When she looks out the window she sees her hair around a face she doesn’t recognize. A face with wrinkles at the corners of its eyes and deep marks across its forehead when it squints. There is also the moon, shining behind the glass that makes the face seem like a ghost, like a puff of smoke that she could blow away if she should choose. She watches that face for a minute before returning to the sink full of dishes. She rinses the cups and plates and loads the dishwasher. She checks the doors and pulls at their handles to make sure they are locked. The sound of the fridge turning on startles her -- its deep hum like a man’s that she doesn’t recognize. The other night she dreamt a man was outside her bedroom door and when she opened it his face was bathed in red light, waiting for her. She screamed and woke up with the sheets twisted around her legs, her husband snoring next to her.
In the morning, her sons have the TV volume up so high that the noise rattles the pictures across her bedroom wall. She drags her body out of bed, wills her legs to move underneath her. She moves into the living room and turns down the TV. Her sons don’t notice that she is there; their eyes are glassy and vacant with miniature TVs at the center of each iris. She creaks to the kitchen, her knees protesting under weight she didn’t realize she had gained. She makes coffee for herself and her husband. The smell of the beans reminds her of her own mother, the way she would crunch them between her teeth whenever she was tired. How the black bits would lodge in her mother’s gums and poke out like shrapnel. As the coffee brews, she reminds her sons to eat something before they go to school. One of them grunts in response. When they were little she used to make them elaborately themed breakfasts – orange pancakes in the shape of pumpkins for Halloween, pink waffles with sugar hearts for Valentine’s Day. Now, she buys cereal and SlimaFast shakes that they drink on the way to school. The car they share is full of tiny tin bottles that smell like sour milk.
She drives to work, her ankles swollen and tender by the time she gets there. Her doctor tells her she needs to wear special socks and keep her feet propped up. Instead, she wears long skirts that drag the floor and gather dirt and dust at the hem. As she comes in, the receptionist smiles at her with straight, white teeth. Her desk is clear and clean and when she says hello it sounds like she is singing. Whenever her husband comes to the office she sees him staring at the receptionist when he thinks that neither of them is looking. Her own desk is cluttered with uncapped pens and piles of paper; there are ink stains and smudged fingerprints across the drawers. She works at the computer until her eyes feel numb. On her lunch break, she goes to a movie, sits in the back row and eats popcorn coated in melted butter that stains her fingertips and coats her tongue. She watches the couple in front of her making out. The man’s hands move along the woman’s cheekbones and across her collarbones and he kisses the hollow at the base of her neck. She imagines what it would be like to have him move his hands along her cheekbones. Then, she thinks that he would never be able to find them, no matter how hard he pressed.
Instead of going home after work, she goes to the art museum. She sits in the gallery as the sun goes down and watches as its rays lick the paintings and they vibrate with pinks and oranges and bright yellows. She calls her husband and tells him that she is working late, and he promises to pick up takeout for the boys. She reminds him that they need to do their homework, but he has already hung up and she doesn’t bother calling him back. As she sits there, she takes off her wedding ring and stares at her naked fingers. The skin around them is dimpled and the backs of her hands are covered in brown spots that appeared with each of her pregnancies. She has always hated her hands. She has wide knuckles and thick fingers that remind her of a man’s. When she and her husband got married, the photographer placed their rings on top of one another for a picture. His ring disappeared inside of hers no matter how the photographer positioned them. Eventually, he gave up and took a picture of the place setting instead. She stays at the museum until the docent asks her to leave. He walks her to the door and waves as she makes her way to her car and back to her life.