My spring has sprung. My fling is done. And I can’t even find the tears to cry about it. Instead, I possess a stony heart somehow connected to a stiff neck. Nothing supple here.
The Bible warns against stiff necks, but Pharaoh didn’t have to live with my husband.
He—meaning Robert—not pharaoh, is sucking the life from my marrow.
Robert, your boxers are dangling off your dresser knob.
Robert, your Q-tip missed the garbage and is standing on end.
Robert, your open can of Coke spilled in the refrigerator.
Was my gentle nudging effective? Noooo. There was nothing but to go on a cleaning strike. In April, of all months. How my mother, an OCD cleaning freak/housewife, would schimf if she knew. So take that Robert. I’ve embraced the slum. I don’t care if Bruno’s hair continues to accumulate in the seams of this house. No big deal. We can wade through it in knickerbockers.
But two weeks have gone by, and he's remained in blatant, unbelievable, obliviousness. He hasn't complained about eating off paper products that get bundled into garbage bags that are gathered near the shoes splayed across the foyer. Doesn't he smell something foul in the air?
We can’t go on like this much longer—my chief thought every morning. It’s what induced me to go to the gym after having boycotted showers for the last three days. And I’m not showering now or changing. Look what you’re doing to me, Robert! This is spring. The robins are busy constructing their tidy little nests. Air can be described as fresh. Flowers are squeaky clean and shining. They smell good.
Watching Robert get dressed this morning, I almost broke down and washed some laundry. I don’t know what possessed me to buy him that Lycra polo shirt, but his office mates don’t deserve to be subjected to the black chest hair poking through.
That’s what I’m thinking about when he phones.
“Marla," he says. "Would it be okay to bring the regional manager home for dinner tonight?”
Are you out of your mind? Have you not noticed the state of this house, of me?
“Sure, Robert. Completely feasible,” I answer. “Tell him to bring his wife.”
I hang up.
In a remote location of my heart, there’s a Proverbs 31 woman raking a tin cup across metal bars. The petulant jailer tells her to pipe down.
I drag myself into the living room and swipe the orange peels off the arm of the sofa so I can flop and rest my aching head. Outside my picture window, a gentle rain begins. The drops softly ping the delicate dogwood petals of my favorite tree—the tree where the female robin built her nest and laid her eggs. They just hatched yesterday, and both father and mother are busy feeding their squawking brood.
Yet, before that happened, the female first chose a mate. I think she found the one with the longest, blackest plume. Such a shallow thing, she was. Then she went into high octane construction, finding grass and mud and hair—she got plenty from our yard thanks to Bruno—weaving the materials into a perfect bowl. Where Mr. Robin was, while she worked, I have no idea.
I look around at my disgusting bowl. Defeat oozes down my head like a cracked egg. Fine, Robert, you win. I hope you’re happy. Realistically, though, there’s no way I can get this place cleaned up, make dinner, and get myself ready for company in the three hours I have till he gets home.
I do what I swore I would never do. I call my mother. She cannot keep the glee from her voice as she begins reciting a menu. My humiliation is complete.
We wave good-bye to Gary, who has no wife, for which I’m grateful. All I had time for, in getting myself presentable, was a birdbath, so to speak. I’m feeling pretty grody and avoid lifting my arms too high. The rain from the afternoon has continued, illuminated now by the lamppost. I take Robert’s hand and step out from under the eave. He doesn’t argue.
The wetness soaks into my hair, my clothes. In it I find more than cleansing. I find suppleness, softness. I rest in his arms, my head against his chest. “Gee, Robert,” I sigh. “I hope our second month of marriage won’t be as tough as this first one’s been.”
He howls when I yank a hair from his shirt.
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