Out of Order.

Author:Polanzak, Mark
Position:FICTION - Short story

My life had turned upside down. I was at a loss; I had no idea what to do, what had gone wrong, had been going wrong, and, if I were to be honest with myself, I would have to admit that this wasn't new, this thing with Anna and me: this impasse-we were on two different planes. I was all over the place. My office showed the chaos-half-drunk coffees all around the computer, books opened to random pages, inkless pens everywhere. It was a mess, both my work and this thing with Anna and me. And I call it a thing because I wasn't sure anymore exactly what it was, what it had been, what it was becoming. Not too long before the day I'm describing here, I thought I would get down on one knee. I was at the age, with the same woman for years. But it was madness: she was mad! Telling me that she couldn't look me in the eye anymore. What was that? What had I done? I hadn't the foggiest. There was nothing that could be done that day. So I stormed out of the house, yelling back something about having to clear my head, get things together, and I made more promises about how I would return after I figured everything out. By the time I came back, I would be a saint or a psychologist, at least, and we would fix everything up right. Turn this thing around.

My initial instinct was to take a walk, just stare at leaves on the sidewalks, thrust my hands in my pockets, and, with luck, wind up at the edge of a Zen-pristine lake, where everything would become clear-where everything would be lined up properly. There, I would see how to fix it. In my haste, though, I had slammed the screen door and emerged into the chilly, early-November, upstate New York day wearing only an oxford shirt, no coat, no hat. To return indoors and fetch my sweater and gloves was out of the question. I couldn't give her the satisfaction of my mix-up, proving to her that I had made too much of a show with the exit and all. I decided to brave the chill. Maybe it would freeze and flake away some of the clutter in my brain. But when I slipped my already frostbitten fingers into my pants pockets, I discovered I had the keys to our car. A walk? A man needs to drive! Engine humming, downshifting, scenery racing by. Of course! I would drive fast, take lefts, rights at whim, and still end up at the lake of reflection and clarity. I ripped open the driver's door and eased into the seat. The engine roared to life. A drive. Clear my head. Figure it all out. Outrun the confusion.

A late lunch, a turkey club--it didn't sound grand and romantic, not as romantic as the idea of hitting the road, doing some soul searching, soul cleansing. But, still, hunger is hunger. After I eat, I thought, I could do all those great feats. People go to coffeehouses for all sorts of reasons-to work, to chat, to eat, to drink, to think, and, possibly, to clear their minds. When things go south, everyone offers tea. "Your fish went belly-up? Have some tea, dear." "You can't decide between this job or that? I'll put on some tea, we'll figure it out." "Your potential fiancee is, all of a sudden, mad, and your thoughts are all over the place with, what, work, your upside-down relationship, and you're out in the cold in a button-down? Tea. Tea for one...

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