Alan pulled to the curb outside Cassie’s place. It was nearly sunset on the last day of spring, still light at 8:30. He had such mixed feelings about this walk that he remained in his car for a minute.

What did he want? That’s what all his friends and family kept asking, and he still didn’t have an answer. He’d lived almost 55 years without asking the question; he wished everyone would give him a little more time to reply.

But it seemed there wasn’t much time left. Cassie blew their marriage apart almost two years ago, and now even she wanted some movement one way or another.

He couldn’t just sit in the car. He knew she knew he had arrived; it would be weird if he didn’t proceed up the path and to her door. He glanced at her front window and saw the curtain twitch. He hoisted his body out of his sedan.

At least it was a trimmer body. At first he dropped weight from confusion and upset, then there were the additional dog walks and the activities with Rhonda; Alan was at least 40 pounds lighter than when it all began. Everyone around him thinks he should have been angry, or devastated, but mostly what he experienced was like a hallucinogenic shift. When they got married it was forever, as far as he was concerned. He didn’t count the years each anniversary – that would be like X-ing off days on a prison (or holiday) calendar. When you’re in it for the rest of your life, individual years don’t matter. And sure he knew it wasn’t perfect, but what marriage is?

No: when he noticed the words on the screen of Cassie’s computer, when he confronted her about it and she confessed her affair, that started a cascade of shock and awe for him that was more surreal than anything he’d ever experienced.

But he still cared about her. He was in love with Rhonda but he still thought he and Cassie might be life partners. He certainly wanted to be amicable, be friends. Maybe he even wanted to stay married. He flip-flopped daily. He wished he could combine selected qualities in Cassie and Rhonda. But he knew he needed to choose.

He let Bingo out of the backseat. He retrieved her leash, the mail he’d collected for Cassie, and his jacket. He pulled the magnum of vodka off the floor and lifted it by the bag handles. The bottom ripped out.

The drop was only about two feet, but that’s all it took. That bottle hit the pavement squarely. The noise wasn’t loud – just a solid thunk – but the breakage was total. Alan was spattered with expensive liquor from his knees to his toes.

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