Over, Around and Through
Frank stood to the side of the mirror, fixing his only tie around the collar of his white shirt. He could only see the left side of his body struggle in the mirror as he tried to remember the exact process. Frank grimaced as he repeatedly undid his flawed loops and began again. As his complaints became more vocal, he heard Margaret rustling the sheets behind him.
Despite an obvious grogginess, Margaret still sounded cheerful in her speech. “Do you need some help Frank?”
Frank didn’t turn around but caught part of Margaret’s grin in the reflection. “Go back to sleep Margaret.” His voice was hoarse and he hadn’t spoken a word since he awoke an hour prior. Despite the early morning, rays of sun gleamed into the room. Even with the bright light illuminating the tie and Frank’s large thick fingers, he struggled furiously. Again he moved his eyes to the mirror and saw Margaret was sitting up in bed, her back against the bed board. She was laughing silently, her eyes closing with each muted burst. It had been some time since she had laughed like this and she knew he didn’t like it.
Although she didn’t make a sound, he could hear her high pitched, snippy giggle in his head. He slowly swiveled his feet until he faced her. As they met each other’s eyes her face became expressionless. She pulled the covers slightly higher, almost covering her floral flannel nightgown.
“Stop.” He said nothing else but didn’t avert his eyes from her. She blinked several times and then slowly lay back down. Frank moved away from the mirror, if she began again he didn’t want to know. He looked down to the blue argyle print and tried to postulate in his head how to get it in the right loop. The last time Frank had worn a tie must have been at he and Margaret’s wedding almost twenty years ago. He closed his eyes and tried to remember that moment. He remembered the tie had been black and he had dressed in a small room adjacent to the chapel. His father had been there, sitting in a chair smoking his pipe and commenting on the snow falling outside. But there was no recollection of how he managed to get the tie on and he could recall very little about the ceremony.
Frank began again, this time starting from a different direction. He looked down at his fingers and realized there was still black under the nails. He had scrubbed so hard this morning in the cold shower, trying to loosen the dirt and coal but now he saw it had been of no use. He shook his head tirelessly and pulled the tie to the left.
“Frank I think you might be late. You really should get going.” Frank swung around and evened his glare on his wife.
“Margaret I can’t go until I’ve got this god damn tie on. You think they’re gonna let me in with no tie?” Although Frank was yelling, he felt like he was actually asking her a question. He wanted her to tell him that of course he didn’t need a tie. They had changed the rules. It would be no problem. But Margaret shook her head and slumped back down into the sheets.
Frank’s last attempt had once again failed and now the tie lay open on his chest. Frank paced past the mirror than moved toward the dresser on the other side of the room. He stopped in front of a family photo of Margaret’s parents. He examined the picture and steadied his eyes on her father. The man wore a perfectly starched navy suit with a red and black tie. The tie hung around his neck so straight that Frank thought there was a stick pulling it taut on the other side.
There was another rustling of the sheets behind Frank. “You know I bet Mr. Maggins is up, you should go have him do it for you.”
“Margaret I’m not going to ask him for help. I’ll figure it out. I don’t understand why you don’t come with me.”
As soon as Frank spoke the words he felt weak, even weaker than if he had asked for help with the tie.
“Frank you’ll going to do just fine. I know it.” Margaret no longer smiled but her eyes were reassuring and kind. But it was too late, Frank was angry with himself. His hands continued fidgeting with the cloth until he felt his heart beating too fast for comfort.
Frank began shaking his head at Margaret then quickly made his way toward the hall and stormed through the doorway of their room.
Frank made his way to the front door and picked up his heavily wool lined coat from the rack. Then he abruptly replaced it with the tie.
| COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED