She stood at the counter and stared at the dishes.
Goddamit, she thought.
Why does he always do this? she thought.
He sat at the table, calmly eating his Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
Why do you leave bits of cheese on your plate to become a congealed bit of goo? she asked.
What? he said.
Why do you fucking leave bits of cheese on your plate to become a congealed bit of goo? she repeated.
Oh, I heard you, he said. I just didn’t understand what you were referencing.
The cheese. From dinner. Stuck to your plate, she said
Just let it soak, he said.
I don’t want to let it soak. I want to be done with these stupid dishes, she said.
Leave them and I’ll do it when I finish my cereal, he said.
No, she said. Then you’ll think that since you’ve done the dishes, you won’t have to clean the cat’s litter box.
That’s not what I’ll think, he said.
Let’s go for a walk, he said.
You seem overwhelmed, he said.
She was overwhelmed. She could feel the anxiety rising, from a pit in her belly, spreading to her chest, up her neck, to the top of her head. It was warm. Not in a comforting, here’s my favorite sweater kind of way. In a something else is writhing in my body and threatening to burst out kind of way.
She looked at the dishes.
Okay, she said. Let’s go for a walk.
Out into the gathering darkness, a full moon just beginning to rise. They strolled down the street and he reached for her hand.
Too much, she said, and pulled away to wander to the other side of the street.
And she meant it. Too much to have the heat of this thing inside her and the heat of his love in her hand.
One block. Two blocks. Five blocks and they were on the bridge overlooking the river.
Seriously, though, why do you do shit like that? You know it’s going to make me anxious, but you still do it, she said.
Honestly, I have no idea what makes you anxious, he said. Today it’s cheese.
Tomorrow you might be fine with that, but you won’t like the way I make the bed, he said.
That’s not true, she said.
You don’t have to be such an ass, she said.
If you’re just here to argue, I’m not interested in this walk anymore, he said.
Well, I don’t want to argue. I want you to hear what I have to say! she said.
No, you don’t, he said. You want to argue. Let’s just go home.
No, she said.
I want to keep walking, she said.
Fine. You need to get your shit under control, he said.
And he turned to go.
I’ll get eaten by a bear, she said.
But he just kept walking
She stared down into the river. She kicked a rock into it and it made a satisfying plunk. She bent down and picked up a leaf and threw it in. But she couldn’t see if it flew away or ended up in the river and it didn’t have a satisfying plunk. So she kicked another rock in. And then another. And one more. Plunk. Plunk. Plunk.
I will get eaten by a bear, she thought. I’ll fall in the river. Or step out in front of a big truck. That will show him, she thought.
One final rock into the river. Plunk.
She wandered two streets over. She told her mind to shush. It didn’t. The bubbling heat stayed swirling in her torso. Swish. Swish. She thought about how angry he could make her.
She sat by the lake. She watched the river narrow and pour into it. She listened to the sound of the water and an owl in the tree. She thought about dirty dishes and dirty litter boxes and dirty floors. She thought about how those things came and went and came again. She thought about how sometimes he yelled when she let the anxiety roll through and out of her, both of them spilling hurtful words. She thought about him telling her to get her shit together and she wondered how it would feel to have her shit together and how one even gets their shit together. She thought about how most times he pulled her to him and wrapped his arms around her and she could press her face into his chest and breathe him in until the waves eased and she could catch her breath.
She stood up from the bench. She crossed the bridge. She made it two streets from home. She realized the large object wasn’t just a trash can, but a bear digging in the can. She stopped. She stared.
The bear raised itself up from four feet to two.
The bear regarded her.
She regarded the bear.
She thought about green eyes and perfect lips and imperfect teeth and how they all formed to make the sweetest smile. She thought about the smell of his skin and sound of his voice whispering it would all be okay.
She took a step backwards, then another.
The bear dropped back to four feet and turned back to it’s garbage digging.
She backward stepped to the corner.
Then she turned and ran home.