Something familiar glimmers at the back of my
mind as he smiles in that tolerant way and I ramble on about my
day at work. I push away the almost-formed thought, unwilling to
admit that he wasn't really paying attention to me, and I continue
my story, words dropping out of my mouth like hail from a storm.
"I just can't believe some people,"
I say. My hands smack at the air, as if I could slap some sense
into my co-worker while standing in my own kitchen. "She just
sat there, not saying a word. It was so obvious. Randy knew I didn't
crash that system. Hell, he knows that I, of all people, understand
what's at stake. You know, Randy gave her so many opportunities
to tell the truth and she was just a brick wall."
The glimmer is becoming steadier, and I can't
push it away. I turn toward him, one hand on my hip, my voice raising
a decibel. "Do you know how hard it is to work with someone
who can't take any responsibility for her own mistakes?" He
stands at the stove, slowly stirring the sizzling vegetables around
in the deep frying pan.
"Mmm . . ." His lips don't move.
He isn't listening. The thought pops so brightly
I blink, speechless.
"Can you stir this?" he asks, holding
the wooden spoon out towards me. I take it and begin to beat the
peppers and broccoli. "Easy," he says, "they're supposed
to be crisp, remember?"
He leaves the kitchen and I hear him go into the
bedroom. The bathroom door closes, then a few minutes later, water
runs. He returns to the kitchen, gives me a blank smile, and gently
takes the spoon back from my hand.
"What would you do?" I ask. He opens
the cabinet above his head, retrieves a small jar of sesame seeds,
and begins to sprinkle them on top of the popping vegetables. I
push now, not really caring what he thinks, just wanting a fight.
"If you knew that someone was doing something that was hurting
a project you were working on, and her actions, even though they
weren't deliberate, might cause her to lose her job, what would
I pull a chair out from the table and sit down
hard. He lifts the lid from the saucepot on the back burner and
the steam rises, fogging his glasses. "Well?" I ask, looking
at a pair of scissors on the tabletop. I wonder about them.
I watch his back; look at the thin spot in his
hair that wasn't there when we first met, notice the way his elbows
have grown so pointy that they look almost dangerous. Twenty years
this Christmas, I think. I rest the side of my face on one hand,
look out the window, and pick up the scissors. I forget about my
What's going on right here in my own house, I
wonder, in my comfortable, predictable relationship? Snip, snip,
snip. The scissors make a comforting noise as I absently open and
close them. Who is this man silently cooking dinner? Snip, snip;
you know, they seem to say. Snip, snip.
"Stop it," he says. "Can't you
set the table, or do something to help?"
I open my mouth, then close it tightly. I look
at his paunch, the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes and wonder
when this happened. I admit to myself that it's true. Some time
in the last year, the tectonic plates of my marriage have shifted.
I've tried to ignore the quietness that covers us like a soggy blanket,
the lack of sex, the absence of real conversation, the sparkle in
his eyes that fades as he comes through the door each night, only
to kick off his shoes, and grab the remote.
The plates clink against each other when I pull
them out of the cupboard and a strange thought rumbles through my
head. He's shedding a million years a day, I think. He's moving
at light speed and leaving me here -- wherever "here"
is. I brush past him to reach the silverware; our backsides graze
against each other while he piles rice into one bowl and vegetables
into another. He hums something I can't identify.
I grip the table. We haven't had a fight in months.
We haven't talked about anything more important than the checkbook
in even longer. The pressure beneath the earth swells. My feet begin
to itch. I know. I've known for months but I've refused to put together
a disaster kit.
Suddenly, from behind me, he puts his hands on
mine and lightly pries my fingers from around the edge of the table.
I turn around, look up, right into his eyes, and see all the years
we've accumulated. I see so many all-night talks in the darkness,
the secrets only he knows about me, and those that I know about
Then, I see a glimmer of our future.
Bio: Dena Gast lives in Southern California and received
her B.A. in English/Creative Writing from California State University
in 2000. Her work has appeared in The Pacific Review and on the
stage of the Hi-Desert Playhouse in Joshua Tree, CA. Currently,
she is honing her writing skills through workshops and writing a
novel in the historical-fantasy genre. To contact her, send email