--I’M A BROKEN TOY
Acts of Love
The sky cracks open, sooty and loud and wet. Marty, our wiener dog, goes nuts, spins in circles and the only means of stopping him is to tackle the critter and hold him tight, like a vest bomb.
“You’ll crush him that way,” my wife says. Marty is panting and his moist black eyes bug out, but then, I tell myself, they’re always bulging.
We’re supposed to be talking about us. That was the plan before so much thunder and lightning ripped through our spackled city.
I got my wife this condo because she wanted a place with lots of windows. She claimed she had nothing to hide. Now, there’s violence outside every pane.
When I ask if she wants to start first, she counters by saying, “I thought men didn’t like to share their feelings?”
“I guess I’m different.”
“I guess you are,” my wife says.
A twisted branch of lightning strikes the window, glowing radioactive through a sheer blind. I remember my wife’s negligee being that see-through, the outfit she wore a few months after our honeymoon when she said she’d be sure to keep things interesting, when she promised we’d never grow bored.
Glass clanks over at the cupboard above the sink. My wife’s become an efficient drinker, takes her scotch neat, no ice. Only needs a tumbler. If I weren’t around, she might not even use that.
Marty’s gum-colored tongue laps my chin. It’s like that time a friend sent me a YouTube video of a beheading overseas, and an anxious wave of nausea rippled through my gut and I spewed a wild, toxic stream but had the wits to turn the video off and hit delete before the sword was lifted.
She raises her glass to her chin and it seems I can see vapors like heat shimmers from the pavement misting her skin, but that’s impossible and I know it’s just the effects of nervousness I’m feeling, that and this rattling storm.
I can hear the choppy gulps as she swallows even though she’s trying to be subtle and make herself out to be a judicious drinker. I could point out that it’s only 11 am on a Saturday morning, but I don’t. Push my wife just a little, and she becomes a runaway.
“Okay,” she says, slumping down in the egg-shaped chair opposite me, “what do you want to know?”
It’s a gut punch to find us here, in this gutter, playing games after so many years.
“Maybe you could start by telling me when you first fell in love with him.”
She snorts a twig of laughter through her nose. “Don’t be an idiot,” she says. “It was an affair. I’ve never loved him.”
Lightning nests my wife’s hair in the window, forming an electrified crown of thorns. Wind smears the glass with rain tears. “If you want to end it,” my wife tells me, “just say so.”
Now who’s being an idiot? Everything I am and everything I’ve ever cared about is stitched into that woman, and I knew from the beginning that I’d have to teach her how to love completely and selflessly. I knew there’d be crashes and destruction.
She flaps her hand. “You can keep Marty,” she says. She lets the last topaz pearl splash onto her tongue. “I think I’m becoming allergic anyway.”
I lean forward. I take in oxygen so it falls all the way in.
I tell her she’s a coward. I say my words softly, without nuance or inflection. I tell her she always wants the painless route out. I say, “If you think I’m letting you off this easy, you’ve got another thing coming.”
She’s up and across the room in a flash. I hear the drawers screeching open, clothes hangers clanging off a metal rod as she packs.
I put Marty in the closet and lock the door because he’s seen enough.
Under the sink, by the cleaning solvents is where I put the rope and duct tape and Taser I bought for this occasion. I know I’m about to cross a line, yet I tell myself it’s worth it, that this is unavoidable, just another act of love, necessary but not at all desperate.