Monday, December 31, 2012

Chapter Two

Most sane, rational people don't answer when someone pounds on your door at ass o'clock in the morning. Most people cower in bed or call the police or grab a weapon.

It's a persistent banging at the front door downstairs, sending little vibrations up through the windows and echoing up the stairs on the other side of our bedroom door. It's one of those frozen black mornings that distills every sound made.

I know who this is, though.

“Your mother is at the door,” I tell Warren, sitting up in bed. He stirs and rolls over and pulls the covers with him. Downstairs, the noise has stopped for a few seconds, and I picture her waiting on the other side of the front door.

“Mom,” he mumbles.

I'm getting out of bed when the pounding starts again.

“Mom, go away,” he says into his pillow.

I'm pulling on my pajama pants and grabbing his blue hoodie off of the floor. “You know she's just going to want to talk to you.”

“No,” he says, putting his pillow over his head, and I hear him yawn. I'm almost out the bedroom door, now.

“Get up.”

“I'm getting up,” he says, and I can barely hear him.

He's not getting up. I'll be back up here in a minute to pull him out of bed.

The banging on the door actually begins to get louder as I reach the bottom of the stairs, and I can hear a small, sharp voice on the other side of the door muttering and calling Warren's name.

When I get to the door and open it up, I'm not prepared for the cold wind. There she is, Mrs. Blake. Warren's mother. There's a pie in her gloved hands, and she's wrapped in a big wool coat. It's snowing and the snow dunes in the yard are silent behind her.

She looks at me with her cold eyes. “You want me to freeze to death? I nearly froze out there waiting on you to open the door.” It's snowing behind her, and the white world is crystallized in the streetlights.

“It's 6AM, Estelle,” I tell her, stepping aside to let her in. She shoves the pie into my hands as she comes into the hall.

“Never mind what time it is. You should be up by now,” she says, and she looks up the stairs toward the lighted hallway at the top. I'm taking the pie into the kitchen now, and I can hear her calling for Warren up the stairs.

I put the it on the counter by the sink without turning the light on, and then I look out the window. I can just make out the lines of the pink wooden siding next door, and I hear Mrs. Blake come into the room.

“What took you so long to answer the door?” she wants to know, flipping the light switch. The kitchen is flooded with light. “Good god, do you live in darkness here?”

“I had to get dressed,” I tell her, turning to blink at her.

She smiles, a half-smile just like Warren, and puts her hands in her coat pockets. “You had to get dressed,” she says. I'm filling the coffee pot with water. I can hear the little sounds of Warren walking around the bedroom now, the ceiling above the hall creaking. That's the soundtrack of this conversation. “Why'd you have to get dressed?” she wants to know, finally. “You sleep naked? With my son? You're putting the water in wrong, for god sake.”

The coffee pot is back in place. I'm always doing something wrong, but it's never specific. My pants are too tight, my hair is too brown.

I stare at her. “Your son is my boyfriend,” I tell her, the coffee maker gurgling behind me.

“Well, never mind that,” she says, and she goes back out into the hall. Her voice trails off as she starts calling for Warren again.

He's my boyfriend, I think to myself, and I look at her stupid pie. It's Martha Stewart perfect as always, and it's Apple. Warren's favorite.

Mrs. Blake comes back into the kitchen and sits down at the kitchen table. “Go get him for me,” she says. “I'll wait.”

I stare at her for a minute, and then I say, “You want some coffee, Estelle?”

“No,” she says, looking out the windows by the table.


He's coming out of the bathroom in track pants when I get to the top of the stairs. He looks tired. “She comes over way too early,” he says to me.

I'm on my way to our bedroom now. I turn to look at him. “She wanted to know if we sleep naked,” I tell him.

“Of course we do,” he tells me, smiling, and then he turns to go toward the stairs.

I roll my eyes. “Get rid of her,” I tell him, and then I'm in the bedroom.

I can hear him chuckling on his way down the stairs, and then he says, “Mom, it's too early to be alive.” Then, their voices are just distant sounds.

