He lost her to the crucifix long before they met.
Going up against the Great Redeemer for a girl’s affection was stupid. But he was young and stupid. And idealistic and stupid. And stupid. And stupid. He set milk out for cats that turned out to be lions. When he found this out, he still put saucers on the stoop.
Let us not forget the girl. The one who swallowed the crucifix, which lodged in her heart and prevented her from properly living. Or living in the proper time, tense and fervor in regard to each friend, acquaintance, or suitor. She was jacked up, sure, but it would have been worse without the Savior being involved. The Lord gave her a rope, however knotted, to hang onto, and perhaps it was the knots themselves that helped her maintain a grip.
He pumped quarters into expired parking meters, bagged his own groceries, read Rimbaud in dormitory hallways while his roommates slept. A bruised idealist, he needed a fair-haired balm for his spiritual sunburn. She was nervous, woke with starts to silent thunder, was forever crossing herself as if the movement of her hand could repel the ogres in her dreams. She was happiest at bedtime, most unsettled at dawn.
They got married in the springtime. Ate oranges by the lake that summer. She never asked about his writing. He never inquired about her heart, her faith, or the Mystery. They rooted for different sports teams, and this made weekends difficult. Finally she nearly became pregnant, and that was the final straw. A lifetime with the other appalled them both.
They parted amicably, each moving to their next station, each knowing they were giving up something beautiful that would have lessened them both.
Robert Penick’s work has previously appeared in over 100 different literary journals, including The Hudson Review and North American Review. He lives in Louisville, KY with his free-range box turtle, Sheldon.