Thursday, December 30, 2010
Miranda is in her early twenties, newly married to an abusive husband. This is an excerpt from a short story I wrote called, Love is a Battlefield.
“Don’t be disgusting,” Patrick said, pinching the cigarette I’d just lit between his two fingers and taking it from me, pressing it out in the ashtray I was holding. Patrick hated cigarette smoke.
“I was just... I mean...” Shutting up because he wouldn’t hear me anyway... I watched him do a bong hit. The insides of the bong were brown with accumulated resin, and as Pat sucked, the water bubbled thickly, making me think of sucking up phlegm. The image, the sound, made my already pained and empty stomach clench.
Why couldn’t I smoke in the living room just this once? All I wanted was to relax after unpacking for two days. My fingers stung with tiny paper cuts from boxes on boxes and my thighs and back screaming from bending and lifting and straightening and... Closing my eyes for a moment, I tried to breathe, not to freak out. This was our first week in San Francisco. We’d just spent six long days in a truck together. We were trying to start fresh, renew our relationship, make it all okay again. It had so been falling apart, what happened? I remembered loving Patrick so much in college, going into his closet when he’d left for class and pulling his favorite sweater around my face, breathing him in. I remembered brushing my teeth after having a cigarette so he wouldn’t have to smell it on me. I remembered the first time I said, “I think I love you,” and he said, “Me too,” before passing out on my lap.
I remembered holding my breath and not crying while he screwed me against a wall in a deserted corner outside of the Cloisters in New York, because he said he loved me and if I loved him I’d do it even though I didn’t want to and I was so ashamed because anyone could’ve come by and anyway I really didn’t want to.
We were married now. Three days already. Pat had wanted to stop in Reno and play blackjack. I got drunk. He hugged me close and said, “Let’s go, let’s do it babe,” and off we went to Cupid’s Chapel of Love. Ninety-five dollar wedding. My eyes bleary, no makeup, hair gnarled and roots showing through the bleached blond, wearing a fatigue tee shirt with black sequined neckline and longish gauzy skirt Patrick hated, called fugly. Now it was on our wall for anyone to see, forever, fugly me, our wedding picture, with Patrick next to me grinning and light reflecting off his big forehead, receding hairline at twenty-three.
The wedding picture was one of only three things hanging in our new apartment, new city, new life so far -- there was also the dartboard, and another wedding picture, Patrick’s little treasure, which I hadn’t remembered him taking. The one where I was naked, positioned spread-eagled on the hotel bed, eyes hooded, mostly shut, hardly conscious... our honeymoon. Had he fucked me, or only taken a picture to hang over our new bed in our new home, new life?
“I need a cigarette. I’ll be in my studio,” I said, opening my eyes, trying not to feel the constriction in my chest or the throbbing behind my eyes or the edginess of my heart beating a little too fast, and fear creeping behind me like a shadow of a tiger falling over me and the faint sound of toothy breath so near all the time, it seemed, waiting to pounce. I kept my eyes straight forward, afraid to look behind me.