I've got my clothes, and I'm on my way down the hall to the bathroom. I can hear Warren and his mom talking in the kitchen downstairs, but I can't make it out. She's likely asking when she's getting grandchildren out of him. She probably won't be happy until he's agreed to pump some girl full of babies. She's a real weirdo.


Every day, I see this face in the mirror, my hair wet and messy and the stem of my toothbrush sticking out of my mouth. I stare at my face and wish I was somewhere else.

I used to think about leaving, but it's started to occur to me recently that he wouldn't go with me. It would be me, alone in the car with all my things in the trunk.

The toothpaste is starting to drip from the end of the toothbrush now, so I grab it and continue brushing.

Sometimes, I think of Warren's mom's head exploding. Maybe she'd be standing there with her god damned pie when it happened. I'd be more than happy to pick her brains out of the living room carpet.

Sometimes, I see her getting flattened by a bus, or a piano falling on her. Cartoonish stuff.

It's better than the reality of her being downstairs, telling Warren I'm not a valid partner and demanding grandkids.

I spit into the sink, and there's blood.


I'm downstairs with my cereal, now. Mrs. Blake is gone, and Warren is across the table from me with his cereal.

“We had the grandchildren talk as always,” he says to me.

I sigh and sit back in the chair. I look directly at him. “We need better jobs,” I tell him.

“I like my job,” he says.

“Our jobs don't pay enough,” I tell him, and I look out the window at the road, the faintest hints of morning creeping across the cars along the sidewalk.

“Our jobs are fine,” he says, taking a sip of coffee.

In the distance, I can hear sirens. I stare at him for a while, and then I sigh and look down at my cereal. “I don't like that she's over here all the time.”

“She's nice enough to help us pay the house payment,” he says with his eyebrows up, like he's explaining to me why the Earth orbits the sun.

I slam my hand down on the table and say, “That's the problem, isn't it?”

I get up and walk over to the sink with my bowl.

“You need to chill out,” he tells me.

I come back over to the table and get my coffee cup, then I take it to the coffee maker.

“She's not as bad as you think. She's just old fashioned and kind of dense,” he tells me from the table.

“She hates me,” I tell him.

“She does not.”

I fill my cup and put the coffee pot back. “We need better jobs,” I tell him again, filling the sink with water to do dishes. “I don't want her owning half the house.”

“She doesn't own half the house. You're being a little dramatic.”

“Maybe I could put in some applications,” I say to myself, trying not to throw the bowl I'm washing.

He sighs. “Damn it, Aaron. Just stop. We don't have time for this conversation right now.”

I turn and throw the bowl at the wall, and it shatters, and Warren stares at me from the table, his eyes huge.

I pick up a glass from the strainer and throw it, too, and then I'm screaming, and Warren is up from the table, coming toward me.

“Aaron,” he's saying, and then his hands are stopping me from reaching into the strainer for another glass. “Aaron,” he's saying to me, his voice soft, and then his arms are around me, and I'm all tears and sobbing.


I hate driving in the winter. I avoid it if I can. I'm on the bus, heading for work, because the roads are a mess.

The roads and my life, they're both messes.

The front porches and Volvo wagons passing behind the heads of the other people on the bus are being devoured by mounds of snow, and I think of my car sitting in the driveway, disguised as a snow pile.

I'm thinking of Warren, likely getting off of another bus across town at the Dollar General where he works, snow melting in his hair.

“You got a dollar?”

I look over at the guy across the aisle. He's staring at me with his good eye.

“Do I look like I have a dollar?” I ask him.

“You need to give me a dollar so I can get me a coffee,” he says.

“I'm wearing a Burger King uniform,” I tell him.

People are amazing.

I'm going to start carrying a stick to beat them with.


I get to work and I see that someone has already tried to put a car through the drive thru sign. There's a tow truck hauling it away, and the sign is leaning to the right.

Martha is at the counter filling out the manager book when I come in. She doesn't look up. “Someone drove through the sign,” she says to me.

