My wife came home from her new job and crawled into bed with me and grabbed me like a stranger. She needed me at that hour.
I didn’t understand it.
“Why are you so desperate?”
“You don’t know anything,” she said.
“I never claimed I did.”
“I accommodate a world of slobs out there while you’re here doing whatever it is you do all night.”
“You drive a taxi, right?”
“And it’s not just the men. Oh, no. The women can be just as bad. You wouldn’t believe it.”
“What are those people doing to you out there!”
“We were never meant to live alone, baby.”
“Probably not,” I said, “but nobody ever said we should all live piled right on top of each other either.”
“Not everybody’s as odd as you are. Probably nobody is.”
We argued for a while about living in the city versus living in the country. She was for the city, I was for the country. Then we had sex and went to sleep.
The next night I went to a party while my wife was at work. I called her up and told her where I was going.
“I hope you’re home by the time I get there. I’ll need you tonight. And don’t get too drunk!”
It felt strange going out alone. Everyone asked me about my wife. It was the first thing they did when they saw me. After the fourth or fifth time I got angry. Wasn’t I allowed to talk about anything else? Was I nothing more to these people than the husband of my wife? I wondered what I was even doing in such a place.
I told some guy that my wife was driving a taxi now.
“She gonna come get you later?”
“She would if I called her.”
“Doesn’t it make you nervous?”
“Anything could happen out there.”
“Ah, you know how she is. She’s a capable person.”
“I’m not sure you understand me correctly.”
He was right. I didn’t. I didn’t want to either.
Another guy, the only person there who might have been a friend of mine, said, “I can’t believe the way you live your life. How do you do it? Here you are getting drunk at some party, and your wife’s out there driving a taxi-cab.”
“It was her idea, not mine.”
“Right, right. What the hell. Now I guess you’re going to tell me she won’t leave you alone in bed.”
“How did you know?”
“Jesus Christ, you’re unbelievable!”
I got drunk. I didn’t even know I was doing it. It was as if the alcohol needed to be inside my body.
When I’d had enough I called my wife.
“You sound wasted,” she said.
“I been worse.”
“You can still talk though. That’s a good sign. You want me to come get you?”
“Where are you?”
“Doesn’t matter. I’m everywhere.”
I waited outside. It was a cold night. The streetlights had a religious aura about them, a holiness. I stood under one and hugged myself.
When my wife pulled up, there was a man in the taxi with her. He was sitting in the front seat, so I had to sit in the back. It was the first time I’d seen her working. I wasn’t ready for it. She was like a stranger.
“You look so powerful behind the wheel,” I said.
The guy in the front said, “Leave her alone.”
“Ah, don’t worry,” she said, “that’s my husband back there. I’m married to that man.”
I told her about all the assholes at the party. She asked me if I’d had a good time.
“It was all right,” I said.
“Jesus, why would you go to a party with a bunch of people you don’t even like?” asked the guy in front.
“Sometimes you have to do things in life you don’t want to do.”
“I can’t believe you’re married to this clown,” he said to my wife.
“He’s the love of my life.”
For some reason we all laughed.
When she dropped me off, the guy was still in the taxi with her.
She said, “I’ll be home soon. Try to get sober. I need you tonight.”
I went into the house and sat down. I didn’t know what was going on. I thought of my friend saying, “Jesus Christ, you’re unbelievable!” Obviously I was doing something wrong or abnormal again. I got up and made myself an egg sandwich and tried to sober up. I knew I had to be in good shape soon.
The headlights swept across the ceiling as she pulled into the driveway. I got up and looked out the window. She was alone. She locked the door of her taxi and came up the walkway twirling her keys around her finger.
I went into the bedroom and got into bed. I heard her set her keys on the kitchen table. She kicked her shoes off. Then she came into the room. I pretended to be asleep. She slid under the covers and grabbed me as if I were the steering wheel of her taxi.
“I know you’re not sleeping,” she said.
“Who was that person in your car?”
“Forget about him. I need you now.”
She took control of me. We made love as if I weren’t even there.
The next day she didn’t have to work, so I suggested we drive to the beach.
“What? You think I’m your personal chauffeur now? Ah, just leave me alone.”
“Oh, so now it’s ‘leave me alone.’”
“Well, give me the keys then. I’ll go without you.”
“Don’t make me laugh.”
“I barely recognize you,” I said.
“I’m not surprised. I barely recognize myself. You don’t know what this job is doing to me. They eat you alive out there.”
Gently I said, “If you don’t like it, you should quit. I can get a job at the hospital. I know somebody there.”
“You’d like that, eh? You could cast yourself as my savior, my redeemer. I’ll be your little Mary Magdalene. Is that what you want?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“You don’t know what you want, but I know what you need.”
I saw no way of arguing with that.
One night I got a phone call. It was late. My wife was out in her taxi.
It was a man. I thought it might be the man, the one from the front seat. He asked to speak with my wife.
“She’s not here,” I said.
“Where is she? We need her. We’re lost without her.”
“Who is this?”
He hung up.
When she came home that night she got into bed with me and woke me up. I was expecting the worst. I’d gotten used to the way she needed me at that hour. But she didn’t grab me. She kissed me on the cheek and lay next to me. I could feel her trembling.
“What’s the matter?” I said.
She didn’t speak for a moment. Then she said, “I’ve given it up. The whole dreadful business. It’s over.”
“What happened? Did something happen?”
“Everything. Everything happened. They’re vicious, those people. Dirty! They eat you alive. You have no idea. Humanity is doomed.” She kissed me again and said, “I just can’t do it anymore. It’s killing us both.”
We talked some more. She told me everything. Then she fell asleep with her clothes on.
In the morning I walked over to the hospital and asked about the job.
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