He’s sitting across from her. Both hands on the table. Beer bottle to his left. “So, that’s it, then?” he asks.
“I, well, I don’t know –”
She can tell that he doesn’t believe her. There’s something ugly in his face. Something taunting. She shouldn’t have had that glass of wine. His face looks like it’s sliding down.
“You never know, though do you?” he asks with a laugh.
“No, that’s not true,” she begins, but she knows that he’s right. This is what always happens. She has something tangible she’s been thinking about, some point that she’s holding firmly in her hands and then she starts to tell him about it, and he asks all these questions and the thing kind of starts to deflate. And then, after a few more questions, she’ll look down and it’s this smoky cloud, this barely there thing that she’s wrapped her hands around so loosely, but at least she can still see it. And then, he starts to tease her, and it’s gone.
She thinks she wanted to say something about his not being home anymore. Something about the way he disappears at night or sometimes for days without telling her where he’s really going. Yes, that’s what it was. She had wanted him to know that she’s finally had enough of that. They are married after all and he needed to start including her in his life. They’d said vows. They’d exchanged rings. She’s got it now. The thing is taking shape again in her hands, feeling solid behind her teeth. She opens her mouth the speak.
“Not this old thing again, sis. That’s what it is, isn’t it? I’ve told you, it’s work. It’s unpredictable. You knew all this when we got married.”
“No,” she protests. “No, I didn’t.” But, did she? She can’t remember knowing something like this. If she had, she never would have married him. “No, I definitely did not,” she says again.
He sighs. He’s smiling but it’s his mean smile and his teeth show. “Yes, yes you did. You knew me through and through.”
She shakes her head, thinking back to before they were married. But it had all happened so fast. It seems so hazy. They had met outside of a bar. He had lit her cigarette. She remembers the scrape along the back of his knuckles, the way the flame of the lighter danced in the wind, how soft his eyes had looked when she peered up at them. Then, a few months later he had asked her to marry him. She told him that she wasn’t the marrying type. She remembers pouting her lips out, smiling sweetly at him, saying, “No, babe, I’m just not the marrying type. You’ll have to find yourself a different girl.” Delivered just as she’d always practiced as a little girl. And then, somehow, she’d found herself married to him. She’d worn a dress that she had borrowed from a friend, whose name she couldn’t remember now. They’d gone to the courthouse and the other couple waiting for their turn had cheered when he kissed her. She remembers the kiss – the heavy way his lips felt on hers like suddenly she belonged to him. She remembers shuddering a little, wondering if had all been a good idea.
“Don’t you remember, sis?” he’s asking, “I asked you to marry me and you jumped on me crying, getting all that mascara on my nice shirt. You thought you’d never get married.” He laughs. “I’m your prince charming.”
She shakes her head again. No, that’s not how it happened at all. “No, I refused you! I told you I wasn’t the kind of girl to get married!”
He laughs harder. Beer foams from the corners of his lips. He’s coughing and choking and laughing all at once.
“I did!” she insists. “I told you to find another girl. And then, somehow, you convinced me anyhow.”
“If you’d’ve told me to find someone else, I wouldn’t have stuck around. I don’t beg.” He finishes off his beer, pulls her up and out of the booth. Her legs stick to the plastic of the seat. Her skin makes a tearing sound as he pulls her out and wraps his arms around her body. He puts his mouth against her throat, “Come on, sis. Let’s dance.”
And because she can’t think of a good reason not to, she agrees.