Tuesday, May 3, 2011

On The Brink

{Excerpt from a Split-Level Life} c.2011

When Donny walks in and greets me an hour later, I make a point of not looking at him. I sit at the table buffing my nails, hoping to hide the deep fuchsia tie dye stains. A sidelong glance tells me he’s wearing his usual ridiculous smirk that only half admits to being a fool. It’s hard not to fold when I see that look. This is how we’ve always shown our love-- it’s our native dance, the one we have choreographed into the intricate pattern that has become our marriage. Usually, I find comfort knowing I can expect this, but a sudden change, like a rip tide, warns that isn’t enough.

"Donny, I've got something to tell you. You better sit down." He pulls out the captain chair and glances out the window. He needs some time to settle down. It’s challenging, this game we play, but I don't dare laugh when I'm about to tell him something so horrible, even though I’m fighting off a nervous grin.

"Rob Woodman had a heart attack last night"

"Was it bad?"

"Bad enough— he's dead." I sneak a peek at Donny’s reflection in the table’s veneer. He runs his fingers through his hair, then grips my hand.

"Holy shit!" Donny says. "Holy, fucking shit." I bet it was drugs; the guy was always coked up you know."

"Maybe it was strenuous sex. My mother said he was with their nanny when it happened. Sophie was away with the kids visiting her parents.” My new contralto voice reverberates throughout the kitchen. Warning, warning: This is what happens to selfish-indulgent men who fool around.

Donny looks at me, his head cocked to one side. There is fear in his eyes, the purest look I’ve seen him wear, in years.

“I know it’s hard to believe, we just watched him blow out his birthday candles.” Donny sits staring into space. “Oh, by the way, you might want to freshen up soon, we may be having company. I’ve invited Paula and Charlie over.”

“Tonight? Why tonight?”

“Especially tonight, with Rob gone and all. Donny, if it weren’t for Rob, we might never have met Charlie and Paula.” I thought you'd be happy. Don’t you like them? Aren’t they the perfect couple Don, you know, as couples go?”

Donny pushes his chair back, stands then sits back down. He lets me continue, get it all out, but there is a trace of loathing in the way he looks at me. It hurts to see that kind of disgust, but it only makes me persist. Why worry about limits now? I’m playing whether I understand the rules or not. That’s what he wants. That’s what he’ll get.

Donny glances out the window. A light crystal rain streak diagonally across the panes. “Alex, I know you have always despised games. I respect that about you.” I feel myself weakening, starting to back down, here comes my about face. Is it a perpetual rash?

“So why do I feel you’re toying with your own stupid version of follow the leader?”

“No one is making you do anything, it’s all in that pretty little head of yours.” Donny gives the top of my skull a gentle knock, knock as he leaves the table.

I think of saying, “Who’s there, or who are you: my husband or adolescent son concocting a noxious potion with your chemistry set—something to blow us all into smithereens?


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home