"Scissors, Paper, Rock"
When the phone rings you figure it could only be one of a few people, some friend, some relative, some telemarketer. But you are wrong, as usual, and within seconds you are drowning in old noise. You think, my God, how long has it been , then you realize not long enough , and like some horrible sequel, he's back. Your ex-husband.
Hey, babe. Good to talk to ya. What's doin? Surprised? No. Don't say anything. I'm on my way over anyway. Don't run around doing anything, I'll eat what you've got. I'm maybe ten minutes away, an hour tops, and we can just fill each other in when . . .
You say no. You say you're busy. You say it's a bad time. You say you won't be there but he doesn't hear you and anyway, he lied. He's down the street on a car phone and he tells you to look out the window and sure enough he's turning the corner into your driveway while he does a running commentary. Yep. Picked this little beauty up at Herman's new place in Yonkers. Got a sweet deal. Like for nothing. I'll take you for a ride later after we . . .
And you see him getting out of the LeBaron convertible, same curly moustache, a little more bald, yammering, while he bounds up the stairs and walks in as though the place were his--as though you were the lucky caretaker--and you feel a rush of air swoop out of the house when the door opens leaving you breathless in the most unpleasant way. The house is yours, all yours, yet here he is, commenting on a new light fixture. It's not bad , he says. You officially bought him out. But pieces of paper have never stopped him.
You start to say this isn't a good time, but he's poking his head in the refrigerator before you round the corner from the den to the kitchen and you hear the clattering of bottles and cans being moved, the meat drawer and vegetable bins inspected, then he emerges triumphant with the one piece of chocolate cream pie left.
Ah. It's like you knew I was coming , because he has forgotten it is your favorite dessert and he's decided somehow it's his favorite and the pie is a sign, a good sign.
Come on, come on. Let's go in the living room for a while. We've got so much to talk about . And you see him touching everything as though he is saying, my dibs, my dibs. I see you moved the furniture. No, wait, is that a new couch? And you wonder if he knows it's been ten years. Why else would he sound so surprised or suspicious?
I bet you wonder what I've been doing. Wait until you hear this. I've got to make it quick because I'm due in Boston for a big confab by seven tonight.
And you think oh my God, he is a person who says things like " confab;" he could stay four more hours since he's telling you what he's done since he last saw you, starting with when he drove the moving van and one of the two dogs out and away a decade ago.
. . . So last year was really great. I've been teaching at Portland State--some people say I'm the best science teacher they've ever had--plus I've been running a catering business out of my house, did you know I bought a house? Plus they want me to do the National Science Convention next year, but I don't know if I want to yet, cater such a big thing, I mean.
And you realize that he looks the same only bloated, full of hot air and ribbons of patter. You remember his sure-fire business scheme for bio-friendly grilling chimneys. It would make millions, he said. Mail order cole slaw, using your recipe, would make him famous, he said. The Everyday Bouquets he bought from Safeway made you soft.
Back then you thought him full of charm and great ideas. Now you think he needs Ritalin and a kick in the pants.
Then he asks you if you are still doing community theater, so he can tell you more like, I've been doing some acting and directing and modeling. Just a little, nothing big, but oh! I almost forgot. I did some voice overs, you know how much money is in that? Then I wound up doing color commentary at this huge race track near Eugene. Got any more pie? You know what. I think I'm going to blow off the Boston meeting. Why don't I just get my suitcase and crash here. You won't mind, will you? And I can make a few calls.
So you stand there. You are getting very worried because you are trying to remember how you got rid of him the first time, and you can't.
He comes back in with a duffel and an address book, setting up in the kitchen. He is using your phone, not his, to call people he remembers, insisting these people would kill him if they knew he was in the state and didn't check in. You can feel his hot breath on the receiver as if it is on your neck, as if you are attached to that stretchy cord of time and technology.
You watch him leaning back on the rock maple kitchen chair you bought at auction; he balances on its hind quarters. His own legs are stretched out and splayed as if he is showing off his crotch to you.
You smile when you realize you are in a room full of knives. You know where the scissors are. You think, scissors cut paper, rock crushes scissors and paper covers rock, but you never understood how that game worked.
You back up until your flanks are against the drawer of sharp implements and serrated tools. Corkscrews. Potato peelers. Apple corers. You happily make a list of all your defenses. Nutmeg grater. Skewers. Cherry pitters. Little yellow corn cob holders, with small sharp prongs.
At this distance, you can picture him pithed in his pineal with an ice pick. You could truss him with the turkey spokes. He looks so happy, so in charge, which means he cannot read your thoughts. You do slide the drawer behind you open, still looking at him. He is tossing his head back, laughing, reminding whoever he is calling who he is and what they once smoked together, or who they pulled a fast one on, or which bastard they both hated.
Your right hand carefully feels behind you. It rests on the thick side of a cleaver, moves down toward the handle and with only a slight rattle, one that cannot be heard above his bluster, you pull it up and out. It rests parallel to your rear end, its hard square comforting you back there. After all, you are living a good life now, alone.
When he finally hangs up, he stretches, making a huge sound of comfort, because he feels so at home. He holds out his arms as if you should walk right into them. He wants to erase the past decade, as if you would remember him with passion. You remember why you married him, What if no one else ever asks me? You hate to remember the "you" who thought such stupid thoughts.
You remember his schemes, lost jobs and leisure suits. You remember how he never took "no" for an answer. You remember when he finally went away, still not taking no for the answer, saying he'd be back to surprise you. He tried to leave a curse behind: No one will ever love you the way I did . You remember thinking, I hope not .
Come on, baby. Show me how you missed me , he says.
Of course you don't hack off his nether parts with your favorite cleaver. You just need to get his attention. You try to affect a look that would kill so he will remember some place he has to be after all. He does look a little quizzical; his lazy, crazy eye wobbles in its socket. You wrap a fist around the wooden handle like a baton, holding it up and out, alert as a drum major.
I'm doing well, thank you for asking, you say, with the tiniest of waves, now holding the iron implement as a shiny metal flag.
He slides his curved, relaxed spine up into a straighter posture, ever so slowly closing that gap between his legs. You say, Good idea .
He shrugs. This is what you need to see. Just that shrug of giving up, and his homing in on the duffle bag at his feet. He twists one side of his moustache into a snappier curl, and you think of every villain in every melodrama who ever said, curses, foiled again . He doesn't say this, as he slowly rises. He just holds out his arms the way a mime does when indicating helplessness. He says, Hey, babe. Remember what I always say. It's always worth asking. Nine women say no, but the tenth one takes you home. Guess I'll be moving on. Yep. Yep. Okay. Goin' to Boston. Good. Good .
He doesn't turn his back on you as much as rewinds his entrance. He has reached for the knob after bumping into the front door. Both he and the duffle leave, the duffle more reluctantly, catching sidways at first in that last minute rush.
You look out the peephole and notice, with just a little joy, that he's tripped on the cement frog you keep on the bottom step, clocking his head on the sidewalk. But he leaps up quickly, like a cat who pretends he meant to do that clumsy thing, for effect. He's OK. Plus he's gone.
You are happy and alone once again. You are hungry and move to reclaim your refrigerator. All the appliances are still yours. It is satisfying to chop up the chicken you remove from the meat drawer. You hack through the bones with unusual glee.
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