Page 30 - WTP VOl. VIII #7
P. 30

 The Woman He Believed She Was
Spring cleaning they washed windows. Lucy on the inside, George on the outside. They mirrored each other in approximate mime, working toward conver- gent outcomes, only seeming to be in the other’s way.
Almost like the old days, the laundromats of their young marriage, one holding the sheet, one folding.
Only, how it used to be was that each coming together, each last fold meant closure, which meant they were closer to having sex. They were still in the blossom
of their first trysts then, when they hugged in the fun house and she let his hands run down her back, when they humped in his car in the pre-pill days, her body aglow in the shadows. Or when they met between their dorms to go out behind the cattle barn, when a touch told him how she was wearing nothing under- neath the thin shift. When they would get down on the grass.
But now he was on the deck, the thing that made their home not so interior, his link to the rhododendrons, which pointed to the deer-sheltering white cedar, which gave a view of the sky, tall sycamores across the street that sloped to the lake that flowed into the sea, the sea.
On a roll, they tackled the basement: journals and paperweights and randomly boxed objects, milestone plaques and toy cars and joke trophies—a blue and gold column inscribed at bottom, Dad basketball champion of the universe, the hook shot-making figure itself long since unglued from its base, lying prone adjacent. Two windows of thick block glass letting in light frugally. Unfinished basement, scattered tools, paint cans, seasonal objects waiting for their season. Laundry chute, a portal for restoring freshness. A place of storage.
The triage of prioritizing: whose things were these and for whom were they there? Lucy or George or their grown-up children? Or their children? Or for the things themselves? Teddy wants to watch the water heater pilot.
Keep. Toss. Toss. Toss. Keep. Keep. She picked up a box of old letters, began to read one of her daughter’s.
Beyond these mind webbings, this sticky pre-frontal cortex minutiae, was the life. They were alive, these
galvanized steel pipes that carried the water that carried the waste, that brought the water, the life, into the bodies they used on each other, gratified and gave to each other; not inanimate the copper wiring, which fed their hunger for current, gave them light to read at night, music in the morning and fans for the sultry afternoons of love.
Dark basement, where light was tentative and visi- tors didn’t come, utilitarian grunge, Coyote’s tail he banished from the rest of his allies in a fit of indigna- tion and fatal misjudgment... But their son played his pod racing video game down here!
As they went back upstairs, his eyes lingered on her from behind. He felt himself loving her not in the abstract but now, feeling the lifelong cheerful and practical deployment of her charm come down the stairwell in waves. He saw how her sense of herself had kept her from vanity, how she did not despair over the decline of age, but kept her eye on what remained, so that when larger fears surfaced—fears for which there could be no rational resolve—he saw his role with her, to make her feel loved.
How could she be anything other than the grounded and self-contained person he saw with this new in- sight? Even when he thought of her as compliant and malleable, she had anchored him. This new apprecia- tion restored his equilibrium: he did not list into her as he used to think he did.
Upstairs, they made and ate dinner in the kitchen, where the action was. Let water flow. Liquefy paste. Beat, chop, bake, scour. Think, search, scheme reci- pes that work. Improvise. Edit. Watermelon in the green salad. Throwing out greens that got too close to the freezer.
Place of longing, of hunger that was before hunger, of the open refrigerator door, a refrigerator in the room. A freezer for long term, the frig for what can you do for me now. Hunger that was, the life of a marriage. Goad- ing each other, her hand on his back, coming up be- hind her as she chopped carrot at the sink, taking her breasts, his breath on her neck. The room of desire.
—I worked too much, she said as she began to pre- pare dinner, the letter on the counter. I wasn’t there for her enough. He thought somehow it was his fault
William pRuitt

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