When he goes to work I put his sweater on to clean the house because I take what I can get. I sweep. I dust. I scrub. I shine. I sew the buttons back on his shirts. Every night he comes home and takes me by the wrist. He takes me by the throat. I donít know why he bothers to keep pouring whiskey down it.
He is a contortionist, an inventor. In high school chemistry class, he consistently received the highest marks for safety; but you canít tell now. He drags me down the hall like something terrible is about to happen. He cooks us dinner and then comes at me like a cannibal. He wears Clark Kent glasses to work. He runs red lights to get home.
I stop at the mall on my way home from work and look for something special. Something nice. I take the escalator up. Because I am such a happy person everyone smiles at me. I decide he needs some new underwear and silk ties and I take the escalator down.
A gypsy once told me that before I was forty, I would die and come back as myself. I didnít think it would be like this. Like a boomerang hitting me on the head, like nothing I did in my past life matters. Like a pillow fight, I canít breathe. Iím tumbling forward. Itís like fucking during an earthquake, in the middle of a gunfight. It hurts so much it makes me nauseous.
He breathes sleeping. I want to smother one of us. I want to break one of us. My guts on the floor and I just sit there. Fuck that. I smoke a cigarette. And another. I smoke like Iím nineteen. He still fucks me like heís nineteen. Like heís eighteen. Like heís seventeen. Like Iím forty-five. Like Iím fifty. Like I should know better and get a mammogram, get some health insurance, get a Cuisinart, get a real bed to fuck him on.
We sneak into the movies and hide bags of M&Ms in our coat pockets. It was my idea because I am tired of him always paying for everything. ďMy treat, Honey,Ē I told him as I poured vodka into a water bottle. We get thrown out for disturbing the other patrons. On the way home we stop at an all-night diner and sit by the door.
We donít even like each other all that much. He slams my pelvis into the counter and I limp for days. Playing softball, I tell my neighbor, and she believes me because I am very athletic.
He lifts my chin. I canít talk. A good girl doesnít lie so I press my face into his neck. There is the length of his arm, the tips of his fingers, the soles of his feet. The neighborís dog is barking. The closet, the rope, the shell, the corner store is being robbed, his skeleton.
I fall down the steps on my way to the door. When he picks me up my knee is bleeding, but I am so drunk it doesnít matter. Still, he pours the last of the whiskey on it right before he rips my skirt. It doesnít even matter that I am wearing nice underwear. I never even liked sex before. Iíd just do it so I would have someone to watch TV with later. I pull splinters out of his shoulder.
I canít concentrate on anything. Anything else. I leave the house to go to work and before Iím halfway there I forget where Iím going. I tell my co-workers: If I were really having sex with a contortionist, do you think I would even bother showing up for work? And they believe me because I am a good liar.
The pulled muscles in my arms. The pulled muscles in my legs. I think I might be taller. We try to have a pleasant afternoon in the park and the boat tips over. There is nothing we can do but take our clothes off and pretend weíre stranded. A park ranger guy scares the shit out of us. I slap a leaf into his palm and say: Letís just call it good. That night in the tub we see who can hold their breath longest. I win.
I get dressed up to meet him at a fancy restaurant and pretend I donít know him. On the way there I stop at the mall to spray on some perfume. I end up leaving in a new pair of high heels and itís all so well lit in there. We tell each other lies during dinner and then I win the staring contest. I throw my cards on the table. He throws some bills on the table and we get the fuck out of there.
All my clothes are ripped so I go to the mall. I sample some lotion. So much that my hands are clammy and I wipe them off on my brand new clothes. He comes to bail me out and on the way home makes me ride in the backseat. He pretends to be mad, but he is driving very fast. He walks me inside with my hands behind my back and pats me down.
On weekends he makes mobiles out of fishing lures. He reads Popular Science magazines. He locks me in the house and rips the phone out of the wall. ďYou better fix that Monday,Ē I say to him, because I am still a nag. He comes at me like a train wreck. Limbs everywhere. By Sunday night, Iím praying for salvation. I think he is too because he stopped talking yesterday. Weíre on the kitchen floor. I whisper smoke. He starts rubbing ice cubes down my back until Iím screaming. The phone is ringing. The world is coming to an end.
The cracked linoleum, the smell of garbage. We
lie there like two stupid, afraid and caged animals who canít figure out
the doorís open. I sit up and ask him: Want me to make us some soup? I
guess that he doesnít want soup because I donít get us any. We stay there
under the tablecloth until itís time to go to bed and we limp down the
hall like two people who have grown old together. Light from an ambulance
pulses on our bedroom walls and the bed with broken springs. I am too exhausted
to go to sleep so I challenge him to a wrestling match and pin him down
and I keep him there for a long time.
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