed made her blood boil. But such is life. It is what it is. Martha hated that phrase but found herself using it more and more as the years slid by. What else could she do?
She quit her job at the height of the Covid crisis. It was simply too much work in every sense of the word. Besides, she liked being home. She walked the neighborhood sometimes, avoiding other people at all costs. She didn’t feel like smiling and detested small talk with folks she didn’t know. Hello. Good morning. Lovely day isn’t it? Have a good one. Such gibberish made her want to puke. The silent spaces were enjoyable though. She listened to nature’s melodies and allowed random thoughts to siphon through her weary mind. Not one notion ever stuck for long. In and out, around and through. By the time she was home she’d forgotten what she had thought about at all.
The evening routine saw her through to the next day. Dinner, dishes, TV, wine, a book, and finally sleep that exhausted her. Either it escaped her altogether or she found herself lost in bizarre dreams with unfamiliar people who – guess what? – wanted to talk, wanted to go places, wanted to know who she was. Enough of this shit. She would rather lie awake and stare at the ceiling, or she would roll into a fetal position and cocoon in her blankets until the sun rose and she could get up without John asking if she was okay. “Did you sleep well, honey?” he always asked. How sweet it was that he still cared. How annoying.
Without fail, tired and grumpy Martha would stumble into the kitchen to make a pot of coffee. While she stared out the window, John stared at the newspaper, never the two looking in the same direction with the same intent as they had done when they were younger. It was all right though, wasn’t it? They were comfortable and loved still in a relaxed, contented way that was effortless, easy. Life is good. She remined herself again and touched John’s hand. He smirked, a non-smile, but it was enough at least for a while . . . a little while . . . until she’d need to fend off that creature sadness that so badly wanted to creep back in and sully her soul.