8.6 The Couple

Except for the first two paragraphs, none of this actually happened. But perhaps maybe in a parallel universe, it all happened exactly like this.

A few weeks ago, I was waiting in the check out line at the grocery store. Ahead of me was an old couple buying a lot of things. Too many things, really. She was definitely in charge, pointing and instructing him on how to bag their food. She paid while he bagged. It seemed to be working for them. They did take a little while to get through, but it was almost like this was some kind of dance that they had performed, in some capacity or another, their entire lives together.

Unpacking my groceries at home a short time later, I came across a bag of three fruits that were definitely not mine. I knew they were definitely not mine because I had no idea what they were. I didn't event know if they were fruits or vegetables. For identification purposes, I included a photograph here. As you can see, they resemble tomatoes, but are not. The only clue I had was a sticker that read 'kosher'. What I put together was this: during the confusion at the checkout line and dancing elderly couple, these fruits (or vegetables) must have gotten mixed up with my groceries. That poor old guy left behind these unidentifiable fruit objects (or UFOs for short) and in my fury of getting the line moving again, I unknowingly tossed them into one of my bags.

I sat on my couch holding one of the UFO's in my hands. What if this was a final line in the sand? Perhaps this was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back? I imagined the couple arriving home, her instructing him on where to put away all the groceries. They were not necessarily happy together, but they were not exactly angry at each other either. This was just the dance that they had agreed to for the past forty or fifty years or so.

He got everything put away in its right place and he was tired. She started preparing to cook and he took his exit, shuffling into the other room, turning on the television. She took out the ingredients for a stew, even though he just put everything away. She lined everything up, leaving room for the main ingredient. She yelled at him in the other room, sure he put the UFOs away in the wrong place. He responded by turning the volume up on the television.

This might have made someone else angry, but was all part of their little dance. Looking through the kitchen cabinets, she found no sign of the UFOs. She sighed. This sigh was the first step away from their preconceived dance steps. She searched through the entire kitchen once more, and once more, she stood in the middle of the kitchen and sighed.

The final straw.

She dried her hands on the apron around her waist, undid the apron at the small of her back, took it off, folded it up and put it away in the pantry. She walked through the room where he sat watching the television and into the front hall foyer. Put on her coat and walked out of the house.

She walked down the street to the bus stop. On the bus, she asked the driver for instructions on how to get to the airport. After switching from the bus to the subway and back to another bus, she arrived at the airport. She went to the ticket-buying booths and simply asked, "Can I have a ticket for whatever is taking off next?" The ticket person was understandably perplexed, "Well, where would you like to go?" The old woman answered, "It doesn't matter." The ticket person shrugged her shoulders, "Okay, you should be able to make the next flight to Reykjavik. If you haven't heard, everyone is going to Iceland these days."

It didn't matter to the woman whether everyone was going to Iceland these days. She took the ticket, went through security and boarded the plane. She had never been on a plane in her entire life. Everything was new and strange. Everything was small. The food on her tiny table was small, the food portions were small, the world outside her tiny window was even smaller.

She landed in Reykjavik and found a cheap hotel. She eventually rented an apartment that was also tiny, but was all hers. She got a job in a flower shop and this seemed to be enough to live on and get by. She lived out the rest of her days in Reykjavik surrounded by flowers and new friends.

Meanwhile, back at the time when she first discovered the missing UFO and walked out of the house, the man sat watching television for a very long time. The sky grew dark and he went through at least a couple hours of CNN before finally coming around to wondering when his dinner would be finished. He didn't smell anything cooking and this alarmed him. In the kitchen, standing in the middle of the room, he sighed.

He walked over to the kitchen counter, picking up the various fruits and vegetables left out. He did the only thing he could, he started chopping them up one at a time. He poured some water into the giant pot sitting on the stove, adding some tomato sauce he found in the pantry. He dumped in all the vegetables, made some pasta and brought everything to a boil. After he felt it was sufficiently cooked, he filled a bowl and sat down in the other room with the television on.

The man watched television for the entire night and fell asleep on his favorite easy chair. His wife would get mad when he ever did this before. He prepared his own breakfast the next morning, something he hadn't done for a long time. After a few days, he was running low on food. He decided to walk to the grocery store and passed the community centre at the end of their street. Inside, he signed up for a membership, enrolling in a few yoga and aqua aerobic classes.

Pretty soon, he set up his own training regiment. In addition to swimming, he took up bike riding and running. The bike rides and runs and swims kept getting longer and longer. He came across an advertisement for a triathlon and signed up in his age group. This might be the first triathlon he signed up for, but it wouldn't be the last. He lived out the rest of his days healthier than he had ever been, surrounded by new friends.

Maybe, in some other multiverse, this did happen.

Paul Dore