“I see that,” I tell her.

“We're dead,” she says, looking up at me finally. She shakes her head and says, “Labor's high.”

“Fuck labor,” I tell her on my way back to the office. She follows me with the manager book, and I resist the urge to grab it out of her hands and knock her over with it. My crew employees are cleaning, because I'm in the store. They don't clean when I'm not here.

She sighs. “Labor,” she says again.

We get into the office, and I sit down at the desk. “Martha,” I say. “Get rid of that book.”

She just stands there.

“Should I get rid of people?” She asks.

I grab the book from her and toss it onto the desk, and she stares at me with her big silly eyes.

“Martha, I'm going to do the dishes that no one wants to do. Focus on drive thru.”

She stares at the manager book. “The book isn't done,” she says.

I stand and start to push her out of the office so I can shut the door behind us. “You can make out with the manager book later,” I tell her, and I lock the door.


After about two hours of no business, I hear Martha's voice crackling into my ear through the headset. “We got one,” she says.

I'm still doing the piles of dishes, and now I've got to dry my hands and put gloves on so I don't die because someone wants a Whopper.

Doing dishes means I collect for drive thru at the back window. Weather like this turns the back window collector into a popsicle.

The drive thru beeps in my ear, and I hear Martha's little grunts as she wipes the tables in the dining room. This continues for a few seconds, and then I yell up through the kitchen. “Martha, for the love of god, take the order!”

Then she remembers she has a headset on and does the little greeting we're supposed to do.

While she's taking the order, I go to the window and put on the gloves.

“Whopper meal, Whopper cheese, Junior Whopper no pickle,” says a loud booming male voice into my ear. “Chicken fries and a Big Mac.”

I love my job.

“A Big Mac,” Martha says into the headset. “We don't have Big Macs,” she tells him.

There is a very long, dramatic silence, followed by a loud sigh. “Well, what do you have then?”


I'm in the office later, and Martha comes in without knocking. She does that.

“That guy's here,” she says. Then she just stands there.

I turn to look at her and say, “What guy?”

“The guy who comes to see you every day,” She says.

Warren, she means. He's here for lunch. One day, she'll learn his name.


We always eat in the same booth, the same one I do all the interviews in. It has a nice view of humanity via the drive thru lane.

“I might get a second job,” I say to him over my iced coffee.

He's wiping his hands on one of the napkins in front of him, and he stops and looks at me. “Why?”

I sit back in the booth, and I look out the window. “We talked about this already; I'm just letting you know.”

Warren sighs. “Why don't we just see what happens? We're making money, we just need to settle down and stop spending it.”

I have nothing to say to that.

Just shut me down, Warren.

“I suppose you're right,” I say, finally.


Maybe I'll kill her. Then she'll go away.

A poison pie, or an exploding toilet seat installed in the downstairs bathroom.

It brings a smile to my face.

I look over, and Martha's filling out the manager book. She can't be kept from it for long.

“Martha, are you alright if I leave a little early?”

“Yeah I think so,” she says.

I might pick up some arsenic on the way home. Maybe a bear trap.


Warren is already home when I get there. His car is a mound of snow behind mine. I've walked two blocks from where the bus dropped me, and the sun is starting to go down.

When I walk inside, I see Warren in the kitchen with the fridge open. He's still in his uniform, and I take my coat off and hang it in the closet. The TV is on, the microwave is going.

“It's movie night,” he says to me from the kitchen.

“I'm dead. I can't watch a movie,” I tell him.

After a minute or two, he comes into the hall with a plastic cup. I can hear the soda fizzing in it as he hands it to me.

“I ordered pizza,” he says, smiling at me.

God damn it. “Don't we need to save money?” I ask him.

He scoffs on his way back into the kitchen. “We're fine,” he says.


Two slices of pizza into the movie, Warren's phone rings.

“Warren, I swear to god.” I reach for his phone on the coffee table. MOM, it says. I look up at him and sigh. “Every night, Warren. She calls every night.”

