Everything was almost perfect, thought Julia. I got that promotion at the firm, and Gerald has finally settled into his new job at Bayknot Gen, the top biotech company in New York. He has been so stressed about it the past few weeks but he seems to be calmer today. His hand in mine makes the autumn’s chill feel warm. We were taking our first walk around Central Park in ages. Gerald had been extremely busy the last couple of weeks during the interview process for Bayknot; his nerves were driving me insane. I watched kids crunch on a pile of red-orange leaves as we walked.
I can’t just start taking walks in the park again like everything is normal, thought Gerald. Nothing is normal. God, why did I even apply to Bayknot? Julia’s hand tensed in mine as she watched a little girl almost trip over a tree root buried beneath the autumn leaves. I could feel the sweats coming back as Bayknot continued to invade my mind like a parasite.
“Wow, look at that one!” exclaimed Julia, pointing at a fancy looking stroller. “It has a detachable bassinet and look at the huge storage basket! Let’s go talk to that couple and find out where they bought it.” She began pulling me towards the couple playing with their child at a picnic table. Julia had become obsessed with strollers, cribs, changing tables, and everything baby related; our first baby was due in four months.
“Not again, Julia. Just let them enjoy the park in peace.” I pulled her back towards the walking path.
“Oh come on, it’ll just take a second!”
Gerald didn’t seem to be the least bit interested in helping me prepare for the baby. I was doing all the research and shopping, which I didn’t mind at first. Of course I understood that getting the Bayknot job was very important for our family and I let Gerald focus on it, but now that he’s got it, I would have liked him to play a bigger role in the preparations. Even so, I let him focus on work, but it bothers me at moments like these that he doesn’t take interest in talking to other parents who have already been through what we are going through.
“I said no, Julia!” Gerald said forcefully. I dropped the subject and we continued walking in silence. Sometimes I wonder what goes on in his head.
The air was cooling as the evening drew nearer. My hands were beginning to stiffen and it was getting harder to properly grasp my knitting needle. I would pack up in fifteen minutes, I decided. I liked coming to the park in the early evenings, although my son doesn’t like me coming now that winter is near. He thinks I’m too frail for the evening chill, but I always retort with the same, “I’m the parent here, so there’s no need for you to tell me what I can and can’t do.” As I continued knitting, I heard a young couple talking about their dating days. The girl turned to her husband and said, “I can’t believe you actually took Skippy to the toilet! I didn’t think you’d believe me when I said I hold my turtle over the toilet so he can do his business!” The girl burst out laughing and her husband turned red. He tried to calm her laughing fit by explaining that he was just trying to impress her by proving that he listened to every detail she had said on their previous dates. I tried to hold back my laughter but I leaked a decent smile. The man saw me and turned an even brighter shade of red. This is one of the reasons I love big city parks, you never know what kind of conversation you’ll overhear.
We continued walking in silence; Julia’s hand was now limp in mine, I knew she was mad. “Look, I’m sorry, honey,” I sighed, “It’s just that everything at work has got me wound up really tight.” Julia rolled her eyes.
“I thought you would have been all settled in by now. It’s been two weeks, Gerald.”
“I know,” I tried, but Julia continued on.
“And you still haven’t even had decency to tell me how your day was or what you do at work all day.”
“Listen, Julia, let’s not get into this right now-“
“Of course.” She pursed her lips and gave me another set of eye rolls, but there’s not much I can do about it. I understand her frustration, but I just can’t tell her what goes on at Bayknot. I wouldn’t have even accepted the job after finding out what they wanted me to do, but of course, they saved that for after I signed on. I try to keep myself going by the fact that I will be paid good money, and we need the money, especially with the baby on the way.
I loved eavesdropping. I mean I wouldn’t call it eavesdropping as much as overhearing, but anyway, I love all the stories. My son, Aaron, calls it cheap entertainment and repeatedly offers to renew my cable subscription. He’s become one of those Wall Street men, as I like to call them. I prefer unscripted entertainment anyway; everything except the arguments. I hate hearing families argue. It always reminds me of Jimmy and myself; we divorced twenty-three years ago and I was left to raise Aaron alone. I continued my knitting.
“Whatever, Gerald, just drop it.” I was tired of hearing his excuses for why he’s always tired, or why he’s not in the mood to talk, or why he’s so stressed.
“Just trust that what I’m doing is best for our family-“
“Best for our family?” Julia snapped, “Gerald, you’re making this very difficult for me. For heaven’s sake, we have a baby on the way and you don’t even seem mildly interested! You haven’t even talked to me in weeks, let alone look me in the eye!”
Gerald took a deep breath. “Bayknot was a mistake, Julia.”
Where am I leading this conversation? Stop, Gerald. Steer away from Bayknot.
“A mistake?” Julia echoed with annoyed eyes. Maybe it’s best to just tell her.
I looked up from my needlework when I heard an angry female voice. It was a defeated yet skeptical voice that sounded too serious for an early evening stroll.
“A mistake?” asked the voice again, this time with clear detest. “Gerald, Bayknot was the only thing you talked about for months! You made it clear that this is what you wanted and I supported you all the way.” She paused for a moment to recollect herself; her tone shifted to offer condolence, “Honey, you want to help people, that’s all you’ve ever wanted to do. You always put everyone else before yourself, and I really admire that about you, but I hope you weren’t excited about Bayknot just because of the juicy paycheck. I know money is tight right now, but I don’t want you putting your dreams on hold because of it.” She caressed his arm as she spoke and it seemed to smooth the hard crease that had formed between his eyebrows.
The man exhaled gravely. “Let’s sit down.” He directed his wife to the bench directly opposite of mine and they both sat down.