I am holding the hand of my husband’s mistress after her insides have been scraped away. It is a curiously intimate moment. Though she is calmed by local anesthetic, it still feels like she is being ripped inside out, her womb dismembered, as if it were a body on its own, with limbs to sever. I cannot conceive, there have been too many tumors; I am kinder than I should be, given the situation. We are strangers, we are the darkness and shadow on one another's lives.
Give me something to think about, something to distract me from what it feels like down there.
I tell her to imagine what childbirth would be like.
She shuts up.
She sleeps. Later, I give her Tylenol, an ice pack for her headache and hot water bottle for the cramps that will besiege her for days. These are contradictory cures for one common poison that we’ve both now tasted. My husband, who only uses that word when it suits his interests, is in the other room. He is nervous that we might be sharing secrets.
I told him: There are no secrets anymore, just one big wreck that I’m cleaning up.
It is when he’s been caught acting least like a husband that he chooses to behave most like one, creeping up like a prowling cat, seduction on his mind. I will not be able to pay the light bill this week, I think, counting the starbust patterns on the plaster ceiling of the living room. I hope I get paid again before it’s disconnected. I have spent the day cleaning up after him, from the sink of dishes and mountain of rotting garbage in the kitchen to the sheets that stink of sleep and sweat in the bedroom and the stray hairs and shaving scum in the bathroom. Right down to the raven-haired girl sleeping in my bed, bleeding and toxic, while he busies himself trying to lift my skirt.
Quit it, I’m making dinner.
Christ, and you wonder why.
This is not what I had imagined it to be like, I did not think that the ring on my hand would feel like an ax or an anchor, halving me on its blade or drowning me into the black depths of the forgotten cracks in the ocean’s floor. I pretend my dinner is the meat of his bones, eat seconds, gorge myself to make myself so sick I’ll never want to taste him again. I will sleep on the couch for weeks, the smell of her clings to the sheets even after I’ve washed them. I turn in the night, finding cracks in the sofa cushions like the crevices in my marital bed.
I leave the light on, hoping that he will come home.
Allie Marini first started kicking ass in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. She is a 2001 alumna of New College of Florida, which means she can explain deconstructionism, but cannot perform simple math. Her work has appeared in a number of literary magazines that her family hasn't heard of. She has lived all over Florida and Washington State but has called Tallahassee home for that past decade. She is a research writer and part-time hairdresser when she’s not playing with her make-believe friends. Allie is pursuing her MFA degree in Creative Writing through Antioch University Los Angeles and oh no! it's getting away!