He shrugs and tries to grab his phone from me.

“She senses that we're having a nice time and she calls to screw it up,” I tell him, and then I hand him the phone. “Tell her you'll call her back.”

“Stop being dramatic,” he says.


We're getting ready for bed when he says, from the bathroom, “You gonna go see your family?”

I've got my uniform shirt up over my head when he asks. I throw it on the chair by the dresser. “Maybe. I don't know.”

My family is far away. Hours, maybe. And it's awful outside. I don't want to drive in this shit.

I'm leaving the bedroom and going down the hall, and I hear him running the water in the sink. When I get to the bathroom, he's in his underwear. He looks at me and smiles. “Get naked. We have to go to sleep.”

“I'm too dead to be naked.”

I'm picturing Mrs. Blake face down in the snow outside, dead.

Maybe I'll lure her up here next time she visits and push her down the stairs.

“What are we taking to Mom's for Christmas dinner?” He wants to know, combing his hair.

A bomb, I want to tell him. Ninja stars.

“I don't know.”

He pulls his waistband out and lets it snap back, then he smiles at me.

“Shut up,” I tell him.

“What about Dad's?” he wants to know.

“I don't know. Let's talk about it tomorrow.”

“Mom's is two days away. I'll make something for Dad's if you do Mom's.”

I roll my eyes and laugh a little. “I'll make both; I don't want the house to burn down.”

He messes my hair up on his way out into the hall.


“Aaron,” he says to me when I'm almost asleep. I open my eyes and I can see that the world outside the window is a sparkling street-lit void.

“Let's run away,” I say to him, and he laughs.

“Aaron, I'm sorry my mom is mean to you.”

I sigh, and I turn to face him, the bed creaking under us. His eyes are shining and dark, and our hands mingle under the blankets, and I smile at him. “She's a bitch,” I tell him finally.

He laughs. “I know. I'm sorry.”

“My hands are cold,” I tell him, and then I jam them down the front of his underwear.

He jerks away, laughing.


I wake up in the middle of the night, and he's got his arms around me, his breathing warm on the back of my neck.

This must be what it's like to be married, I tell myself.

I look out the window, but it's not possible to see past the tree branches, covered in snow.

“Is it still snowing?” Warren wants to know, and I sigh.

“Yeah, it's still snowing.”

Then he's quiet. I close my eyes, so there's just the sound of the wind outside.

We're married. This is our house.

“I suppose I'll make some kind of cake,” I tell him, but he's already asleep.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chapter One

I couldn't tell you how we got to the restaurant.

We're at a table near the back, and Warren is still looking over the menu.

He takes forever to pick something to eat sometimes.

Maybe this is how married couples feel. Maybe we live in a house on the beach or something like that. I pick up my glass and sip my wine, and then I clear my throat.

“Warren,” I say to him.

He doesn't react, and I look over at my mom. She's busy straightening the silverware on the table in front of her.

“He doesn't listen anymore,” I tell her.

She looks up from the silverware and smiles. “Who doesn't?” She wants to know.

“Warren,” I tell her.

“What?” He says, and I look at him.

We're looking at each other now, but he's looking at me the way someone would look at a car wreck. His eyes are made of glass and I'm not even sure he even really spoke.

“Who are you talking to?” He asks me finally, his voice low.

“What?” I ask, and then I look over to the empty chair beside me where the silverware is still wrapped in the napkin.

“You were talking to yourself,” Warren says, and he goes back to his menu.

In the distance, so far away it barely registers, I hear the first crack. After a second, there's another one, closer but still far away. Then the first sound of glass breaking across the room. I look to the front of the building, against the windows that look out on the snowy street, where glasses have started to pop and explode in the sunlight. The other diners aren't even paying attention.

I can't look away. It's a wave of wine glasses shattering, coming toward us. Warren finally looks up as the cracking and exploding becomes a dull roar of glass, drinks bursting from tables and raining down onto the floor. Then, just as suddenly, it's over. The floor is soaked, and Warren is still looking at me, but his eyes have changed again.

