One had hoped, obviously, to give the missionaries next door a better impression of gay marriage. Like this sweet-faced college boy at the door now – “I’m just checking to see if everything’s okay. Sir.”
The floor is covered with smashed plates. I’m leaned against the wall. It’s possible that wine has dribbled, somehow, into my beard. I am smiling warmly and using my very best rational voice, as if I could smother all other evidence.
It’s a holiday today, warm and sunny. A neighborly, open-window sort of day. In other words, even though I have never screamed like a maniac or smashed anything before in my life, there is no chance that anyone missed it.
“Just a domestic dispute,” I say. My brain has evidently been seized by bad TV. Which is obviously where I got this outfit too -- a tight blue t-shirt that says HUSTLER.
Imagine a stone thrown by a sailor from a ship sailing above the very deepest part of the sea. Falling through the depths for miles before coming to rest on the ocean floor in the very deepest blackness.
A stone once held in a calloused hand now rests at an unfathomable depth. A century will pass before any creature even glides across it and not once in a million years will it see the sun.
This is the comfort I imagine.
‘Out of control’ is the phrase that comes to mind – and yet I chose very carefully which plates to smash. The Japanese serving bowls, the cups with raku glaze – they still perch unharmed in the drying rack.
The fake fiestaware, however, is now down by two.
4. bus, bus, bus, boy, grasshopper, bus
Despite assumptions to the contrary, night and mood are endlessly broken up. What I expected to be uniform muck-black is instead like a painting by Goya: full of lightning light, of garish green yellow pink, like a tiny scene lit by a kerosene lantern at an Indian bus station in the middle of the night: perched among the puffed rice, a wrathful goddess offers boons.
Here’s the ruin of one’s life, a black gutted bus by the side of the road. It will not budge. There is nothing to salvage. A black gutted bus. A bus, a bus, still a bus. Then a Ferris wheel, then a grasshopper and a even a skinny Brazilian with a gold stud in his nose and a little goatee beard. Then the black gutted bus again, this wrecked life where nothing budges, which all my best intentions are like threats made by a petunia.
This bus cannot by altered or moved – and yet there are many times an hour when it completely disappears.
5. gone out
The mind goes out, suddenly and at once, just as the back does, while hauling rock salt out of the trunk of the car. How simple it ought to be to call into work: I’m very sorry but – my mind’s gone out again.
And yes, it’s entirely possible a powerful muscle relaxant would help and moreover it wouldn’t be any stupider or more dangerous than what I do ordinarily. Thanks!
In the same way, the mind comes back suddenly and unbidden, while reading the back of a book in an airport shop. The way a cat returns after you’ve chased it all over the house – any time you got hold of it, it tore you to bits – now that cat wakes you, lapping the salt from your cheek.
6. like son.
All he could say was, “You’re just like your father.” Very helpful, thanks.
Had I been capable of thought, I would have said, “Actually there are several discernable differences, such as the following:
“My father would not have waited seven years to start screaming.
“At no point did I use the words Jesus Fucking Christ
“I aimed the plates at the floor. My father always aimed for the head.”
I am no longer shocked by teenage girls who cut themselves or those who throw themselves out of windows too low to actually die – i.e., the fourth floor or below. I am not surprised, either, by those who choose windows up higher, by men who woke up that morning with absolutely no intention of beating their wives, by commuters who throw themselves in front of trains, by those who begin drinking at dawn, by my father, by men who pay to be pissed on, by anyone who simply disappears.
I have new appreciation for all of these, my colleagues. While I may not agree with their conclusions, I can see how they got there from here.
This is the Steak Diane School of Compassion. (This is how we do it in New Hampshire.) Even if it wasn’t the best meat to begin with, even if it was chuck, never mind – we will tenderize it with a hammer.
May it someday be said of me: he had a tender heart. He did it in the kitchen, with a hammer, and blood splattered over the white cabinets.
When I imagined the future, the only thing I never doubted was that I would become the person I feared becoming. Now the plates are smashed on the floor and the children next door stand stock-still and listen to the scary man.
I suspect that the dishes are scared of me. Picking up a bowl, I feel it trembling, on the verge of dissolution. I know. And now the bowl knows, too.
If you want to be shocking, say the most obvious thing in the world. He says he is going to leave and shows no sign of leaving. Twenty-one years in this city now, the last seven with me. I do not trust you! I do not believe you! Smash!
This afternoon, all I want is to be left alone in the apartment. Please leave me alone. Please leave. Please go. Please. I beg and scream. But language has broken down, like running in a dream, and cannot communicate even the very simplest thing.
“There’s no place I could go,” he says.
The pain is never worse than when I imagine I am keeping one half-step in front of it, parrying with my jeans around my ankles and a bottle of wine in one hand. The moment I collapse and am gobbled up in the stinking black mouth – there I find I can endure.
But what comes just before – it is as if someone said, “We are going to start chopping off your fingers now. Please stand very still.”
I am willing to bet that even after the iceberg, when the water was already rushing in, there was at least one person who continued to fuss over the glassware, fold napkins, and shine the floors of the Titanic. This might be artistic or reprehensible or ridiculous. I’m not sure how I feel. Except that I think it’s creepy when my husband is doing it. And he angry at me for not helping.
He will not understand when I say that I am looking for a raft.