Waking Up in Wakefield

by Lydia Williams

You've been married five years when you decide to leave your condo in Wakefield, Florida. Perhaps the anniversary is what finally does it, or more appropriately, doesn't do it—doesn't do enough for you to stay. Your spouse is attractive, chatty, confides in you. Your spouse knows you'll visit the in-laws together during the summer, knows you'll give nice gifts on birthdays and Christmas, knows you'll do the dishes and the laundry. You are incapable of being anything other than your spouse's vision of you, just like you're incapable of being anything other than what everyone takes for granted at your job and around the condominium. But really, you ask yourself, where are you in all of this, and who are you?

So the night after your anniversary you tell your spouse that you're going to the grocery store, and on the way out you grab your telescope from the hallway and your bag from the closet. You have decided that you're not coming back tonight. You're going somewhere else, specifically, across the street to check into the Best Western. Your room is stuffy and smells like mildew, but the hum of the air conditioning unit puts you to sleep right away, and when you wake up in the dark, for a second you don't recognize where you are, and even, if someone were to suspend time and in that split second ask you who you are, you couldn't tell. A ghost, you might say. Alive, but not yourself. Temporarily someone else.

The next morning, you take out your telescope and open the curtain in your hotel room. It faces your condo and looking through your telescope, you can see your spouse inside, slouched at the dining table and staring into a cup of coffee. The mug is bright yellow with Florida's state flag printed on the side. You bought that mug during your yearly vacation with your spouse to Palm Beach. You swing the telescope to the bedroom and see a pair of your pants you took off near the bathroom still crumpled by the bathroom door. On the bedside table, you see a magazine that you flip through every night lying at the same angle you left it the night before last. You look again at the objects in the condo, the way you've hung a few pictures, the magazine on the coffee table. You point your telescope at the objects and wonder if you can return after what you've seen.

Lydia Williams is working on her first novel, Good Christian, at Georgia State University. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The Dead Mule, Fresh Boiled Peanuts, The Rose and Thorn, The Armchair Aesthete, and SN Review, among others. Lydia is a contributing editor at The Chattahoochee Review and lives with her husband in Atlanta.