The skin of my hand is burning, and it's wet from my drink. I look down, and there's my hand, red and pulsing and mangled with glass, making a mess of the table cloth.

I guess we're married, I think to myself, staring at it.

I guess this is how it feels.


I open my eyes and I see the edge of Warren's pillow. I sit up and look around, and I'm not sure what I expect to see. Mom, maybe. Broken wine glasses. Certainly not the bedroom.

My eyes go to the windows at the front of the room. The world outside is white and cold. It's snowing today.

“It's snowing,” Warren slurs from his side of the bed.

I clear my throat and run a hand over my hair and I look over at the window again, imagining all the people driving into each other and snow plows backing into houses.

“It's cold up here,” I say to him, and I pull the blankets up to my chin, still sitting. “Did you turn the thermostat down?”

“Yeah,” he says, and he yawns, then says, “Because that makes sense.”

I blink at the cold reality of morning and think about the things I have to do today.

Put the tree up, I think to myself.

A list is forming in my head.

Drag the Christmas stuff out of the basement, put the tree up, go grocery shopping.

I pull the covers off of Warren, and he grabs for them. There's a struggle before he lets go and balls into a fetal position.

“It's too cold,” he says, a bit too loud.

“We have to get the tree out of the basement.”

He sighs and continues to lie on the exposed sheets for a minute, his pajama pants riding up one leg.

“We have to put the tree up today?” he wants to know, irritated.

“Today,” I tell him.

He sighs again. I get out of the bed slowly, the mattress old and squeaking with my moves.

“You have to put the tree up right now? Like, right now?” He wants to know.

“Warren, for god sake,” I say, and I pull a hoodie on over my head. “I'll do it myself.”

I leave him in bed and go down the hall and down the stairs. I'm making a list in my head, and I need something to write it down. I go into the kitchen to the writing pad and start writing.

“Are you still making dinner?” Warren calls from upstairs.

I ignore him and go out of the kitchen through the laundry room and down into the basement to the family room. It always smells a little like weed down here.

I can hear Warren's footsteps on the stairs above my head as I reach the bottom step. I'm almost across the room to the storage room when the door at the top of the basement stairs opens.

“Hey,” Warren calls after me, “Are we getting cookies?”

“Put it on the list, Warren.”


It's only after my third attempt to push the Christmas Tree box up the basement stairs and almost being flattened by it that I see the door open at the top. Warren is wearing actual clothes now, and he comes down the stairs without a word, grabs the closest end of the box and we carry it up the stairs.

“Did you put cookies on the list?” I ask him.


Bread, milk, eggs, butter, cookies, cake mix...

We're almost through the kitchen with the Christmas tree when I say to him, “I may color my hair.”

He laughs as we round the corner into the hallway with the box.

“I might do it, too,” he tells me.

“What color?” I ask him as we drop the box onto the carpet of the living room.

He's breathing heavily now, and he looks out the picture window at the snowy world outside our house. He looks back at me and shrugs.

“We'll figure it out,” I tell him, and then we go back down to the basement to bring up the rest of the Christmas stuff.

“I wonder what Mom will get us this year?” He mumbles as we go into the storage room to grab boxes.

“Get that one over there,” I tell him, pointing to one that I know he can't break if he drops it.

He grabs it and starts out of the room, and I'm right behind him with the front door wreath and a box of shit I should throw away or burn or something.

“When do you think we'll have the family over to our house for Christmas?” he wants to know as we climb the stairs.

When birds poop candy, I think. When cars run on air.

“One of these days, we'll have them over,” I tell him as we reach the laundry room at the top.


“Let's take my car,” I tell him as we're getting our parkas on.

He frowns at me. “It's so old. It takes forever to warm up.”

I sigh and look up at him, both of us tugging our gloves onto our hands.

“You want to drive?” I ask him.

He puts his hands up in front of him. “I just hate that it takes so long.”

