“Nobody likes to start their day with somebody sticking their fingers in your eye,” he says, while sticking his blunt fingers into my eyes. He peels back the lids, as my eyes furiously blink outside of my control. I am old enough now not to scream when uncomfortable doctors procedures are happening, but I cannot stop the small grunt of pain when the dye from the eyedropper hits the surface of my eyeball.
He had greeted me at the start of my appointment by saying, “So, you decided to get up early!” It was 11am. It sounded so much like something a condescending uncle would say I was momentarily flat-footed, trying to remember if perhaps we were related. I determined we were not, and so said, “Say again?”
“So, you decided to get up early!” The same inflection and impersonal exuberance. I could glean no more from this reiteration than I could from the initial greeting. So I said, apologetically, “One more time?”
“So, you decided to get up early!” It occurred to me that this was a reference to the opening of the eyeglass shop’s doors, not two minutes prior. I was their first customer, his first optical client, and was therefore ‘up early.’ I thought it a poor how-do-you-do, and discarded him as a possible conversationalist. It warranted no reciprocating response, so I took his hand and said, “Good morning,” to discourage any further conversation. His skin crinkled a little in the pouches under his eyes in social discomfort, then gestured to the back room.
A front desk attendant, not the one who turned me away last Thursday when I showed up for my scheduled appointment (“We just don’t have all our equipment set up,” she had simpered. “Could you come back on Saturday? Would that be convenient?” No it would not, I wanted to say, but instead smiled and said that was no trouble at all), watched the two of us enter the room, in what I can only suppose was disappointment. Within the two minutes since I entered the eyeglass shop, I had been approached by three people with name tags. Each’s deep concern with my emotional well-being and disproportional interest in my style of glasses frame made me think that they were paid on commission. I had never met such self-deprecating salespeople, their shoulders curved in like an apology as they asked: ‘Can I help you?’ Saying ‘no, thank you’ felt less like the truth and more like kicking a puppy. “I have an appointment for an eye exam,” I said three times, to three salespeople. It was almost a relief to get off the sales floor as I was led into the eye examining room.
The eye doctor made small talk as he flipped through several different lens options, while I stared through a periscope-looking mask at a screen with letters on it.
“So, do you go to school? Which is better, lens one,” a click and the furry edges of the letter chart ahead of me cleared marginally, “Or two?” Another click and the letters were lost entirely to a smudge.
“One,” I said. “The community college.”
“Okay. Lens three, or four?” Two clicks as I evaluated. “Have any favorite activities?”
“Writing,” I said. “Three.”
“Oh that’s nice,” he said. “Alright, one… or two? What do you like to write?”
“Creative nonfiction,” I replied. Then remembered: “Two.”
“Three? Or four? That’s cool. Are you taking any writing classes?”
“Four. Yes, I have.”
“So, your prescription is very light. Do you wear your glasses often?”
“No, just when I’m driving.”
“Really? Because your prescription is low enough that you shouldn’t have to wear them.”
“Yes, I’m required by law to wear them when I drive.”
“Hmm. You only have to be able to see this,” on the screen appeared a row of letters I could read with little difficulty. “To drive without glasses. Can you read that?”
I rattled off the letters.
“Well, then!” he said. “You shouldn’t have to wear them while driving.”
My license says otherwise, I thought. Acceptable vision or not, it was best to follow what was on my license in case I ever got pulled over. Instead, I said, “Wow, that’ll be nice.”
“Yeah,” he said, sounding pleased. “Now, I’ve just got these eye drops to give you,” he held a small bottle that sloshed as he rattled it. “It’s full of yellow dye, and it contains a mild anesthetic,” he told me while unscrewing the cap. “So your eyes might feel a little numb.”
I had taken quick inventory of the sensitivity of my eyeballs. There was no sensation. Now, blinking rapidly after he withdraws his hands (and how large fingers suddenly become, when they are close to your eyes. At first handshake I had determined his hands to be of normal proportion. Now I know them to be tree trunks), my eyes feel the same. There is no numbness. I wonder if he lied about the anesthetic, to keep me calm. I do not ask.
“The dye will let me tell the pressure of your eyes,” he says, while rolling towards an unfamiliar contraption. For the next several minutes, he tries to keep up friendly conversation, while I try not to leap out of the examining chair as bright lights peer into my eyes.
Finally, that finished, he rolls back over to a clipboard he has been marking. With a perforated thwpp! he tears a sheet an hands it to me.
