He laid there mothbreathing next me. My alarm, set for 5:00 am had yet to sound, but I was, emphatically, awake and staring at his gaping maw. The sound from my childhood of my aunt saying "Close your mouth, or something will get in, or come out, that you don't want." was playing on loop in my mind. I had turned the light stand light on to get a better view, it seemed, of the face that I woke to despise. The film, on his teeth, the pale gray color of his dehydrated tongue, the way his chin had weakly succumbed to his neck, and the smell. The smell. I could move back, or turn away, but instead I sat with my body turned towards him and my face close to his. My alarm found its voice. Dean Martin Goodmorning Life became the only non-silent partner in this exchange. One tear escaped my left eye and drizzled unchallenged down my cheek. I pulled myself out of the covers and slumped into the bathroom. "It should have been Ain't That a Kick to the Head."
I began taking showers nearly hot enough to scald. My body would be raging red in streaks when I was finished. I had had him turn the water heater up twice in as many months. The last time he came in from the garage he said with all the disdain he could keep behind his teeth "There. Are you happy now?". I didn't respond. I barely looked up from my book, but in my head I was screaming "NO!". These showers were the only way I could feel clean of him. Even if he hadn't touched me; just being in the same room as him made me want to instantly wash it away. Every interaction had become an opportunity to place blame. We started talking in phrases like "Your dog..." "Your son..." "Your Mother/Sister/Father/Friend..." Everything and everyone was put in place.
I sat down on the floor of the bathtub letting the water fall harder on my back, I couldn't see myself getting up, yet. I sat for a long while over-thinking the tear that I had let fall upon my departure of the conjugal bed.
I had gotten off early from work, gone to the store, with a specific list, only enough for one meal. I found everything easily and before the baby started to fuss. He didn't like fluorescent lights or intercom systems, in fact, he still doesn't.
Upon getting home, I went straight to work building the meal I had been planning for weeks. It was his birthday. For the previous five years of my life that meant that I would spend dinner at the (god DAMN) Olive Garden. He loved their chicken scampi. A chicken scampi that I thought was a tasteless pile of vomit--much like most everything on the menu. I had attempted a scampi at home to ignite his palette before, but was always met with a-- less than enthusiastic response. This time I did my homework. I even bought a bottle of Oliver Garden salad dressing! I couldn't stand another dinner at that shit hole full of uncultured swine and cheap wine. Also, I wanted him to love my scampi. At this point, it would maybe mean he still loved something about me. He was still under the impression that the Olive Garden party was still on, but instead all of the friends and family were coming over to share our table. I breaded and fried tha chicken to the O.G. recipe. The sauce was simple and I made sure to mind the amount of garlic because, inevitably, if more than a slight tickle of it passed into his mouth he would push the plate away with a mumble an retreat into his office. I had everything prepared and warming when he came home.
"Happy Birthday Baby!! I made your favorite-- and you don't have to settle for a Coors Light to accompany!" He remained, as ever, blank. "Okay." I kept smiling. I felt like I was still sort of happy in the moment. Maybe he would snap. "Everyone's on their way." I pushed myself into him. His arms didn't leave his sides, so i squirmed mine through. I pushed myself in and up to ty and kiss him, but he was too tall. He slowly tilted his head toward mind and paused. "Did you have garlic?" Ain't that a kick in the head.