“I know you don't want to drive.”

He shrugs and pulls his hat on over his head.

I grab the keys off of the table by the front door. “Fine,” I tell him. “I'll warm it up first.”

“Let's just take my car,” Warren says, putting his boots on.


He smiles up at me, a half-smile, and says, “Because I started it ten minutes ago.”

I shake my head and we cross the kitchen to the back door. “Just say so next time. Shit.”


We aren't in the grocery store five minutes when Warren leaves me to pick my way through the aisles alone, putting items from our list into the cart.

I am not looking forward to going to Christmas with Warren's family. First we go to his Mom's house where they hate me, then we go to his Dad's house where they hate me.

The sea of teenagers and old people and screaming babies that is his extended family is almost enough to make me want to off myself just thinking about it.

Without warning, I hear a crash of items into the cart, no doubt ruining my carefully organized piles.

I turn around and see Warren tossing a jar of grape jelly in the cart. I look down at my ruined work, then I look back up at him.

He smiles at me and I sigh.

“Did you see the lady at the register?” he wants to know.

I look over toward the checkouts, unable to stop myself. “What about her?” I ask.

“Didn't we go to school with her?”

By school, he means college. She was likely in some class I don't remember taking.


When we get to the register, I watch the items going through the scanner, and I see the total reaching the limit of what my debit card can cover.

This is my life. This is us, sinking into debt.

Warren's behind me, trying to disappear. “We can use my card,” he says eventually.

At some point, I put my debit card away and take out my credit card out.

This must be what married life is like.


“I'm sorry about the groceries,” he says.

I don't look at him, but I let go with one hand and hold it out to him. He takes it, and we don't say anything else.


We've got the tree up and decorated, and I've almost got the lights up around the arched doorway to the hall when Warren's phone rings.

He answers it, and I know who it is. I don't even have to ask. I finish grabbing the clear plastic stick-on hooks out of the packaging and I slam them onto the trim around the archway so hard that the plaster above the opening cracks. Mice inside the walls relocate.

“No, that's fine,” Warren is saying from the kitchen, and he's pacing the linoleum floor and rearranging the utensils in the drawers. “I can go get him, that's fine,” he says into the phone.

I sigh and string the remaining lights over the hooks and toss the box of lights off of the chair I stole from the kitchen.

“Yeah, I know,” Warren is saying, more quietly now, rearranging the lists and magnets on the refrigerator.

I go over to the picture window and look out at the snowy front yard and the street lined with car-shaped snow dunes.

Warren comes back into the room. “I'll be back,” he says.

“Just tell her no,” I tell him, not turning to look at him. “Just once.”

“Aaron,” he says. He struggles with his words, and I imagine them jumbling around inside his head. I want to break the window. Finally, he says, “It's just that Wayne needs a ride home from school.”

“Alright,” I say quietly.

He comes up behind me, his parka and hat already on, his gloves shoved in his pockets, and puts his arms around me.

“Your mom hates me,” I tell him, staring out the window still.

He sighs against me. After a long hesitation, he says, “I don't think she does.”

“You remember what she got me last year?”

He lets go then, and I hear him walk out into the hall and grab his keys.

“What am I supposed to say? Are you ever going to stop bringing that up?” He wants to know.

I turn and follow him out into the kitchen. “A one way bus ticket back to my hometown,” I say.

“It was a joke,” he tells me, not turning around as we enter the laundry room. “She didn't mean anything by it.”

“Non-refundable,” I add.

He turns at the door. “I've already talked to her about it,” he says, and we stare at each other for a few minutes.

“Iced coffee,” I tell him. “Get it on your way back.”

“It's 20 degrees out,” he tells me.

I cross my arms in front of me. “A one way bus ticket,” I tell him again, and he turns and goes out the back door, slamming it.


I'm halfway through decorating the rest of the living room, some awful Christmas movie mumbling at me from the TV when I hear my phone vibrate, and I look down at it on the floor below me. I've got a text from Warren.