“Your prescription isn’t much changed,” he says. “You probably don’t have to wear your glasses at all, if you don’t want to. Though they might be useful if you were driving around at night, in an unfamiliar place, and had to see street signs,” he concedes. “Or, if you needed to see the chalkboard in your classroom. They don’t have chalkboards now, do they?” I do not answer, but it seems he didn’t need a response anyway. “Or you could wear them when you wanted to look at things better.”
Indeed, I think, those are the usual times I need to see. His thorough analysis of probable optical opportunities at least leaves no room for chances. Should I not need my glasses, it seems, I will have to be outside of the realm of possibility entirely. I will keep this in mind in case I find myself inside a fourth-dimension wormhole or something.
My fingers are dingy with industrial grime, the settling of neglected concrete and steel beams. I imagine the color on my fingers would taste like electricity if I licked them. I don’t.
Plastic tubs hold the records for easy shuffling under eager fingers. From above, the thin slices of cardboard look like a barcode. There are several of us, each stationed at a tub, rummaging through eight million ‘Best of Elvis’ and a thousand Stevie Wonder albums to find what we’re here for. I am here for Bowie.
There is a territorialism, a proprietary mood that settles over the hunched shoulders of the searchers– elbows are planted as careful boundaries.
There is a gentle shuffling rhythm to this searching. Both hands are poised over the crate like a pianist at a keyboard, curled. The middle and ring finger push back the record you are looking at, while the pointer finger tugs forward the next, dull transparent plastic whispering and catching at the grooves in your fingerprints.
There he is. I feel a physical release in my chest, a tension suddenly snapped, as I pull the album from the bin. “Here you are,” I say, “I found you.” Bowie looks up at me succinctly from Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps). One of my favorite albums, with several of my favorite songs.
I take it home, set it reverently on top of my record player. I feel as though I have to ask it permission to keep it here.
I ask it to stay, and it stole my room.
I ask for its love, and it gave me a dangerous mind.
Of course, in the aftermath of these things, after everyone knows all the facts along with the outcome, it is nearly impossible to separate those at the epicenter of the event as people who Should Have Known Better from Innocent Bystanders Just Living Their Lives. I know that, I’ve done it myself, to others. When Sarah from the office finally discovered that Eliot was cheating, she Should Have Known because of the napkin from a coffee shop across town crumpled in his suit jacket pocket. That never happened, the coffee-shop-napkin-thing, but it could have– or at least it is a good example of what might have. It doesn’t matter. The thing of it was, after Sarah found out, she Should Have Known months ago. That’s how it is with me, and the aftermath of all this. I Should Have Known, according to those who have the the synopsis with a breakdown of characters, their motivations, and a ‘fini’ at the end. I didn’t have all that, all right, so I didn’t, couldn’t, know. So, even though after the fact, as I’m portrayed as the selfish idiot in all this; I want it known that I couldn’t have had the perspective necessary to understand and and respond with the import it really deserved. Warranted. Needed. Whatever.
So I didn’t immediately recognize the moment for what it was. Fine, the significance of it escaped me. Okay, obviously I didn’t “get” it. But even outside of a perfectly justified indignant response to the general public, I think it’s important to realize that these sort of things just don’t happen every day, and I was not prepared. It was just another thing on a busy day full of disappointments. I didn’t pay it much heed until the fate of the world depended on it.
Which is why I missed the beginning of the alien invasion.
Admittedly, a little more critical to Have Known than Sarah missing the signs of Eliot’s disloyalty, but just keep in mind that it’s the same idea– after it’s all over, it’s much easier to point fingers and assign blame.
It started like most Thursdays did, with my alarm blaring at 6:30 and then at 6:40 and then again at 6:50, at which point I turned it off and rolled blearily from my left side to my right side, until at 7:15 my cat woke me up by meowing for breakfast and I thought, Shit, late again.
Around 8:00 (because if you’re going to be late for work, you might as well be spectacularly late for work), I was finally packed in to the crowded train at Sweetgrass Station like sardines in a can; only, we weren’t in a can, we were in a train compartment, and instead of being fish, we were people– and now I come to think of it, we weren’t even smothered in oil like sardines in a can– but on the whole we probably smelled bad, and nobody likes being packed into a train, like nobody likes canned sardines. So really all I’m trying to say is that it was a bad start to the day.
The person beside me was purple. Literally purple. Not with rage or asphyxia or anything, just literally purple, with a funny squiggly pattern on their forehead and orange eyes with the pupils diagonal, like a goat’s. The lips were flat and curved from a split from the middle, like a cat’s. I had already pulled out my ratty old book, a detective novel, and was dead set on ignoring everything around me.
