bill smelled like a dirty chimpanzee- which was totally usual for him. he'd had a long career as a regularly working character actor and had finally stumbled onto the lower rungs of fame by landing the lead role in an edgy cable series that had found a dedicated audience. his job was secure and now all of his infantile behaviors (not washing, staring dreamily into space, forgetting everything but his ukelele...) suddenly had fertile ground to support a full bloom. his dedication to self infantilizing was the core of his every waking day and it was a grinding experience to interact with him even peripherally (no, this
way, bill.... bill, don't forget your socks.... no bill, tomorrow is saturday, no one is working...etc). it was not a surprise to anyone that his wife of 30 years reached her saturation point and walked out on him.
for a few days bill reacted to his wife's departure by stumbling around like an an alzheimers patient (stunningly, seeming more disoriented than anyone thought possible) and asking aloud repeatedly to no one in particular, 'where is beth? why did beth go?'. his 'grief' was then abruptly displaced by the arrival of a large shipment of borosilicate glass straws- which he promptly placed in an inconvenient (for everyone else...) spot and used to begin his World Man 'sculpture'. one after the other, he hooked passing crew members and 'shared' his 'vision'. the straws were to be the dreadlocks and he would painstakingly (and painfully for the hapless listeners...) articulate his intention to paint the inside of each tube
with the actual colors of a dreadlock!
by the time word had spread that everyone should find alternate routes to avoid the bill vortex (as it came to be called), bill had lost interest in his project and wholly fixated on a woman he had one day seen walk by. production was stopped as bill hopped on a plane to follow her to antwerp in the belief that he could take her hand in marriage.
will was beautiful through and through- handsome, strong, a dedicated father and a faithful husband. his whole life centered around the happiness and well-being of his family. three times he had followed his wife to bali in order that she could realize her wish to birth her children in a lush, unspoiled jungle paradise. those were intense and meaningful milestones in will's eyes. he would look into the faces of his children and remember every intentional and loving step he and his wife had taken to bring them into this world. will was filled with gratitude at the start of every day.
will's wife was an expert in her field. her work and results were unimpeachable and as such, her opinions were sacrosanct. she was the go-to person in her area of study and as a result was funded by all sides whenever specific questions needed to be answered. she had always insisted upon the inclusion of a rider in any contract she signed that she be accompanied by her family to do her work. as a family they traveled 1st class to the far reaches of the world. after so many happy years, will did not notice that she seemed to be spending longer and longer preparing her reports. the children were intelligent, robust and demanding. when his wife was working, for him, the necessities of daily parenting took center stage and his support of her took the form of giving her the space to do her work. behind the closed door of her office, she was not only free to do her work, but contemplate her simmering personal discontent.
she began to type out her complaints in a language unknown to him and scatter the pages in plain view. her contempt for him grew whenever he would come to bring her a meal or tea as she would watch him carefully move her lists (that stated the obvious) carefully out of harms way before he set down her sustenance and left her with a warm smile.
one day, she announced her assessment that the family arrangement was no longer viable and that was that. upon hearing her words, will felt as though he'd been hit in the gut with a 2x4. he watched wordlessly as she gathered up her work, left her clothing and domestic possessions untouched and walked out the door. when he called me, i could hardly understand him through his hiccuping tears.
the children were in bed by the time i arrived. will wondered aloud why she had left some of her work and thought maybe that meant she was coming back. i recognized the language on the pages and sat down in front of her computer to see if i could eek out any rudimentary translation of the content. as i searched, will recounted the previous months, trying to work out where the fork that separated them had appeared. soon i understood enough of the writing to know that it was not work she left behind. when i told will, his tears began all over again.