Cristal Guderjahn
and Jan Irene Miller

Jan Irene Miller Painting

Jan Irene Miller
Inspiration piece

Cristal Guderjahn

“Turn left.”
He had turned right.
He had turned right to avoid the onramp.
Her sense of direction had typically caused him to imagine a wayward goose, opposing its gaggle.
They had started the morning this way, contrary to the other, each now annoyed that the other had served a snarky remark at breakfast, and each knowing the day
would be ruined.
What was it about their combination of simple aspirations, and their once-similar notions that their union was perfectly conceived in Heaven, that caused them to now default to cruel discourse to make a point; and why was that point, once eventually realized after seemingly hours of exchanging acidic words, always, always that the other was mean and fundamentally wrong about the
original intent?
There were days he hated her, even looking at her; every line around her mouth, every gray hair tucked behind her ear, her overly tweezed eyebrows, it would all make him
Then, she would speak, complain about the way he treated her, and it would start again.
It was as habitual as it was aggravating
And here they were.
Stranded again.
He sniffed.
She looked at him.
She looked at him with her “horror” expression.
The expression that said, “See? You never trust me, and you always think I am wrong.” He did trust her, at times, but he was familiar with her confused sense of direction that
seemed to result in getting them terribly lost at the most crucial times while traveling. He wondered why he agreed to travel with her at all, given that she always insisted he
drive while she navigate, sometimes with a map, often without, while both of them seemed to wait for that moment, when something would trigger either a wrong turn or
furrowed brow, setting off the pattern, the wheels in motion, the way he worried they
would be forever.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “because I saw that onramp and didn’t think we needed to get on the freeway again,” but she only snorted with that crooked smile he had once loved.
“I told you to turn left because I knew we had to take the freeway again.”
“I didn’t know, and assumed we would backtrack.”
“You assume that’s wrong?”
” I do.”

“Of course.”
“Why, Gladys, I’m just…”
“You’re just what, assuming I am wrong again?”
“Look, why don’t you just get us back to where we should be, back on track?”
“I will,” she snorted, “as soon as you acknowledge that I’m right, and that I am not an idiot, as I assume you assume about me every day of our lives.”
He gently nodded and exhaled a slow, quiet breath and wondered if he could be the
one in their marriage to stop it, but he worried if he gave in, even once, that she
would continue without his fighting back, and he saw himself after years of her voice, riddled with rage, her grinding at him, and saw himself older, a broken,
older man.
He never considered himself the angry man he had become, and never thought they, together, would evolve into the shallow, single-syllabic dwellers of their home, the
home they’d once passionately loved.
He lifted his foot off the gas pedal and softly pulled the wheel to the right.
He let the car settle by the curb.
He stopped the engine.
“What now?”
“What now?”
“”Yes, stupid, what now?”
“What if today, we end all of this?”
She shifted in her seat, faced him, and released a loud sigh through her thin nose. “Seriously, Gladys, aren’t you tired of all this fighting and bickering, and how we never
laugh anymore, and the way we are together, when we’re alone, how we pretend we’re
just fine?”
If he were to be completely honest with himself, he doubted she gave it much thought, given that she never even so much as grimaced when he would say
something particularly cruel in the peaks of their arguing, and her once-kind eyes had darkened with what he could only imagine was disdain for him, regardless of any
attempt on his part to apologize.
And here were those dark eyes again, peering into his, and for a fraction of a moment, he thought he saw her, the woman he’d married eight years ago in Wooster, Ohio.
She sighed again, and pulled the hem of her dress down her thigh toward her knee.
“I suppose I’m quite tired of it, yes.”
“Well, there you are.”
We are.”