050. Jenny’s Game. Linda McMullen

I’m supposed to be making my next move in our Scrabble game, but David’s phone auto-locks after three minutes, and he left its face aglow two minutes and twenty-eight seconds ago when he remembered he needed to drop off the rent check.  I treat the phone like I treat David (still, two years into our marriage) or like an eclipse: I avoid looking directly.  But I can imagine its rectangular heft nestling into my palm, as I… 

As I what?   

I read Carolyn Hax, Dear Amy, Dear Abby, Dear Prudence…  Many times, in these cases, a woman has turned her back on a smoldering dumpster’s worth of red flags.  Or she possesses more finely honed feminine intuition than I could ever hope to boast.  My accumulated evidence consists of rampant personal insecurity, minor mentionitis of Kira-from-the-office, and one night of cancelled plans due to a work emergency.  That’s it.  No lipstick stains on the collar, little-to-no diminution of affection, no whiff of another woman’s (Kira’s?) perfume. 

It’s not breaking and entering if the door stands ajar.   

“Ajar”: my best play in our previous game.  I had placed the “j” on a triple letter score, above the word “ail,” simultaneously forming “jail”; David had excused himself to go scream into a pillow. 

At the two-minute-and-fifty-eight-second mark, I touch the phone face. 

Texts from me, “ICE Jenny”, of the please-pick-up-a-half-gallon-of-milk-and-I-love-you variety.  Texts from his parents and his brother Sam; texts from his boss, Carlos; texts from Verizon… 

…and messages from “K”. 

I hear the elevator ding, so I’ve got fifteen seconds or so to scroll through a series of about three hundred blue-and-white bubbles.  To watch my life go “pop!” before my eyes.   

Can’t wait to see you.   

I miss you. 

I’ve never met anyone like you. 

I lock the phone manually and slam it down in its previous location – just as its owner re-enters the scene.  The only thought in my head is that overused Facebook meme of Ron Burgundy: 

Well, that escalated quickly. 

Quickly: 25 points right off the bat, 75 for playing all seven letters at once… 

I have 0.3 seconds to rearrange my face and to consider my next move.  I have a couple of options.  One of the hanging words is ‘pose’: I can make “expose” or “impose” – both excellent choices, although neither really grabs me. 

“You haven’t gone?” he demands, glancing down at the current game, which appears unchanged. 

“No?” I offer.  He glances down at me and frowns endearingly.  We met similarly, at the library, in college, when he found that I had the book he wanted.  We ended up reading it together, our paces remarkably similar.   

There wasn’t anyone else, after that. 

“I’m always waiting for you,” he complains.  And the tone is wrong, but the words, I think, are real.  I use my i, m, e, and x, and add a d, creating ‘mixed’ and ‘posed’, the d on a double word score.   

“It’s worth it,” I murmur, offering a pillow. 

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