L Mari Harris
After you catch him, he will break down crying, then will wipe his sleeve across his eyes and calmly tell you maybe a divorce would be in both of your best interests. You will say those tears sure did dry up fast and he will say, jabbing a finger in his chest, but in here I’m on fire. When you’d done the same thing in the beginning of your marriage, you’d fessed up immediately. This makes you someone who tackles a problem head on.
Maybe you’ve been fooling yourself all these years, believing you could share your life with another person, believing you even wanted to. And you were the one who never wanted children. He’d claimed he didn’t want them either, until one day when he suddenly did but never bothered to tell you. But he will tell your marriage counselor. Look her square in the eye while you sit next to him on her Laura Ashley couch. So you filled up that longing with other women? she will gently ask. Sounds silly now, doesn’t it? he will reply. You’ll sit there, picking at your nails.
One day, he’ll come to you with a proposal: If we really want to make this work, let’s start over. He’ll drive you out to the country, pull into a drive with a For Sale sign. Ten acres, half of it wooded, a small pond you can see before the tree line starts. Let’s build a house here. And you will immediately agree, because you are someone who needs to let the house you’re in now fill up with someone else’s problems.
You’ll be like kids again, excitedly picking out the floor plan, countertops, light fixtures, exterior trim and siding. You’ll pick interior wall colors based on their affirming names: Nice Cream, Romance, Cloud Nine. When the house is completed, you’ll celebrate with Thai take-out, share a cigarette on the deck, watch the sun set over the pond. We have a pond, you’ll yell, laughing. A rustle of birds will rise from the trees and scatter.
One afternoon, you’ll see the woman coming out of the store as you pull into the parking lot. He’ll grab your hand and hold it tight as you sit breathless in the car, waiting for her to drive off. After this, he’ll begin walking up behind you, wrapping his arms around your shoulders. Gently tap the top of your head: Who’s my girl? You. You are. You’ll want to grab that finger and twist. Add this to the list of ways two people can slowly burn each other up.
The faucet will start to drip. You’ll find a spot in the hallway where the baseboard is separating from the wall. The builder will come out to fix several of the roof shingles that have loosened. You’ll be watering the flowers in the backyard one day when you’ll notice a hole in the deck’s wainscoting—something large has chewed through it, and you’ll be too fearful to bend down and peek into the gaping hole.
You’ll both fret, argue about what to do. The faucet will drip in sync to the cadence of his words: We’ll fix the damned problems. You’re acting like this is my fault. You’ll flash back to your last counseling session: Do you blame him, or do you think you both may have come into this with unrealistic expectations?
This house is brand new, and it’s already falling down around you, one thing at a time.
One morning you’ll step outside and find another hole chewed along the deck. It’s like one door isn’t good enough, that the animal that’s made this house its home needs escape routes. You’ll work up the nerve to shine a flashlight into the hole, scan the light along the edges, into each corner. Nothing will be there. You won’t even see dirt disturbed.
Later, you’ll eat dinner to the sound of the faucet drip. You’ll tell him, You know, we’re among the lucky ones. Most couples don’t want to put in the work it takes to stay together.
Later still, you’ll crawl under the covers and tear and grab at each other. You won’t come up for air until you’ve both apologized for all the wrongs, until your muscles spasm with exhaustion. It will be the best sleep you’ve ever had.
You’ll see him off the next morning, wish him a good day at work. Then you’ll sit quietly until it’s time. Before he gets home, you’ll gather what you need from the garage, walk from room to room. You’ll wait for him to pull up, greet him at the car door. He’ll smile at you, tilt his head, as if to say what surprise do you have for me? You’ll tell him to wait with you, to watch. You’ll hear crackling and snapping. You’ll grab his hand like you used to, entwine your fingers together. He’ll see smoke, will take a step forward, and you’ll gently lead him back. Stay. The best part’s coming up.
L Mari Harris works as a copywriter in the tech industry. Her work has appeared in Atticus Review, Bending Genres, cahoodaloodaling, Gravel, Lost Balloon, Milk Candy Review, among others. Follow her on Twitter @LMariHarris and read more of her work at www.lmariharris.wordpress.com.