She named her lawn gnomes.
About a week after she moved out, the phone rang.
It was her.
My breath caught in my throat as a million thoughts raced through my mind. “What does she want? Is she ok? Does she want to get back together?”
“Hey,” she said nonchalantly after I picked up the phone and managed to say hello.
“Hey, what’s up?”
I was desperately trying not to sound as freaked out as I was on the inside. There was a bustle of commotion on her end, like a loud rustling and things getting bumped in to. My heart sank a little lower in my chest as I realized what was happening: she was unpacking her things and taking out all the newspaper she had used to cushion the boxes. The other sound I heard was our dog, Buster, no doubt running around her new place, trying to get acquainted with his new surroundings. Ellen had the dog because I can’t find an apartment that I could afford that accepted pets.
I admit, I don’t miss taking that mutt outside on cold winter nights, waiting impatiently for him to find the perfect spot to take a crap on, but at the same time, I do miss it. It’s funny how animals can become your children….
“Do you have Heinrich?” Ellen asked. “I can’t seem to find him.”
Her question brought me out of my daydream and for a split second, I had no clue what she was talking about.
“Peter. Did you hear what I said?” She sounded slightly annoyed, but whether that was directed at me or the dog, I don’t know.
“Yeah, I did. I had to think of which of the gnomes was Heinrich.”
“He’s the one with the red pants and blue hat playing a fiddle.”
Right. Playing the fiddle. Got it.
Truth be told, I’d never paid much attention to my wife’s gnome collection. I thought they were weird, especially for a 28-year-old woman who, as far as I know, has never lived anywhere that had a lawn, let alone had the need for several lawn gnomes.
“Uh, well, Ell, I haven’t seen him, but this place is still a disaster, so I’ll keep an eye out for him.”
In the week since Ellen has moved out, I haven’t done much housekeeping-wise. I have to move out by the weekend, and it’s already Thursday. There are piles of empty cardboard boxes stacked by the front door, my half of the kitchen supplies–which isn’t much–is sitting on the counters, waiting to be boxed up. Bathroom toiletries are all in the sink. Dirty piles of laundry litter the bedroom floor, and the only thing left in the spare bedroom is my bike which has fallen over. My god…I’m a mess. How things have changed in the past six weeks. One day, I’m sitting on the couch with Ellen and Buster, watching but not really paying attention to a movie we rented because I”m too busy staring at my wife and how good she looks in that red shirt I like and the next thing I know, it’s a month later and Ellen and my dog are gone. What the fuck happened?
I hear my wife sighing on the other end of the phone and for the second time during our conversation, she rocks me back to reality.
“Peter. Snap out of it.”
“I asked you if you’re packed up yet. It is Thursday you know. The landlord wants the keys by Sunday afternoon.”
I lied and told her I was almost finished.
“Really? Peter, please. I’ve known you for ten years. My guess is that everything is exactly the way it was when I left.”
I don’t like the way she’s saying “Peter” instead of what she usually calls me: PeeWee. Stupid and cutesy, I know, but when I was eight, I was in a Little League baseball team called “The PeeWees” and there’s a video my dad took of one game where I made some good play and you can hear my parent’s in the background yelling “That’s our little PeeWee!” and my mother showed that tape to Ellen at our first Thanksgiving together and oh, how Ellen loved it. The nickname stuck with her ever since.
“Well, Ellen, I’ve had some stuff on my mind.” I said hastily. I instantly regretted it. I could almost hear the anger growing and for the first time all week, I was glad Ellen wasn’t here.
“Alright, well, if you find my gnome, please let me know.” and with that, she hung up.
I set the receiver down and closed my eyes. “I’ll find your fucking gnome for you,” I said under my breath. And as if to spite me, I opened my eyes and the first thing I focus on is Heinrich. Staring at me with his fiddle playing eyes. Goddamned troll was right in front of me all this time, partially hidden by one of Buster’s forgotten toys.