Something about the green of my wife’s felt hat against the black of her hair made me feel like I was falling into a forest in 17th century Russia, a forest full of evil spirits and persecuted mystics fleeing the Tsar, barefoot fools ringing tiny brass bells. But it was only a momentary sensation. It barely registered.
She was walking with an old, white-haired woman I didn’t recognize. They were near enough that I could hear them.
The white-haired woman said, “You shouldn’t eat bread. You shouldn’t eat so much bread. Carrots are one thing, but bread is bad for you on so many levels.”
She went on in this vein. On and on.
My wife nodded. She was a very patient person. She heard people out. Even the obviously insane.
They walked right past me.
I should have reached out and touched my wife’s hat. She was so close! One touch probably would have solved all our problems. That’s how it felt.
At home I said, “I saw you in town today.”
She was cutting an article out of the newspaper at the kitchen table. She’d been doing that lately, and I wondered what it was leading up to.
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“You were talking to some crazy person. A woman.”
“I don’t remember meeting anyone today.”
“She looked like hard work. I didn’t want to get involved.”
“Oh my God! That’s such a you’ thing to say.”
We sat around for a while drinking cups of tea, having little arguments and discussions. Then, since it happened to be our wedding anniversary, we went to a restaurant for dinner. We never really celebrated these things. Neither of us believed in marriage. Ask anyone who knows us. We’d only gotten married because it meant nothing. We’d done it to please other people. But this year we thought we’d go ahead and have a little celebration. Why not?
My wife ordered something, I ordered something. It doesn’t matter what. The waiter came along and set a basket of bread on the table. It looked like good bread. I grabbed a piece, cut it open and spread some butter inside.
“You won’t be hungry if you eat all that bread,” said my wife.
“I won’t eat it all,” I said.
“Don’t fill up on that stuff. That’s all I’m saying.”
I ate my piece of bread and took another.
“What did I tell you?” she said.
Our food came, we ate it, we left the restaurant.
“What do you want to do now?” I said.
“Let’s go to the movies or something.”
“Ah, I don’t feel like it tonight.”
“Me neither. I just couldn’t think of anything else. Let’s walk somewhere. I don’t care where. I love you.”
We started walking. It was dark, though there was a full moon.
We walked to the center of town. The main square was full of desperate immigrants dressed as Mickey Mouse and Spiderman. They made balloon swords and put them into the hands of passing children. Then the parents had to give them money. If the parents didn’t give them money, Mickey Mouse or Spiderman snatched his sword back and the kids cried.
Once or twice I’d considered getting one of those costumes.
We sat down at a table and ordered a couple of drinks.
“Hey, look,” said my wife, “that Spiderman over there is smoking a cigar.”
“I wonder what the kids think of that.”
“I guess they only see Spiderman, not the cigar.”
“That seems about right,” I said.
“Look how fucking fat he is. That’s one fat Spiderman.”
I said, “He probably eats a lot of bread.”
She looked at me but didn’t say anything.
We got out of our chairs and started walking again. I bought a can of beer from a Chinese guy on a corner, and I walked along drinking beer.
“What did we do last year?” asked my wife.
“I barely remember yesterday,” I said.
“You fell off your bike, I think.”
“That was two years ago.”
“No, it was last year,” she said.
“Well, next year—if we’re still alive, I mean—I won’t remember any of this. You’ll have to remind me. I never remember anything.”
“If we’re still alive? What do you think’ll happen?”
“Nothing. I was just being realistic. Considering the possibilities.”
Two bicycle policeman pulled up alongside us. I had a can of beer in my hand. They made me throw it away. When I reached for my wallet to show them my ID, I found a piece of bread in my pocket. I didn’t remember putting it there.
They fined me.
Then they rode away on their bicycles, their tiny red taillights winking in my face.
My wife said, “You’ll remember that.”
We walked along the river until we came to our house. We stood there looking at it.
“Well, I guess we’d better go inside,” I said. “Sit down on the couch again.”
“We should just keep walking.”
We kept walking. We walked to the edge of town. The last house had all its lights turned on, and beyond it were fields of darkness. We walked straight into them, holding hands.
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