“Excuse me,” said the purple person. Then again, louder, when I didn’t look up. “Excuse me, but is this Earth? Are you an Earth-being?”
There it is. The recriminating moment. It’s all over the news, I’m sure everybody’s heard it by now, and I hear there’s already a film adaptation in the works– but at first, at first, it was just some guy asking a stupid question in what I thought to be heavy makeup. Napkin-in-pocket. Alien-asking-question. Objectively, both just a Should Have Known scenario.
I thought it was the beginning of a pick-up line. Like, “did it hurt? When you fell from heaven?” Something stupid like that.
“That’s a new one, buddy,” I said, sardonically. “Haven’t heard that one before.”
He (it?) looked troubled. Or at least as troubled as that funny face could appear. He (it?) looked mildly constipated. “That is… unfortunate,” he (it? Has the New Foundation for Alien Recognition and Terminology decided what pronouns are correct?) said. “That is unfortunate,” he repeated again. Mumbling, he looked at some a large panel of strange read-outs. “Conferring with our instruments, we were certain we had the correct interstellar coordinates.” Louder, he turned to me. “Could you tell me where I am?”
“Sure,” I said. “The Red Line.” I turned back to my paperback. Couldn’t any weirdo have pretended to be a being from outer space? Wouldn’t anyone have dismissed it as a joke, an unstable plea for attention? Of course, with the information available after the event, I obviously should have had some great speech on hand for just this occasion– First Contact. A critically important moment like that warrants– deserves– needs– whatever– an impressive first introduction. It’s just a napkin-in-the-pocket moment. You only know what it was after it’s over.
The Red Line, I watched those strange lips repeat silently, covertly staring over the top of my paperback. “Ah,” he said. He licked his lips with an oddly prehensile tongue. I could see several responses flit through his head, rapidly discarded, until he said: “I’m from Fluptor.”
“Fluptor?” I repeated, incredulous. “Listen, buddy, I’m not in the mood.”
His purple face looked puzzled. “My auditory capabilities are unaffected by your emotional state,” he said, tentatively.
I gaped at him, paperback forgotten. Did this guy think I was that gullible? This was obviously a prank.
“You’re pulling my leg,” I accused.
“No!” he exclaimed, looking startled. He looked up to the plastic loop he’d wound his hand into, and let go quickly, wiping his palm on the strange fabric of his clothing. “I’m sorry, I did not realize– you are– this is your leg??” he gestured to the loop.
I stared at him. What sort of weirdo–
“ Are you for real?” I angrily asked.
“I am a corporeal being, yes,” he said, now looking totally baffled. I huffed and threw up my arms. The train slowed, wheels squealing, into Blue Meadow Station.
“This is my stop,” I rolled my eyes. “Unless you had anything else brilliant to say.”
His funny goat’s eyes had narrowed in confusion, and two extra membranes slid across his eyes sideways in a funny sideways blink. “No,” he said, slowly. “But may I come with you? Could you take me to a being of authority? I must arrange a meeting between your leader and mine.”
I sighed noisily. I know I mentioned that if you’re going to be late you might as well be spectacularly late; but this was too much. I didn’t have the time or the patience for this.
“I have currency,” it hastened to say, after seeing my expression. “I can provide compensation for any expense.”
I sighed again. “Fine, fine.” I waved my hands in front of me. “But the ticket will cost you an arm and a leg.”
That’s when he pulled the laser gun.
After that, of course, everyone knows what happened. By the time all the screaming passengers had piled out of the train compartment, the space ships had started descending and that deafening message, ‘REMAIN CALM. YOU ARE BEING OCCUPIED. REMAIN CALM. YOU ARE BEING OCCUPIED.’ was playing. God, do you remember that? So irritating. It went on for days before they finally shut it off. I’ll be hearing that automated voice in my dreams for years.
Anyhow. The New Foundation for Alien Recognition and Terminology (and has anybody taken a minute to look at the acronym for the Foundation?? N-FART? Not well thought out, especially for an organization dedicated to naming things. Honestly.) has vilified me to near unrecognizability– when I was obviously and unmaliciously an Innocent Bystander Just Living My Life.
Which is why, Your Honor, I plead Not Guilty, to the crime of Intentionally Inciting an Intergalactic Incident. (I-4, for short.) I have come before this court to put my accounting of the events on the record, and hope that the panel for Earth-Alien Relations and Tribunal Hearings (or, EARTH, as it’s known now) will see that I am not a one-dimensional fool in this civilational drama. I appreciate the opportunity to say my side of the events. And just one more time, so there’s no confusion on where I stand, let me restate my defense.
