12.14.2010

Small Sacrifices


He didn't really want to go to the party, but he had agreed weeks ago, gambling on the possibility of a tornado or earthquake or a run-in with poison ivy to save him by the time the night finally rolled around. Anyway, was it fair for her to ask him for things when she was wearing that see-through nightie and standing in the doorway with the light on behind her? She knows I'll say yes to anything when she's wearing lingerie, he thought. In fact, that's how they ended up buying a pink couch instead of the black leather one he wanted. It's why they got a lhasa apso instead of a labrador retriever. It's even why they bought the little colonial three blocks away from her mother instead of the cape two towns over where his commute to work would be five minutes on foot instead of thirty-five minutes in traffic.

Oh well, he mused. Marriage is about give and take. And he could suffer through one party with her friends. He'd certainly dragged her to enough boring work events. And she'd always dressed perfectly, smelled great, impressed his bosses and flattered their wives. She even claimed to enjoy herself, which he knew to be a lie, but a lie that he appreciated and that made him feel like less of a vampire who sucked her will to live through countless evenings spent drinking weak cocktails, listening to stories about people she didn't know, politely deflecting the barely veiled sexual innuendos of the philandering vice-president of marketing, and tolerating random colleagues even he could hardly stand.

She's a good wife, he thought. And she had said there would be beer and food at the party. Bonus. And she had promised to wear that little silky red number to bed after they got home. Double bonus.

As they turned the corner onto the cul-de-sac, he saw a few other couples parking and getting out of cars and walking up to the house. They looked relatively normal. And even if they turned out not to be, he figured he would just keep his mouth full of whatever appetizers they served, and maybe even feign a hearing loss. Oh, that's too bad, they would say, as he would apologize and twist his head awkwardly in whatever direction would make him look as uncomfortable as possible. Left ear, right ear—the bad ear would always be the one furthest from the annoying conversationalist. How did it happen, they would ask with equal parts timidity and eagerness. I don't like to talk about it, he would say, but basically it was a bar fight. Sky diving accident. Birth defect. War injury. The result of sticking hot pokers in my ears and piercing my own eardrums the last time my wife dragged me to a stupid party. Did it matter? As long as he said it with a pained look of embarrassment, any story should deter even the most curious and chatty of guests. And if it didn't work on that one lonely, clueless, socially unaware single woman who seems to haunt every party, he would pull a ballpoint pen out of his pocket and shove it in his ear right then and there in front of her and God and everyone. In fact, maybe he should do it now before he even went in. A preemptive strike against banal smalltalk.

He pulled the car up against the curb and turned off the engine. He got out of the car, walked around to the passenger side, and opened the door to help his wife out of the car. She took his hand, and as she stood up, her fragrance followed her and filled his nose with vanilla and honey and that little smell of spice that he never could identify as anything other than just the smell of her. After all these years, she still made it for him. She turned to grab her purse from the car seat, and as he sneaked a peak at her rear end, he decided that she rocked a pair of tight jeans just as well now as she did back when they were first dating. She turned back around to face him, brushed something invisible off the front of his shirt, then reached her hands around his waist and pulled herself into him. Thank you for coming with me tonight, she whispered into his right ear. She pulled away just enough to brush his lips with hers on the way to his left ear where she whispered, I'll be the luckiest girl at the party.

On the way up to the house, he still shivered a little with the thought of her voice low and soft in his ears. He kept one hand gently against the small of her back, and with the other hand he reached into his pocket, grabbed the ballpoint pen, and tossed it into the street.

1 comment:

ChickenFreak said...

Did I mention that this is really good? It is. I like the way that bits of it rush headlong and bits of it slow down. I like him. I like how he thinks about her. I like him being both cranky and likable and loving her. I extra like him fantasizing about explaining his hearing loss.