Here I Am Now

If you sit very still you can hear everything. Right now, I’m listening to the end of the world.

There was a time when I heard John say, Well.

That was before now.

Before now we were in the middle of the thing, and everything that was strange wasn’t strange.

In the middle of it I could still look at John and see the man I married. I could look at those eyes.

I could look at those eyes.

I could look at that mouth. It had been a good mouth to look at.

It had been a good mouth to be kissed by.

So long ago, sometime today, John sat across from me, spreading his hands flat over the tablecloth. Maddy, he said.

I told him, You don’t have to tell me anything.

I mean, I am his wife.

Okay, he said.

Then, and I remember this very clearly as I sit here now, he said it again.

Okay, he said.

I think that is when I heard the car pull up outside.

I understand you must be tired of all this, I said.

He said, No, just surprised it took so long.

Seven, I said. Actually, he said, nine.

Isn’t that something, I said.

Things move in the house. If I am still enough and the water pump or refrigerator or furnace aren’t going, I hear things move. A dish in the drainer will settle or a ceiling joist will adjust itself. I almost believe I can hear the drapes on the window over the sink swaying.

They thought you were going to kiss them, didn’t they? I said.

Maddy.

I said, They thought you were going to fuck them, didn’t they?

Maddy.

I think I shrugged because I remember hearing my shoulders hunch up.

After a long wait he said, They made me so angry.

I remember nodding at this because I heard the back of my neck going up and down.

The doorbell rang. All those years of that same doorbell, and at last I was hearing it.

I heard the sound of forced courtesy for one minute. Maybe ten.

When John said goodbye I didn’t turn to look, and it was so quiet that when I folded my hands on the tablecloth I heard my fingers knit together.

Maddy.

So here I am now.

I’m sitting here, thinking about myself. That’s about all the noise I want.

A better wife would be thinking about John at a time like this, but I don’t know what there is to think about him. Whatever there is, I’m not sure I want to hear it.

When he left I had my back turned to him. Just like, I bet, those other women going down those paths to those rivers.

They made him so angry.

Imagine that.

Imagine the sound of a river just like the sound of hell.

So I’m thinking of myself, and I’m listening to who I am.

I’m listening to a story about my hair, my eyebrows, my lips, my breasts and my waist.

I wonder about my laugh. What do I sound like when I laugh? I’ll have to remember to listen to myself when I think of something funny again.

In the story about my lips, I believe I’m a good kisser. Probably everyone hears that story.

I hear the story that asks what I did so wrong that those other women had to die.

The story starts with them stepping out of their godawful housewife selves for a night, having a fling, feeling special, expecting a kiss. It ends with John picking up a rock.

I am somewhere in that story.

I’d like John to tell me where. He should tell me.

I want to hear him tell me.

I mean, I am his wife.

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