I am absolutely aware of the astounding implications of First Contact. I am thrilled that your people, Your Honor, are not going to enslave us all. That’s great, really, and thank you for that; we were all really stressed there at the beginning, when your people mentioned indentured servitude– Ahem. Anyway. I stand in awe with the rest of the world at this pinnacle of human history, when we finally found out we are not alone in the universe. There is intelligent life out there. And here, now. Or, I mean, of course, we were intelligent to begin with– and we are now, too, but– you know what I mean. The limitless ramifications on philosophy, science, and peaceful alliances are incredible. We as a species are indebted and excited for the future. I just happen to be the ‘villain’ who botched First Contact: The One Who Should Have Known.
Thank you, Your Honor.
I hate always being right. It’s the worst talent ever. It’s like being Superman, except instead of being able to fly and have laser vision and a perfect curl over your left eyebrow; you’re always getting yelled at for ‘ruining the fun’ or ‘spoiling the movie,’ or, ‘telling that awful secret,’ like it’s your fault you can’t help but be correct.
With a talent like mine, I have to be very careful. Lots of governments and secret unsavory services would love to have me as their own personal fortune-ball. I live a deliberately uneventful life, working just above an entry-level job at a small, unimpressive company. I could make millions if I were a stocksman, a gambler, a broker– but I don’t dare draw that much attention to myself. I don’t want to think about what my powers could do for evil, and I know I could never stand up against torture.
I can’t remember a time I haven’t been like this– always knowing what’s right, I mean. The earliest I can remember is age 6, when my parents told me I was going to have a little brother or sister, all beaming with secret smiles and parental pride. I just looked at my Mother’s tummy and said: “Sister.” And she was. And Morgann was one the first who hated me for being right. As we grew into teenagers, she began to resent me more deeply than ever.
“He loves me,” she declared of a boyfriend one night over a board game, which always dissolved into shouting matches.
“No he doesn’t,” I said.
“Yes, he does!” she argued. Morgann had this incredible way of making every word in a sentence the most important one, just through inflection and volume.
“No, he doesn’t,” I said again.
“YES, he DOES,” she shouted, and flipped the board game off the table, scattering pieces everywhere.
I was right, of course. The boyfriend broke up with her four months later. Morgann sulked and glared at me for weeks, like it was my fault. My parents very carefully did not get involved.
I scared them a little, Mom and Dad. When I was young, before I learned to modulate my ‘right-ness’ and give little white lies so people didn’t get too discomfited, they always had this strange half-fearful, timid expression when they talked to me. Little things, like wondering if the company fire drill was today, or whether Mrs. Bagge would be bringing brownies or cookies to the bake sale– were always answered correctly. It scared them. Soon, conversations were limited to information only– no conjectures, no wondering, no options. I couldn’t be right about things that didn’t have an answer. All my growing up years were like that, with my parents talk modulated and stilted to inconversibilty, and my sister hating me for knowing uncomfortable truths. I did very, very well in school, though.
I graduated college with minimal fuss. I was not a good student, but I took the tests nearly perfectly. (I had learned not to be too perfect, of course.) Gradually my Mother called less and less, and the Christmas cards Morgann’s boyfriend sent me eventually stopped too. It was fine. I didn’t mind, not really. I had a small circle of semi-close friends, and a dog. It was all I really wanted. I was perfectly content. Really, I was.
So when Celia crashed her way into my life, I was inordinately grateful.
Celia was everything, to a degree I never knew existed. She was beautiful, funny, compassionate, mischievous, a terrible singer, and held grudges for too long. I knew, in that way of mine, that she was the only one for me.
I flirted outrageously with her. My attempts at romance and witticism were bumbling tests of patience, but somehow, Celia loved me anyway. We were married the next year, in the same month we met. On our wedding day, Celia turned to me, mouth wide with joy, and nearly shouted: “This is the best day of my life!” I cried. Celia laughed kindly and warned me not to stain her white dress.
Celia, even to the end, never really believed in my knowing. I had told her about it with absolute seriousness and gravity one date over pasta, near the beginning. I gave examples of the times I knew what was wrong with the family car once my dad had narrowed it to two options. I told her about how I knew the test results of Morgann’s child’s paternity test before she did, because Mom had told me about the two men. I poured out the insecurities I had about my strange knowing, how it had destroyed my family and I didn’t want to jeopardize what we had.
