Eldora sighed as she sat at home grading a dozen papers from her students. She set the papers aside for a moment, and popped a piece of orange chicken in her mouth, then rubbed her temples. She took a moment to reflect on her day. At Fern High School--a less affluent school located in Tolleson, Arizona--one of her students had thrown a paper airplane at her face, two of her students had been arguing loudly, and one of them had been making faces at her all day.
Hard to believe I used to love this job. Eldora thought to herself.
She heard the garage door groaning open and nearly jumped out of her skin. She thought about running upstairs to hide, or going outside and pretending to water the plants, but gave up. She returned to grading her student’s papers as she heard the laundry room door creak open.
“I’m home.” She heard her husband say quietly and ineffectually.
Eldora rolled her eyes. He was rarely pleasant when he came home. Of course, neither am I. She had to remind herself.
She heard her husband shuffle into the room, and, as she had done recently, found it incredibly hard to look at him. Both because he always had that miserable expression on his face, and because he had gained weight. But then, I have, too. I’m sure he hates looking at me, too.
Somehow she always smiled when looking at his red hair, though. They both often made jokes about him being a 'soulless ginger', and it always brightened their mood. She was about to make one, but somehow, her husband had dragged in a miserable air with him when he entered the home, and the dark energy made her unable to do so.
As he sank into a chair next to hers, he asked, “How was your day, honey?”
Eldora felt a brief surge of an old, familiar, warmth. Like a friend who had left her life suddenly coming back to it. No matter how cold she and her husband were to each other, something about him calling her honey made her smile. “Shitty. How about yours?”
“Horrible. Made even more horrible by coming home to no dinner.” He remarked coldly.
“Well, you never did the dishes.” She retorted.
“That’s because I was working a twelve hour shift!” he answered.
“You’re always working a twelve hour shift, and therefore you never do the dishes!” she escalated to match his energy.
“You have no excuse! You get off at four!” he growled.
She bit her lip, her eyes glassy. “Maybe if you could give me a child, I’d have more to do!”
He got up without a word and went into the kitchen. She watched him go and felt tears coming to her eyes, knowing she had crossed a line.
Eldora heard him bustling around in the kitchen, and put aside the papers she had to grade. She followed him to the kitchen. “I’m sorry, Claudius, I’ll cook. You go sit down.”
Her husband got out a pot and filled it with water. He looked at her with glistening eyes, and then went upstairs. She put the pot on and got out a box of spaghetti.
Eldora sat down again with her stack of papers, her mood deteriorating as she did so. She blew blonde strands of hair hanging in her eyes away with a frustrated exhalation of puffed air. Most of the essays weren’t even a page long as she had asked. Most sentences were run-on sentences and the punctuation was incorrect. She grimaced, thinking about how, just a few years ago, students had been doing much better work.
Have I become a worse teacher? Or have the kids gotten worse? Either prospect to her was hideous to consider.
When she was in university, she had been a turbulent student. She didn’t know what she wanted to study for a long time, and had spent a lot of time pursuing psychology because she happened to be a good listener, and friends and family liked to open up to her because of it. However, once she had earned her master’s degree and found out she had to go back for a phd to get the job as a psychologist that she truly wanted, she had walked away from the schooling system, utterly disgusted by thousands of dollars and time it expected her to waste on it.
Back then, school had been the most miserable experience of Eldora's life. She was expected to get up at seven in the morning, go to class, do the work, not contribute anything to society, not get paid for it, and somehow feel accomplished at the end of the day. Her roomates somehow didn’t mind this, and found great meaning in wasting away hours taking classes that had nothing to do with their degrees. The idea that life was meaningless was horrifying to her, and nothing made her think life was more meaningless than the empty existence of attending classes.
Currently, marriage had been the most miserable experience in her life. It still didn’t hold a candle to school, but it had been so miserable because she had gone into it so cheerfully. She had thought she had found her purpose, and having Claudius in her life had made her immeasurably happy. Now, the most dreaded part of her day was him coming home, and wondering which of them would bring up the subject of divorce faster.
Do I even want to get divorced? She wondered to herself as she continued handing out As like apples provided that at least something was written on the paper. She couldn’t see herself marrying anyone else, but then, she often found herself thinking about her first love for whatever reason of late.
She had been twenty-two-years old, and he had been her high school sweetheart. He was immature, but then, she had been, too. He was a blonde-haired man with blue-gray eyes and treated her like a queen. He told her the day he went on his first date with her that he wanted to marry her, and asked her if she had any flaws, to which she said—completely baffled by his unearthly kindness and untethered love—“I’m sure I do.”
Somehow, even though she was now thirty-two, thinking about this man—her first love—still made her misty-eyed. She thought about those wonderful days they had spent together that felt like something out of a fairytale, and couldn’t help but compare it to how droll and depressing her marriage felt.