By Betty Williamson
Sandra had been vacuuming Scandinavia, dusting each of Norway’s fjords, when Greg called to say that although he thought he would always have feelings for her, they weren’t the feelings he once thought they were, and since he was going to be in London on business for the weekend, perhaps it would be a good time for her to pack her things and find her own place once more. Sandra’s first thought after she gently hung up the phone was to plunge the vacuum wand straight through the enormous globe she’d been cleaning. She didn’t.
She knew the globe was one of Greg’s most prized possessions. She also knew, from repeated sermons over the past five months, that he didn’t believe it should be cleaned with a vacuum. He’d come home early once from a meeting and found her singing at the top of her lungs while she sucked dust particles from the Arctic Circle.
He’d been horrified and had actually yanked the cord from the wall to kill the motor. After that, she made sure she didn’t get caught, and she found some small pleasure in knowing that the world was spotless and it was her vacuum and not Greg’s specially-made flannel cloths that made it that way. Greg’s phone call came unexpectedly, but Sandra was not completely surprised. His "feelings" as he’d so succinctly put it had softened enough over the past few months to allow perfume from at least three different bottles than the one Sandra owned to drift over his clothing.
It was a mark of great trust, if not cowardice, Sandra thought, that he would make the break by telephone before leaving the country for the weekend. But then, they’d known each other since they were 17, and through the years of on-again, off-again dating, neither had been deliberately destructive to the other.
Sandra sat down on Greg’s leather couch to collect her thoughts. It wouldn’t take long to gather her belongings; she had few besides the vacuum cleaner. The part that frightened her was where she was going to take them. With Greg’s encouragement, she’d spent the last months writing. She had a handful of sales to her name—a poem to The Advocate, an essay to a mid-western women’s magazine. It was hardly a career. She knew landlords did not line up to rent space to wannabe writers, and she was not good at lying.
"Damn you," Sandra thought, and then she mentally apologized for thinking it. That was her problem, she decided. She was the one who was always sorry, always apologizing, always justifying.
She’d miss this apartment much more than she’d ever miss Greg. She loved living on the 20th floor, and the sweeping vista made it a pleasure to just be there each day. She’d even enjoyed keeping it clean. She knew Greg could afford to have it maintained professionally, but she’d felt a sense of nurturing him by being the one who did it. She’d miss the globe, too, she realized. It had been her daily refuge since the first time she’d seen it.
The globe was four feet in diameter, an enormous golden-brown orb with pastel countries that rested on a large nest of polished walnut. You could turn it with the tip of your fingers, and Sandra did often. She’d memorized every degree, exploring it for hours on end. She especially loved the Pacific for its vastness, dotted by elegantly named islands that she wondered if she’d ever see: Polynesia, the Carolines, New Hebrides, the Marianas. Sitting on Greg’s couch, newly homeless with little but a vacuum to her name, the world indeed seemed vast.
Almost automatically, Sandra rose at last and turned the vacuum back on to finish dusting the northern hemisphere. The soft brush swept over Canada and Russia, then lingered over Great Britain where she hoped, briefly, that Greg was experiencing an awful wind from the strength of its suction.
She packed in less than hour. She was actually amazed by how little she owned. She’d not really thought about it before.
She considered writing Greg a note, then decided he had not earned it. She laid her keys on the table, and was about to walk out the apartment when it occurred to her that there was one really appropriate way to say good-bye. She set her suitcase and backpack next to her vacuum cleaner and walked over to open the wide glass doors that led to the balcony that overlooked the pool 20 floors below. Only two of the lounge chairs were occupied that morning, both by young women on their stomachs baking their backs to a darker shade of brown. Perfect, Sandra thought.
The globe was awkward, but not as heavy as she had expected it to be. It rolled lightly across the floor and out on to the balcony. The lightest push sent it over the edge.
She watched it fall, wondering if it would bounce. It did, but not well, collapsing deeply on the side of impact before lurching across the cement. The two tanning figures jumped, but of course had no idea from where the earth had fallen. She hoped against hope that it had landed on Great Britain and destroyed London.
Sandra pulled the balcony doors closed, locked them and left the apartment. She wanted to stop to see the globe once more, but decided against it. She was in no mood to answer questions if anyone happened to recognize her or Greg’s globe.
Her reflection in the glass doors she pushed open to exit the building revealed an unlikely Atlas. It felt good, she realized, and for once she was not sorry.
Betty Williamson is an almost life-long New Mexico resident who enjoys pecking around on the keyboard.
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