Some people spend their whole lives bored. They might not even know it, but they are. They get up in the morning, go to work, head home, eat dinner, go to bed – this same tired routine playing out endlessly, endlessly, day after day until they find themselves in the ground. Some people will never realize they wasted their life until it’s already over.
Not me. I lived my life to the fullest. I did everything I ever wanted to – ate the finest foods, traveled to exotic lands, slept with beautiful women – because I understood what most people don’t. I knew that everyone is handed this one chance to experience the world as it spins in the darkness of space, but more importantly I knew that you only get so many spins.
I have my first wife to thank for this. It will surprise some of you to read those words but this is my last chance to share my story; I am an old man, the cancer has taken control of my insides and some stories can only be told when the teller isn’t around to face the consequences.
None of you, no matter how well you think you know me, know the truth about what happened to my first wife Miranda. I have held this from you like the dirty thing it is, something dead and rotting that should’ve been buried long ago, but the fact remains that I didn’t tell you because I felt it was my burden to bear. There is something so deliciously terrible about being the sole keeper of a secret – the tug-of-war between sharing what weighs on your soul and keeping it as your own dark companion forever.
I married Miranda in the spring of 1946. We were as young and bright as new blossoms on the trees. I loved her so desperately because she was what I could never be: outgoing, vivacious, captivating… to put it short, she was a star. Even at 18 Miranda could walk into a room and all eyes would turn to her. It wasn’t so much that she was beautiful – of course she was beautiful – but there was something about her that seemed to radiate from within, like she had a fire burning in her belly. She was special. She was meant for more than our shitty little railroad town and yet part of her charm was that she didn’t seem to know it. Miranda was like Jean Harlow had dropped from the sky, landed in a cornfield, and then went about her business as though nothing extraordinary had happened at all.
Sometimes when we were lying in bed I would just stare at her. Sleeping, serene, and yet all the while smoldering with that flame that resided inside her like magic. I brushed the hair from her face. I wanted to give her everything even though I had nothing to give, nothing that Miranda truly deserved.
Instead I built a small but modest life. We had a nice, clean house near Main Street so she could shop for dresses whenever she wanted. I held a respectable job selling insurance policies at my father’s office. I took her to nice dinners at the local diner and movies down at the drive-in.
It took me a while to notice, but the flame in Miranda began to burn her from the inside out. I could see it in her face when she was the most glamorous woman at any of our company cocktail parties; she could outshine the rest of them without even trying. She no longer relished all eyes turning on her when she entered a room because it was only expected, as natural as breathing. Of course my coworkers wanted to fuck her. Of course their wives hated her. Of course there would be petty gossip and dirty talk but none of it mattered because it was so goddamn easy.
We had only been married for five years when I walked into our bedroom and there she was, sitting at the edge of our bed with a half-empty martini in her hand. I had left work early, hoping to surprise her as she’d seemed down in the dumps as of late, only to find that she’d been drinking since I left that morning.
“God, Arthur,” she said, her voice lubricated by cheap gin, “I’m so bored. I’m so godawfully bored.”
The martini glass tipped dangerously in her hand. I made a slow move towards her, afraid she might bolt like a stray cat.
“Darling, let me have that.”
Miranda jerked away even though I’d made no attempt to touch her. Gin sloshed over the edge and soaked into the carpet near her bare feet. Her toes were painted red, I remember – don’t we remember the strangest things?
“I h-hate this place.” Hiccups were setting in and this was a fresh shock; my wife was always cool, collected, never so much as a burp or a giggle at the dozens of cocktail parties I’d taken her to over the years. (Dozens, I realized then? Had it really been dozens of those office get-togethers I’d dragged her to? I thought at that moment yes, she was right, those had been terribly boring.)
“I hate it here, I d-d-don’t belong here, Arthur.” Miranda noticed the martini glass was spilling and she righted it only to take another deep sip. Swig, was the better word. “I’m like – a – a rose you planted in one of those states where it never gets warm. You want me to be beautiful here but I can’t. I’m wilting.”
And then she began to cry, which scared me more than anything. I hadn’t seen my wife cry since our wedding day and even then it had been only a single tear running down her cheek, probably because that was the most glamorous way to cry, and with Miranda there was always someone watching her, there was always a spotlight as though her life was a silver screen and the rest of us just blurry figures in the audience.
If this had been a scene in the movie of her life any discerning director would have left it on the cutting room floor. It was not elegant, the crying was not pretty, and she was spilling more gin on the carpet.
The next day I booked a trip to Manhattan. I couldn’t promise her that we could leave Nebraska, not yet, we didn’t have the money but I had enough squirreled away for a jaunt to somewhere a winter rose could thrive.