By John Sweet
Never thought of her husband as a real person. Never thought of him as the man who loved her, or as the father of her children, and never really thought about the children either.
Never thought about her own motives, who it was I became when we were in bed together, what wound I was supposed to be bandaging, and then there was another one after her, and then another.
Too many names and too much sorrow and too much anger. My sister on the phone telling me I was fucking with peoples' lives. Telling me to grow up.
And then there was this single girl, think I met her at a bar, think I'd dated her sister at some point in the past. Came to me one night after we'd been together a few months and told me she'd been seeing her ex on the side. Too goddamn funny.
Told me three weeks later that he's left town, that she was pregnant. Told me she had no one else to tell.
And here it is Monday morning, driving out of town over the Main Street Bridge, following a hearse. Not a procession, just a single goddamn hearse, which strikes me as odd.
Crazy Horse on the CD player, loud, Neil Young singing ain 't got no t-bone, and the sunlight like it's being filtered down through dirty water. Haze clinging to the trees, dust on windshields and chrome, nothing with a definite edge. Nothing real.
And I park my car in the lot behind the clinic a little after 9:30 and I see she's already there, waiting. I walk over to her while she's putting her keys in her purse. We walk to the front door together.
A small crowd, which surprises me. A fat man who calls her a murderer, a pretty good looking lady holding up a picture of Christ beside him, and I give them both the finger, man looks at me, tells me I’ll rot in hell. Go fuck yourself, I say, and spit on the pavement at his feet, and then we're inside.
Think they’ll key my car? I ask her, and she smiles a little.
An older woman by herself already in the waiting room, and two teenage girls together, and all three of them look at me. I find a seat with a view of the parking lot through a long, narrow pane of polarized glass while she checks in with the receptionist. I grab a magazine to look at, because it's better than worrying about bombs.
She sits down next to me, tells me she found out that her insurance will cover it. Elective surgery, she says, which means I won't have to borrow money from my sister.
I try to think of something to say, but nothing comes. I can see that this will be the end of us. It feels like relief.
They don't want me to drive afterward , she says. I didn 't even think about that. Can you take me back to my dad's house when it's done? And I say,Yes. She says she'll worry about getting her car later.
And I want to ask her if she's heard from the ex, but don't. I want to tell her about the last married woman, that we've started seeing each other again. I want to confess. I want to be anywhere else.
And she's holding a clipboard, has papers to fill out. Nothing that has anything to do with me, and so we sit there in silence, the two of us and the three others. Someone clears her throat. Someone turns the page of a magazine. The clock on the wall seems too loud.
In the parking lot, the same five people stand around. Nothing to do but wait for the next victim. A slow day, and I see how easily it would be to start killing people. I wonder if they have jobs, or if this is what they do. I wonder if any of them are in love with someone.
And she finishes the paperwork and takes it back to the front desk. The receptionist slides back the bulletproof glass, smiles automatically, takes the clipboard. Closes the glass again.
And she comes back and sits next to me. Eight inches between us, nothing touching, her hands in her lap. Asks me if I'll hold her purse while she's gone, and I nod. Tells me I'm too quiet, and I smile. Keep rolling and unrolling the unread magazine in my hands. Feel the useless weight of all those words pressing into my skin.
John Sweet is a single father of two, a believer in writing as catharsis, opposed to all organized religion, a mild-mannered civil servant by day and roamer of back alleys by night, waiting to see if his suspicions will be confirmed and the democrats will fuck everything up as handily as the republicans did. More dubious information can be found at Bleedinghorse.blogspot.
Photo "Nexus" courtesy of Miguel Ugalde, Mexico.
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