Sunday, August 8, 2010

…I have a new story called “I Scared You” up at The Shine Journal and also here under “Words in Print.”
…This is random, but don’t you think the word “blog” is really ugly and gross? “Blog” sounds like a snort you’d made if your nose was really plugged up.
…I’m reading “I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down,” by William Gay (it’s wonderful) and “Triple Time” by Anne Sanow which is well written but bland, like soup that’s really just broth.
…I wish I could write happy stories and poems. I’m a pretty happy guy but when I try happy stories it always feels like I’m copying out and happy never seems as interesting to me. Please don’t hate me because I write sad things. I’ll keep them interesting.
…I’ve never done this before, but I just wrote the following story and I’m going to share it raw, minutes out of the oven.

One Out of Two

When my wife wakes, her hair a mass of tangles and her breath smelling like lighter fluid, she tells me I should consider cutting and pasting.
In the last many months she’s been speaking riddles, many of them barbed. She’s been stealing people’s mail and piling it up in her underwear drawer. Last week she went up to the attic and found her old roller skates and started circling the cul de sac. When I asked why, she said, “My past is yesterday.”
Jenny comes over one afternoon while my wife is in the backyard beating the pulp out of a tetherball she paid a workman to install. Jenny has been my wife’s divorced friend for a dozen years. She’s pretty, with small elfin features and taffy blue eyes. Jenny likes competitions and has a huge appetite, despite being such a tiny thing.
She wants to know how I’m dealing with all this. She tells me that I’m strong and brave and puts her hand on top of mine in a motherly way, yet her fingers start to move over my skin, rubbing and tugging. I should feel flattered but I draw my hand back across the table and get up for another cup of coffee.
She tells me it’s not so bad, being divorced. “Look around,” she says, “everyone’s doing it. One out of two.”
From the sink window I have a different view of the yard. My wife has plopped down in between two overgrown geraniums while she’s busy plucking split ends. The activity always makes her look cross-eyed and I remember how when we first started dating she’d goof all the time, sending her eyes orbiting in different directions. “My mom told me if I crossed my eyes too long, they’d stay that way,” I said. “Yeah,” my soon-to-be mate said, “but you’ve got to get your own facts if you’re ever going to make it anywhere.” Remembering the scene and our stiff, teeth-bumping first kiss, I feel my stomach twist and coil and I realize that I’m sweating hard and trembling too much.
When I come back to the table Jenny says, “I can see how much pain you’re in. Everyone can. But there are places that specialize in this sort of thing. You don’t have to feel trapped, or guilty.”
I’ve been told that before. I’ve read books and been online for days and days and I know as much about Alzheimer’s as the doctors who treat it unsuccessfully. What I don’t know is how you’re supposed to sever a love that saved you from yourself, a love that helped make you a better man.
“Everyone has needs,” Jenny says, shifting in her chair, scooting closer. “Especially men. I know because I used to be a masseuse.”
She gets up, I guess to show me her massage skills, and doesn’t bother stopping when my wife presses her face flat against the window, looking at Jenny and I but not really comprehending.
Jenny gives her a wave and my wife giggles through the glass and I say, “That’s enough.”
After I’ve sent Jenny home, I make my wife come sit with me on the sofa. She looks wild yet defeated, like an ostrich with its leg caught in a bear trap.
I take up a position behind her, kneading her skin along the shoulders. Her muscles are hard but I’m careful not to overdo the pressure. I use my thumbs and knuckles. I scissor soft karate chops across her blades and work her neck. When she moans a little, I get another flashback of a different time. I ask if she likes it, if I’m doing it right, and she says, “This is perfect. Please don’t ever stop.”

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