Just think, he says, me, a part of history. And you do. You think about your husband as an inanimate man. You wonder if that’s how he feels about you, about your marriage. If this dream—that’s what you choose to call it—was inspired by something left unfulfilled by you. Imagine, you hear him say to no one at all, and you do. You imagine that you are no one.
When your husband tells you he wants to be a cardboard cutout at the last Blockbuster on Earth, you dye your hair the color of lilacs. You shave your legs, your armpits and arms. You shave everywhere, except your head and eyebrows. You drape your body around the house because that’s what desirable women do. You drape your body across the couch, on countertops, on the bed you still share with your husband. You even drape your body over the bannister. You call him darling. Tell him you love him. You stop him from leaving by draping yourself in the doorway and tell him, I want you. He kisses you, wraps his arms around your waist. Wait for me, he says, and you think while watching him go that this phase is finally over. You think that you’ve won, until your husband returns hauling deconstructed cardboard boxes. To study, he says, and you retreat to the bathroom. You lock the door. Turn on the water. Watch it fall from the showerhead. You drape your naked body along the base of your empty tub. Curl in on yourself and wait for your bare body to prune.
Your husband practices being a cardboard cutout around the house. He poses in the closet, stilled hands offering you your favorite coat. In the kitchen, he holds a Root Beer Float, pretending to call someone to claim it. You reach for the Root Beer Float, but he holds it out of your reach. You watch the condensation run down his arm, notice how chill bumps rise. The calls come a month later. The principal of the local elementary school finds your husband in the middle of the street posing as a crossing guard. A student studying forensics finds your husband posing in one of the chalk body outlines of their mock crime scene. A realtor complains your husband is scaring potential buyers. A curator for The Liberty Bell says, tourists love posing and taking pictures with your husband as George Washington and wants to know how much he charges per hour.
You confront your husband when you find a cardboard model of the last Blockbuster on Earth beneath the bed you and your husband used to share. He stands at the end of your driveway, clothes absorbing his sweat, the knees of his pants covered in grass stains. He holds a sign that reads, A Nice Lawn is Appreciated by Everyone! You hold his face in your hands, This has to stop, you say, but he doesn’t respond. You pinch him. Run his foot over with the wheel of your empty trashcan. Bump him with the back of your car. But your husband refuses to move. You cry because the neighbors are watching and the neighbors are watching because you are screaming move! In the end, when your voice reminds you of the sound of cardboard tearing apart, you lean in close to your husband with puckered lips and hiss, you blinked.
After you ruin your husband’s dream of becoming a cardboard cutout at the last Blockbuster on Earth, you find him on the couch, staring at lifeless ceiling fan blades. His odor hits you on the third day. After a week, you wonder if you did the right thing. One night, you place his head on your lap and browse through the new arrivals on Netflix. You pause on a documentary about the rise and fall of Blockbuster. Your husband squirms, his toes curl and release. You gently pull each strand of his budding beard, whisper okay, and press play.
You met your husband at your local Blockbuster which isn’t the last Blockbuster on Earth. The guy who would become your husband was once the VHS rewind guy. The guy who—when you asked for a light family movie—recommended The Brave Little Toaster. You feel like Kirby, the vacuum, at the edge of the waterfall when your husband no longer walks but waddles. When his movements grow stiff, a cardboard triangle sprouting from his spine to prop him up. You tell your husband this at the end of the documentary. He kisses your knee, your neck, your lips. Can we shower, he asks, and you nod because he needs to. Because, you think, this is something you can do together.
Your husband wants to be a cardboard cutout at the last Blockbuster on Earth. He poses in movie theater lobbies dressed as Darth Vader, Godzilla, and Willy Wonka. I need to practice being human, he says the night you ask him why Willy Wonka? He leaves you earlier each day, returning later and later without apology. You always kiss him when he comes home and try not to notice when he starts to waddle again. When the cardboard triangle stretches up his spine, when his cheek starts to taste like shipping boxes and duct tape. You stop shaving but keep dying your hair, this time a mixture of green and blue. Your favorite colors, he says, and for the first time the compliment just sits between you.
You notice your husband is leaving you when you discover fewer of his clothes occupy your closet, replaced by your new outfits, scarves, and shoes. His mugs, toothbrush, comb, and all his costumes vanish and you know there’s no point in trying to find them. One day, you wake up on your husband’s side of the bed. That’s when you realize, he’s gone. You plunge your face deep into his pillow. You inhale, ready for his scent, and choke on the smell of you.
K.B. Carle lives and writes outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is the Associate Editor at Fractured Lit. and Editor at FlashBack Fiction. Her stories have appeared in Passages North, Porcupine Literary, Apiary Magazine, Jellyfish Review, The Offing, and have been nominated for Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, and the Pushcart Prize. She can be found online at http://kbcarle.com or on Twitter @kbcarle.