Word Count 503
By Anne Nassar
She’d taken him at his word. She believed that they would have a house near her parents’ house, that he would work and she would stay home and raise their children, and that they would have a life that was God-centered. And when she’d said, “For better or for worse”, she thought that she knew what worse meant. Worse meant cancer, dementia, stroke. Maybe a miscarriage, possibly an affair, or an occasional beating. She never, ever thought that “worse” meant godlessness. The contract between them was ratified by God. If God had ceased to exist, surely they weren’t obliged to honor the contract?
He’d given up on being her husband.. He couldn’t even be counted on to come home anymore. He didn’t even sleep in a bed anymore. He slept in the back yard which was crawling with enormous bugs and snakes. He slept on the beach. Or so he said – who knew where he actually slept?
She forced herself to keep doing normal things. She cleaned the house, showered, collected eggs, scattered feed for the chickens, weeded the tomatoes , visited the sick, volunteered at the soup kitchen. She went to church and sat there with the rest of the shepherd-less flock and prayed. But her activities had lost their meaning. Everything she did felt like play-acting.
Of a Sunday, he showed up, smelling like piss and stale sweat. He made a beeline for the refrigerator, which was still stocked, courtesy of his mother. He chugged a half-gallon of milk, gasping between swallows. Then he opened a package of baloney and peeled off slice after slice, and crammed them into his mouth.He avoided her eyes.
Your mother said for you to call her.
He didn’t respond.
She asked me if I wanted to come live with her.
He glanced at her, and then away, and said, I don’t know what you want to do.
It depends on what you’re going to do.
I don’t know what I’m going to do, he said, I know I can’t keep lying to people.
You could tell them you’ve lost your faith. That’s the respectful way to handle it.
I’m worried about contagion, he said, I don’t want anybody to end up where I’m at.
Is that why you’ve been living elsewhere?
He ran his dirty hand over his long face and said, I never should of married you. I’m sorry. I had the best of intentions.
You don’t love me?
I can’t say I don’t love you. I’m just not fit to be your husband.
What happened to you? she demanded. There’d been an accident, that much she knew. One day when she went to get in the car, she’d noticed that the passenger side headlight was smashed in. But that was the extent of the damage. He was in the habit of driving drunk, he wrecked a car about every six months. This particular accident was nothing to get upset about.
Did you hurt somebody? she asked.
He looked at her, eyes wide.