Celia had listened carefully, but not intently. At the end, she laughed and took my trembling hand.
“Baby,” she said. “I don’t care how good you are at guessing. You don’t know when not to run your mouth, I know. I’ve seen it. You’re just a little… socially awkward, and too smart for your own good. I don’t know how you do it, but you can guess better than anybody I know.”
“That’s not it,” I said. “Not it at all. I know things. I know what’s right.”
“Honey,” she said, gently. “That’s not possible. Please, I know that the distance you parents kept with you made you… want the… this sounds bad, but hear me out–” she held up a hand. “The attention. But baby, being right all the time’s not possible. It’s not. Your sister–” here Celia clenched a fist. I loved her for the righteous fury she felt about my sister’s resentment. “Your sister really did a number on you, the way she bullied you. You always had to make snap decisions, see who to trust, because she set you up so often with fake friends to hurt you. You got really good at quick, lightning decisions. And because of that, you think you know.”
“But I do,” I moaned.
“Shh,” murmured Celia. “Sweetheart, see it my way. Please. Being right all the time just isn’t possible.”
What she said made sense, and for a moment, I could see it the way she did– that I was just a regular person with a tough childhood, who was socially awkward, and very intelligent.
For a second, I could see it– and then it was gone. I knew. Knew that wasn’t true. My knowing was not a product of childhood trauma. It was a gift. A curse.
“Please,” I choked. “Please, Celia, understand. I know things. I’m always right.”
“So you’re always right,” she placated. “So what?” She squeezed my hand, still in hers. “What’s the worst that could happen? And would it ever?” she scoffed.
Then, there, because she asked, I knew the right answer. The worst that could happen would be that Celia would leave me. And she’d leave me because I was right. I started to cry into my pasta. Celia leaped up and came around to my side of the table, never letting go of my hand. She squeezed my shoulders and whispered that it was okay, it’s okay, it’s okay.
I knew it wasn’t. And I was always right.
“You’ll leave me,” I croaked. “For being right.”
“Oh, baby, no,” said Celia, and pulled me into her shoulder.
After our marriage, though, I relaxed a little. I knew it was coming, I had always been right before and knew this was no different. I knew Celia would leave me for being right. But in the meantime, I vowed to love her as much as I could.
We were deeply in love. I always knew the right thing to say, so we rarely fought. Celia brought me so much joy it was easy to reciprocate. We made each other very happy.
A few years later, Celia was pregnant with our baby.
“I think I’ll choose between Amanda and Chloe.” Celia carefully smoothed her hand over her rounded stomach, distended with life. She had been vacillating between two names for months, teasing me with hints, but never the actual names. She had saved the reveal of her two choices for this little weekend trip she’d arranged. “Because then you’ll know,” she had joked, “and I want to to be a surprise. A secret surprise!” So she had dragged the two of us to this little mountain cabin.
“Amanda and Chloe,” she mused again, her voice soft and far-away. “I really like the name Amanda.”
“You’ll name her Chloe,” I said. Celia looked up, her forehead pinching and her eyes a little hard, before both her face and expression smoothed into a loving smile.
“We’ll see,” she said.
3 months later, holding a squalling little red thing in her arms, she cooed, “Chloe!” And then looked up at me with an exhausted, radiant smile. “You were right,” she laughed quietly. “She is a Chloe. Our little Chloe,” and then she kissed me and everything was perfect.
Life went on.
I knew my father had cancer when Mom called up to say the doctors thought it might just be a benign tumor.
I knew the dog had an abscessed tooth, and needed to be put down.
I knew Chloe’s good-for-nothing boyfriend was actually a pretty nice guy. Not that I’d ever say anything, not even at their wedding, when I clapped him on the back and said, “Welcome to the family, son.”
I knew Celia was the love of my life.
Years passed like this. Chloe grew up, moved away. Celia and I moved to a smaller house farther from the city. Passion gentled into affectionate familiarity. We got another dog.
We were sitting the balmy light of the kitchen in the morning, when Celia put her book down next to her plate, which I knew to mean she wanted conversation. I put my paper in my lap, neatly folded.
“I’m thinking of getting permanent makeup,” she said. “You know, like tattooed eyeliner and eyebrows. Just so I can roll out of bed in the morning and feel put-together.” I looked over my paper at her. Her face was softer now, pouching under her jaw and pooling under her eyes. She was just as gorgeous as the day I met her. I had noticed, though, her pulling at her loose skin in the mirror in the mornings. Anything she did wouldn’t matter to me; she was Celia, no matter what. I didn’t care if she painted on lipstick every morning or had it needled into her face. Whatever made Celia happy, made me happy.
