Again, I wake up to Adult Contempo. Taylor Swift eakling into my dreams. Why can’t I grow up, I say out loud to my husband, who is already in the shower, steady thrush of water. He doesn’t need an alarm. Love, he says, is what jets him out of bed. I want to think he means love of his morning coffee. We pre-set the Keurig the night before, and it waits for him all beany and steamy and eyepop. I want to think he means love of the crisp, ironed shirt he will put on, how the starchy smell makes everything seem new again. I want to think that this is what he means by love. I know that’s not what he means.
I’m up now. My husband sits across from me at the breakfast table. The morning paper spread out in front of him. He is eating the frozen waffles he likes so much. Jelly, no butter. He says he likes a burst of fruit. He opines on the paper. Stocks and murders, murders and stocks. He never mentions his secret girlfriend which is really all I want to know about. I want him to opine on the length of her hair, the color. Is there a burst of anything when he kisses her? Does touching her breast make him feel new like an ironed shirt makes him feel new?
Eddie, who is not my husband, has been teaching me to tie knots. Says it’s a useful and undertaught skill. He says, you wait. One day when you will least expect it, you will want to tie something and make sure it’s tight as it can be. Eddie, who is not my husband, always smells like musk and sex he didn’t shower off. I would breathe him all day if I could.
My husband has taken to knocking on the door whenever he enters a room. Even if the door is open. He does that thing where he says knock, knock while rapping on the door jamb. Knock, knock, he will say like I don’t see his starchy, lying, fruit-filled self standing there waiting for me to acknowledge. Like he maybe wants to reboot me like a computer and start over where he and I meet for the first time and he would have to make sure I know he’s there before he shatters me into a thousand pieces.
It’s not exactly known where and when my husband ran off with his girlfriend. I know there’s a half-jar of jelly leftover, so it’s been since then. The where is another story. Eddie, who is not my husband, is sitting now at the foot of the bed. He says if I had known how to tie a knot, I could have secured my husband, maybe to an armchair, maybe to the breakfast table. He says people always make the same mistake about other people – that they will be exactly where you left them. Eddie, who is not my husband, still smells of sex he didn’t shower off. He is naked right there, right then. He crawls towards me with a silky scarf between his teeth.
Definition – a hillock, a mound. Most likely green and grassy. Most likely peaceful. Most likely a really good metaphor for love if you lean that sort of way. To make everything a metaphor. Like years pushed all together and it only adds up to a mound instead of the mountain you were counting on. A wide-open field with a small bump of soil, and there you are knowing all the knots in the goddam world with nothing tall enough or sturdy enough to tie anything to.
Francine Witte’s poetry and fiction have appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Mid-American Review, and Passages North. Her latest books are Dressed All Wrong for This (Blue Light Press,) The Way of the Wind (AdHoc fiction,) and The Theory of Flesh (Kelsay Books) She is flash fiction editor for Flash Boulevard and The South Florida Poetry Journal. Her chapbook, The Cake, The Smoke, The Moon (flash fiction) was published by ELJ Editions in September, 2021. She lives in NYC.