I know you wouldn’t know anything about this, but it’s hard having a hot husband. Every time we are apart, he and I, him and me, I cannot help but wonder what is going on. When he reports back to me about mysterious meetings, and describes the feeling in the room, the particleboard table, the wood-paneled walls, and fails to mention the two very good-looking girls on the staff, I notice it. The manager has long brown hair and the voice of an angel. A fucking angel. Ah, the absence of female pronouns in conversation—a very useful tool.
In the heat of a dinner rush, sweeping sweat from his forehead while he’s bent over a steam table, ladling whatever it is, minestrone, hollandaise, something flavorful and fancy, one can’t help but think about the minidress on the hostess, the knee-highs on the cocktail waitress, the push-up bra on the gracefully aging woman ordering eggs benedict with the sauce on the side. Nothing sounds quite right, and they have to do it again. Something in the tone is off, and they must start it over.
U do not know how 2 B a playboy in this town, but I am certain my husband can teach you. I swear to him I like his people, the boys in the band, until I realize I’m quoting song lyrics, and almost every time I speak to him that is what I do, because we cannot talk, and have not been able to in a long time.
I was once loved fiercely, with an intensity I’d rather not think about, not because it makes me uncomfortable but because it makes me sad, and it makes me lonely, because it is over. The person who loved me would show it to me in ways I recognized, and what I have to show for all the emotion she threw at me is a series of text messages (ones about which I thought twice before sending) and a sea of tiny origami ships. I have letters written in a scrawl on the title pages of philosophy books and the memory of a night involving kissing (with tongue!) in the grossest bathroom in town. I know there is little chance I will inspire any person that way again.
I loved fiercely, once. Eventually I was able to fantasize about him sexually without feeling like I was cheapening his memory, and it was then that I knew I was finally over him.
I once called him “sexy,” and was then immediately embarrassed. I’d never used this word to describe anything or anyone except for the Deftones’ cover of “No Ordinary Love,” and even then I felt dirty saying it. But when I thought about it, it was the right word to use.
I know you’re wondering why I’m telling you all this. I don’t have a good answer for you. I don’t know what country you are visiting this year, but I want you to take me with you. I’m not getting on a plane or buying a passport or finding a hostel with you. I’m not really going to go anywhere with you. I can’t because I am stuck here, taking care of old people and cleaning from the mouths of annoying babes so much split pea soup and bananas from tiny jars. Children kill a person, inside. Something is born, yes, but something also dies. I lost my looks for the baby, and you are still beautiful and unmarred by a mesalliance and a mortgage, your arms crossed in the airport and no want for a cigarette.
I am miserable. My husband has not touched me in five months.
I used to paint and sew. My mom taught me how to cross-stitch and embroider and when the first baby came I stitched her stupid name in pink and green and put it in a very ornate spray-painted gold thrift store frame. When the second came I didn’t do that for him. I loved my babies in the wrong way, unconditionally. I loved them but I did not like them, and now our relationship has been preemptively ruined.
And painting? My husband never cared about it so I convinced myself it was a hobby for fools.
In the school where I work there is a room built in underneath the staircase to the science department. In it are grungy mops and half-filled gallons of cleaning fluid and dropcloths and wet floor signs and plastic jugs of that powder you sprinkle on vomit for easy cleanup. Behind all that shit is a crappy piano that gets hauled out once a year for school plays and I’m not too embarrassed to tell you that sometimes when I’m the last one at work, I go into that closet and play the shit out of that piano, every song I wrote with the band I was in fifteen years ago, and it feels just awesome every time.
I know it is too late for me to be an unconventionally attractive, timelessly dressed poet staring out the window of a shitty coffee shop at the rain falling on the asphalt and I’m deriving some deeper meaning from nature and it attracts you from across the room and you do something crazy like send me a drink and we immediately bond, spiritually exchanging our Top Ten lists for Everything in Life and we embark on a whirlwind romance that sees picnics and Rome and road trips and loft studios, I know it is too late for that.
But sometimes I wish I could do it all over, and try again, and be the sort of woman (!) who doesn’t mix up the words “philanthropist” and “philanderer.” If the only difference would be that you would be there, it would make all the difference in the world, our lives easy and uncontrollable, shining when the light hits the epoxy sheen on our tandem bike, our breakfast nook, our Indian-style chopstick feasts, and every moment we spend so eventually catalogued with a crackly overtone and the feel of reel-to-reel film, us laughing with our mouths wide and heads thrown back but no sound coming out, like in silent movies.