Suddenly, though, with the strange pressure between my eyes that I was used to by now, I knew she wouldn’t be happy with it. I knew she wouldn’t like it.
“What do you think?” she turned to me, smiling. I was caught with a troubled expression, before I could school my face into neutrality.
“You won’t like it,” I warned.
Her face fell, almost comically, the soft skin sloping into a frown so hurt I nearly put a hand to my chest in response.
“You don’t think I’ll look good?” she gasped, her voice a little high and reedy.
“No!” I said. “Honey, you’ll look great no matter what you do! And I love you just the way you are! It’s just– you know how I am. I just know you won’t like it.”
“If you don’t want me to do it, just say so,” she said acidly.
“No, no!” I panicked. “It’s not– I don’t– ugh. Celia, I don’t care what you do–”
Celia’s face was thunderous. She looked like a cloud about to split with lightning.
“No, that came out wrong. What I mean is–”
“I think that’s enough,” said Celia, and she went into the bathroom. I sat at the kitchen table, shocked. That had not gone right.
Celia went through with the procedure. She stayed at the clinic, bandaged up, until she fully healed. The night she came home, I filled the entryway with roses leading to our room. I lit candles, set soft jazz playing. Celia lifted a hand to her trembling mouth when she stepped in the doorway. I stepped up to her and kissed her.
“I know I said the wrong thing the other day,” I said. “And I want to make it up to you. You, my Celia,” I punctuated my words with kisses. “Are the most perfect, lovely woman I’ve ever known and I love you.”
Celia giggled and grinned. “I love you too, you old softie,” she said.
I was right, though, as always. Over the weeks Celia began to regret her new makeup. It was too bold she complained, the colors weren’t quite right. It boiled to a head one evening when I snapped, “Don’t you like it? It was you who wanted the damned thing, and now all I ever hear is how unhappy you are.”
“You were right,” she spat. “Are you happy now?” Her newly darkened eyebrows were shaped like perfect arches, and they were drawn together in anger.
I thought she looked beautiful. I also didn’t say anything.
Celia stomped off.
Things continued to deteriorate. My back was troubling me, so I was snappish and rude. Celia, bless her, gave me my favorite foods, organized all my medication, gave me a heated massager for my recliner. I hurt so much I stopped caring about her feelings. Why should anyone else feel good when I felt so crummy?
I was right about how that dress made her look.
I was right about how annoying that rattling cough she had developed was.
We both took to avoiding each other.
That last evening, things were bad. I don’t remember what exactly was said, but I do remember the slamming cupboards and shouting. It culminated with me stomping off, retreating the bathroom, while I heard Celia crying in the living room. Suddenly it got too quiet. Suddenly, I leaped off the toilet and hobbled to the door.
She was putting her coat on, shaking with tears, and her face had gone all red.
“I just can’t stay here,” she was saying. “I just can’t handle you, you having to be right all the time! Can’t you just let it go? Can’t you just live without having to be right?”
Inexplicably, the way your brain fractures at inopportune moments into abstraction, perhaps for protection– I thought about that day at the duck pond. I could see it all, in my mind’s eye, clear as if I was living it again; the pink of Celia’s fleece coat, the way the afternoon seemed to condense all it’s bright vibrance into the band of reflection on Chloe’s hair, our laughter to see the ducks stick their tails high in the air as they bobbed and dove for weeds. I had looked at Celia, then, and known: she would leave me, eventually, for being right.
Here, though, was a different fracture. A shattered marriage.
Celia was glaring, wounded, coat half-on. “Well?”
I thought of the time I was sick with pneumonia and she made her chicken soup, but accidentally added too much salt, so it was nearly inedible. I remembered the time Chloe scraped up her knee while learning to ride a bike; and I was so frightened of all the blood and her tears that I nearly called 911 until Celia kissed me and Chloe’s knee and suddenly everything was all better. I remembered Celia crying over the slow collapse of her youth, and me spending many happy hours in bed reassuring her. I remembered being right, damnably right, about everything.
So I spoke a plea, a miserable consummation of the 46 years we had been together– with all the crayon scribblings on the wall and dirty diapers, all the late nights of passion and lazy mornings, all the triumphs and setbacks. When had I forgotten how much I loved her?
“I told you that you’d leave me for being right,” I said.
Celia’s face scrunched into an angry, heartbroken knot, and she slammed the front door behind her.
I hate always being right.