The year the news began naming winter storms they had been married for seven years. It was also the longest winter anyone could remember. Jennifer loved the idea of naming the storms, she thought it was gratifying having a person to blame for all the damages. While eating her breakfast she could already hear herself complaining to her co-workers how “Virgil” had done a real number on their roof, how maybe now the personification would help explain the enormity of what she was going to be dealing with in the near future. She loathed how patronizing they usually were when she had a problem. The past summer a storm had knocked over trees and damaged the power line that attaches to the back of the house, and she was hurt when instead of providing empathy they suggested she should be thankful that everyone was all right. Having to start dealing with the heartache of arranging for repairs actually meant that she was not all right, and certainly not thankful.
Chris thought it was asinine that the news was naming the storms. He thought everything was asinine anymore. Jennifer secretly thought the only thing that was actually asinine was his gross overuse of the word. When they had first met she found his negativity to be a sign of intelligence, something he would probably outgrow when he learned his role in the world and was surrounded by people that he had more in common with. The more time passed the more it became evident that he would just remain perpetually dissatisfied.
There wasn’t something wrong you could directly pinpoint. He didn’t have anger issues and he didn’t seem to have depression. He kept a very small list of activities that he enjoyed and brought him happiness, and anything not on that agenda annoyed him on a clinical level. The one saving grace of their relationship was that their sex life continued to remain something he enjoyed. Jennifer worked very hard to suppress the troublesome aspects of her personality when they were making love. She felt this was a great accomplishment and very sad, as she would never be given credit for it. Chris never really noticed when some- thing failed to annoy him, only when it succeeded.
Jennifer finished her coffee and went out back to check how much snow had fallen. She really didn’t think it was all that bad yet, but Chris kept warning her to leave for work early. He had a tendency to add an inch or two to his estimates. He found the snow storms so exciting that his imagination always made them worse than they were. She decided the thing to do was heed his warnings and leave fifteen minutes early. She needed to stop at the drive thru anyway and Chris would feel gratified that she took his worries seriously.
The snow was very slushy and caked along the window edges. When she rolled the window down at the drive thru to ask for cigarettes the snow came together and formed a short wall at the base, some of which fell over the edge inside of the car. The clerk brought her change over and gave it to her. Then, almost as an afterthought, he reached over and gently brushed the wall of snow off. The gesture was performed with familiarity and tenderness. It was almost like he was brushing a stray eye- lash off of the car’s cheek. She intensely felt the distance between his hand and her face. Jennifer found herself blushing.
“Some storm we’re having,” the clerk said while removing his hand from the car to point outside.
“Isn’t this one named Virgil?” Jennifer replied while rolling her window back up. “I just hope my roof doesn’t start leaking again.”
She wasn’t sure why but she felt very unsettled the whole rest of the drive to work, where she arrived ten minutes early just like she expected.