We are desperate, or I am. Yes, it’s me. I go to lengths. I take my husband’s hollow silences and try to fill them with code but he snickers or re-fingers the remote.
I get masseuse lessons. When I come home I say, “Do you want your neck worked on, you look stiff,” but he only whinnies at me.
I find hair in the sink. Blonde. Long. He reminds me he is a custodian. He sweeps the whole mall, even Cutter’s Salon.
I buy plastic sheets and a vat of baby oil as one magazine recommends. I dress in stilettoes and two pieces of string. I lock the door and insert the key in a private place he’ll have to reach. So, we slip and slide. My eyes burn from splashes of oil. One of us sweats a small lake. When we are through, he showers, then slinks off to watch Sports Center. In the morning I say, “You didn’t come back, why not?” and he tells me he thought I’d be sleeping.
I say, “I’m going on a trip.”
He says, “Fine by me. How long?”
I say, “A while.”
I land in the tropics. It’s like a Malaysian fat farm but better. I get liposuction. I apply lip plumper. I wax what’s never been waxed. I get a cut and dye job, going red. I bleach my teeth. Buy a Pucci-print dress and Channel bag. I get piercings below the neck.
When I come home, my husband is all nerves, a jumping bowl of spaghetti. His eyes jerk like pinballs. When I ask if I should get the oil, grab the plastic sheet, he chuckles, tells me we don’t need it. He keeps humming, “Baby, baby, baby.”
I can’t get enough air. He’s gained weight while I’ve been gone. He smells like ammonia and has a forest of black nose hair I never noticed. When we kiss I can feel canker sores in his mouth.
He asks, “Round two?” Then after that, “Ready for a hat trick?”
He wants me. All the time. I tell him I need a break. He says, no. I complain, threaten to go back to the old me. He says there’s no going back, calls me Baby, Baby, Baby.
When he comes home from work the next night I can hear him panting. He opens the bedroom door with a flourish. “What the?”
I’ve shaved my head. I don’t have any makeup on. I’m wearing my flannel pj’s with the poodles on them. I’m eating my second tub of Ben and Jerry’s that’s given me a awful case of flatulence.
When he steps closer, I burp up a little cloud of Chunky Monkey.
Now it’s years later. We’ve eaten dinner and dessert. We’re sitting in a booth by the window. My husband runs a toothpick through the gulley between his teeth. He reads a magazine about tattoos and motorcycles. I stare past my reflection in the glass at a young couple wrestling in the front seat. I wonder if he calls her Baby.
Inside the diner, there’s Muzak playing: “Here Comes the Sun.” Oh, and there’s you and your girlfriend. You look nice together, like a twin sweater set, yet you both look away. Good thing I’ve still got my hearing.
Your girlfriend whispers, “Can you believe it? They haven’t even said one word the whole time.”
You rip a hunk of meat from a gray slab of chicken, and let it wobble against your wrist.
“I hope we never get like that when we get old.”
“Here,” you say, flapping the greasy meat, “take a bite.”
“That’s so gross.”
“Come on.” And then you do it, call her, Baby. And she does it, too. She eats the meat right off your fingers, says, “Sugar, you know I’d do anything for you.”