By JENNY BARDWELL
Sam looked at the clock impatiently. It was nine o’clock; dinner had been ready since seven and now sat cold and untouched at the table. Alex should have been home two hours ago. Traffic or paperwork could set someone half an hour off the usual timetable but not two hours. Besides, Sam had checked the freeway accident reports, and there were none on Alex’s route. Something was wrong. The noise of a car turning onto their street curdled the silence, and Sam rushed to the window, just in time to watch Alex pull hurriedly into the driveway. Alex turned off the engine and got out of the car holding a tan briefcase in one hand, and closing the car door with the other. Sam continued to stare blankly out the window in disbelief at Alex’s lack of respect. The repetition of untimeliness was sickening. Alex banged on the front door and, after a moment of silence, pulled out the keys to enter the house.
“Where were you?” Sam demanded, appearing in the hallway as Alex closed the door and placed the briefcase down.
“What do you want me to say?” Alex replied in frustration.
“The truth,” responded Sam, fear dripping from the quivering words.
“The truth is that I was held up at the office and got stuck in traffic, but I have a feeling you stopped believing that excuse a while ago.” Alex responded, trying to stay calm.
“Words become harder to believe each time they are spoken,” replied Sam in obvious pain, “Apologies become routine, and all that’s left is doubt.”
“Look who’s become a poet,” Alex smirked, pushing past Sam and strolling into the kitchen, “Shall I heat up this food or do you intend on eating it cold?”
“You still haven’t told me why you were late.” Said Sam, unconsciously holding the door frame to the kitchen for support, waiting for the real truth to come.
“There is nothing more to say,” sighed Alex, refusing to give in. “You won’t believe the truth, and I won’t entertain you with scandalous lies.”
Sam suddenly realized how dimly lit the kitchen had become since the sun had sunk down into the horizon. Why did Alex’s words sound so shallow and fabricated? Why couldn’t they just be happy? They had once been so happy. A clanging noise brought Sam reluctantly back to reality, as Alex began angrily thrusting dishes into the microwave.
“I can’t do this anymore,” thundered Alex, pulling the plate from the microwave and slamming it onto the table.
Sam hunched over, as Alex’s words did their damage. Fear had become truth; everything was lost. Sam listened, barely breathing, waiting to hear the sound of the door slamming and a car starting. But no noise came, and eventually, Sam found the strength to look up, only to find Alex kneeling on the floor, holding out a ring.
“I wanted to surprise you. I wanted to find the perfect moment,” Alex began, “but buying a ring is harder than I realized, and you are so clever. I began to worry I would lose you in the process of trying to preserve this relationship. What I’m trying to say, Sam, is will you marry me?”
Readers may interpret this story in a variety of ways. Societal expectations may lead readers to see Sam as the female and Alex as the male in a heterosexual relationship. Many forms of media portray men as a family’s primary source of income. Women, however, stay at home. Society communicates that women are controlled by their emotions, while men are immune to emotional pain. Most characters are also presumed to be straight. Gender roles are prevalent in our society, but they are only as relevant as we allow them to be, and sexuality does not define a couple’s relationship. If Alex is the female in a heterosexual relationship, the story’s theme could be seen as female empowerment. But the story could be about marriage equality, if the couple in homosexual. The story should be interpreted the same way regardless of the genders of the characters, but in our society it is not.