I swear to god, I know what it says without reading it, but I look anyway.

Mom wants me to stay for dinner.

I toss my phone onto the couch and I go into the kitchen, where the casserole I've made is cooling on the counter. The house is still filled with the smells of cooking.

I look over at the pink siding of the house next door, but it's dark now. I can't see anything but my own face in the glass of the window.

I pick up the casserole in the glass pan and I put it into the fridge. Then I go over to the sink and I wash the dishes I created earlier.

That woman, I think to myself. That evil fucking woman.

I picture the whole kitchen on fire behind me, the napkins black and curling into dust, the wallpaper peeling up toward the ceiling in burning agony, tears in my eyes.


I could have run away by now. I could have been anywhere else. I could have been somebody.

I'm in the downstairs bathroom, the toilet full of vomit, and I feel another wave of sick coming. I heave into the bowl again, but this time it's not vomit. I'm puking tinsel and Christmas lights, and they're splashing into the toilet, and suddenly the room goes dark and quiet except for the sound of garland and ornament hooks cutting up my insides.


I'm on the porch when he gets home, the snow soaking through the back of my pants. The sun is starting to come up.

His boots make holes in the snow as he comes around the house from where he parked. I pull my phone out of my pocket, my lungs frozen, and I look at the screen.

“It's six in the morning,” I tell him, putting my phone back in my pocket.

He stops in front of the porch steps.

“I fell asleep,” he says, and the world is silent around us except for the distant sirens and buses of the neighborhood around us.

I laugh a little, and I gesture toward him. “You didn't even get my iced coffee.”

He smiles, and I stand up, the backs of my legs frozen, and I walk back into the house.

“Aaron,” I hear Warren saying behind me as I fling my parka on the floor of the hall. I heave my boots into the living room, knocking things over and getting everything wet. “Aaron, for god sake,” he calls to me as I start up the stairs.

“Six in the fucking morning,” I yell over the banister at the top of the stairs, then I walk to the end of the hallway slam and the bathroom door behind me.


I'm in the shower. I bet I've been here for at least twenty minutes. My ass and legs have thawed and stopped burning, and I've been thinking of burning the house down when he goes to work tomorrow, but I doubt that will happen. I'll probably be a good boyfriend and make dinner and keep my mouth shut.

This life that I lead is nonsense.


When I start toward the bedroom in my pajamas, I can hear Warren putting things right in the living room downstairs.


He comes to bed and it wakes me up. He puts his arms around me, and I let him.

“Your mom is a bitch,” I tell him quietly.

He sighs, but he doesn't let go.

After a while, he says to me, “What do you suppose is on TV?”

“Infomercials and terrible Christmas movies.”

He laughs.


We're downstairs now on the pull out bed, and some clay reindeer is screeching Christmas songs at ugly children.

“I'm sorry,” he says to me, and I don't respond at first.

Then, I say, “Let's not talk about it.”

Outside, it's still snowing. I think about going out there and lying down and never moving again. Face down, breathing water and snow, my hair sticking to itself.

The ice would eat my veins, my skin burning until I don't feel anything.

I don't think I'd mind that. Feeling nothing, I mean.

They might find me in a thousand years, frozen in an ice bank in a parka and gloves. I might be something, then. I might be famous in museums and classrooms.

Warren moves a little on the pull out bed, and I realize just how awful this bed is to try to sleep on.

“I love you,” he says to me.

I'm able to mostly tune out the screeching reindeer and Santa bumbling across the screen, and in my head I'm cutting my heart out and putting it in the fridge with the casserole, aluminum foil dripping red, a dark pool forming on the floor.

“I love you, too,” I say finally.

This is what it's like to be married. The Christmas lights blinking on and off cast a red and green glow across the wall behind the TV, and I close my eyes.

I take a deep breath, and I smell Warren and the faint smell of the casserole I made, and I hear the sirens of the city far away beyond the walls and the windows and the doors of the house on Bernard Street.

Maybe it's not so bad.

Maybe I should just stop thinking.