Thursday, November 01, 2007
His Dead Wife's Wedding Ring
Here's the second installment of "Something To Do In Bed." Happy Day of the Dead everyone!
I pull Christopher’s number out of my bra and looked at it when I get inside, put it on my nightstand so I can contemplate whether to call him or not. As much as I liked him, I could not take him seriously except when I thought of his father. He had a generic sweetness, which I suppose was part of the appeal. I did not have to be myself with him. He could not imagine my life, nor did I want him to. The great pains I took in order to keep my distance only increased his ardor and made me different from the girls he was used to, the ones that wanted relationships and promises, that demanded a boy listen to rambling narratives about their girlhoods, the dating equivalent of the tedium of a piano recital. I’d have the upper hand with Kevin on this one.
Josh has been avoiding me even more than usual since our parents’ visit. I can’t say I blame him -- the apartment filled with a triangular tension as potent as nerve gas. Coley grew omnipresent and sullen as any wife and despite her explanations, I could not imagine why she continues her grim Bataan death march of a pregnancy. She’s brought home a ton of books on pregnancy, something to do in bed, I suppose. I, it is safe to say, have never entertained the thought of having children, never imagined a life so dramatically different than the one I have now. I wonder about her past and her parents. Josh, in his typical fashion, has refused to meet them.
"So did you survive?" Coley asks as I walk in covered with snow and my feet in plastic bags to keep from ruining my shoes.
"Yep," I say. "The end of a week of well paid slavery."
"Josette, slavery by definition means that you don’t get anything out of it."
"So why haven’t you been around?" I ask.
"You’ve been too sober and gone to notice," Coley says. What I do notice is a diamond ring on Coley’s wedding finger. I’ll be damned if Josh gave it to her.
"Oh, she notices the ring. What would you say if I told you that Josh and I got married?"
"That you’re full of shit. I know my brother better than that."
Coley scrunches up her nose. "All right, you win. I got sick of people at work looking at me like I’m a whore."
"I thought you’d have grown accustomed to that by now." I pour myself some scotch. "So where did it come from? It looks real."
"Anderson’s dead wife. I stole it because he kept it in this pretty little box like she was the most special thing in the world. He told me he never looked at it, but he felt good knowing he would always have it and could it to his daughter someday. So I took it. Now all he has is an empty box that he thinks contains something precious."
"Aren’t you the sweetheart?" I say. The scotch hits me hard, an unforeseen benefit of a week of sobriety.
"I guess I wanted to take something that mattered to him," she says.
"Yeah, I guessed that. You really got him good with his dead wife’s wedding ring. He’ll be sorry. What did he ever do to you?"
"Nothing," she says and turns her attention to the remote. Maybe she is perfect for Josh.
As glad as I am never to step foot in Cobo Hall again, returning to Planned Parenthood exhausts me as well. I feel hollowed out from being looked at for so long. How strange and relentless time is, the school day clocks and big wooden letters, the misery that this place holds weights on me more than usual. Is this what it means to be burned out -- to be somewhere and not be somewhere? To do something well and not feel it? That would encompass most of my sex life. I didn’t want to be like that at work so I put my attention to the girls, the ones at seventeen who seemed to be hardened, parodies of the older woman they will become. It is hard to believe that they exist in the same world as the beautiful GM executive wives, trophies, untouched by long hours, ones that were not referred to as a color at the car show, the ones that got to keep the dresses. Not that I had any illusions that their lives were a cakewalk -- I knew the time it has taken for some of them, the desperate moments at upscale restaurants, sitting at the bar, hoping for a Redwing or car executive to notice them before the death of their youth and beauty.
Not that other alternatives are all that great. What must it be like to be Coley right now? She seems to have turned a corner on the near constant morning sickness and had developed a glow which made me depressed. She is in such a good mood the other night, she told me a joke -- What does a blind, deaf orphan get for Christmas? Cancer. She laughs as if she’d never heard anything funnier. I guess when you’ve been knocked up by a self-mutilated prep school teacher, you’ll laugh at anything.