Mary Miller

“I can’t live without you,” my husband says. We’re in bed. I’m drunk again and threatening to kill myself. The next day, over the telephone, I report this to my boyfriend.

“People say things like that all the time,” Adam says. “They don’t mean it.“

“Oh, I think he means it,” I say, but what I really mean is that it would be nice to have the capacity to devastate someone.

“He’d remarry within two years, tops.”

I hang up, wait for him to call back but he doesn’t so I take my dog for a walk.

She finds a muffin wrapper, chews it up, and swallows it. She finds some chicken bones, a flattened frog, a piece of rope. We pass two birds on a power line. One of them hops a few feet away, considering, and then flies off into a tree. The other bird stays put. I keep moving. A man in a van rolls down his window and says something I can’t make out. He’s old and probably harmless but holding up traffic, which bothers me. I will rip him limb from limb, I think, given the chance, which is something I think often about strange men.

At home, missed calls.

I call Adam back and he tells me to come over and I say OK, but it’ll be a while and he says that’s fine. He’ll be waiting in bed. I’m afraid he’s sleeping with other women. He says he’s not, and I trust him until I remind myself that my husband trusts me and he shouldn’t.

Adam gave me the keys to his house on my birthday. He also gave me a cake but the cake became a point of contention when I ate too much of it. I go over to his house when he’s at work and pilfer small bills, drink his Coke. I don’t know why. I have my own small bills, my own Coke. He just replaces what I take, doesn’t say a word.

I climb the stairs to his bedroom, straddle him.

“Hey, baby,” he says. “Get naked.“

I toss my dress to the floor. He doesn’t say I’m beautiful. Instead, he runs his hands over my thighs and says, “Ah, nice. So smooth,” which is, perhaps, easier to live with: smooth thighs. I pull off his shorts. Then I reposition myself on top of him and rock back and forth, my hands pressed into his chest for leverage. It all seems like a lot of work, really, when the other person just gets to lie there.

After, I slip my dress back on and go downstairs. I grab an apple, a banana, a knife.

He looks at the knife and says, “We’ll have to build our house with spoons. Get rid of all the knives and forks, not to mention the razorblades.” He thinks I have violent tendencies. I smile as I cut a slice of overripe banana and put the knife between his lips. He sits up for the apple, his body resting heavily against the headboard.

“I don’t think we’ll be building a house together.”


“Well, I have a husband,” I say, as if he’s unaware. “And you’re old as shit. What if I wanna have kids?”

“Men can have kids until they die.”

“OK. How’s this? You hate your mother. You didn’t go to college. You eat spaghetti for breakfast.”

“I like spaghetti,” he says, and then he gets up and goes to the bathroom, shuts the door. I consider leaving but I have an entire day to fill and nothing to fill it with. My friends shop and get their nails done and look in on the help. The help doesn’t speak English, or it steals, so they call each other up and complain. I fuck other men. I’m not proud of this but I don’t, necessarily, think one way of living is better than the other.

I finish the banana, watch the apple turn brown.

Adam comes back into the room with a towel around his waist, his wet hair combed back. He drops his towel and flops his penis around, sings a song that goes ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.

“You men are all the same,” I say. I turn my head then and take a bite out of the apple to show how bored I am. It makes a satisfying sound, like an ass being slapped. I take another bite and watch him search his drawer for a pair of underwear. He doesn’t like the black ones, he tells me. The black ones are last resort underwear. He finds a pair of gray ones, slips them on. Then he picks up a t-shirt off the floor and pulls it over his head.

“Hey,” he says, sitting next to me with one hand on my shoulder.

“Hey,” I say, and then we’re kissing and the things he just put on come off and he spreads himself on top of me. His body spills over and settles onto the mattress. He starts to sweat. I concentrate on getting air into my lungs but it’s not going so well so I fake an orgasm so he’ll go ahead and finish up but he’s not even close to finished so I push him off and get on my knees.

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