High yelp in the wind. Birds flocking together, flying south for the winter, for summer. I hear the endless agony echo in her eyes but she doesn’t say anything, just continues to rub the kitchen table with the dirty cloth. She sprays clouds of detergent around her, the smell overwhelming, then she rubs some more.
She reminds me of Claudius and the way he used to clean up bloodstains in the boxers ring at the gym in the old days. He hated that part of the job but he always did it himself. Claudius was a firm believer in the boss doing the worst job in his own establishment. He said that a boss that never got his hands dirty was a boss no one respected.
I close the window and walk towards her. I put a hand on her shoulder but she only rubs the table more fiercely. It’s spotless now but she sprays more from her can anyway and keeps on rubbing.
“You need to relax” I tell her softly.
She’s silent. When she finishes with the table she walks to the window and opens it. The wailing of the wind becomes loud again. It bothers me. Goes on my nerves. I pick up a small ball from the floor and start throwing it to the wall. She looks at me as if I’m insane but I continue, ignoring her.
The ball’s thud on the wall is soothing. Its rhythm eases my nerves. It makes me feel like I’m alone in the room. Alone in the world. She lets out a slight grunt and vanishes out of the room with her cloth and her detergent. I continue to throw the ball to the wall for a while. When the thuds start to annoy me I stop.
I open the fridge, hoping to find her cherries, or maybe it’s grapes today? But there is nothing there but an old banana and last nights leftovers. I go for the linen closet. There is always a bag of liquorice there and there is. I pull out three pieces and put them in my mouth one by one. Then I go upstairs and enter Daniel’s room. He’s sleeping quietly. His small face turned towards the window. There’s a smell of play dough in his room and when I look around I see that it’s lying all over the small table he does his drawings at. I pick up the play dough and put it in the box and close the lid. It pops and I take the lid off and put it on again just to hear that sound. Then he stirs in his sleep and mumbles. I don’t understand what he’s saying, secret dream speak only he himself can decipher. I sit on his bedpost and wonder about his dreams. It doesn’t look like he’s having a nightmare. Perhaps he’s dreaming of puppies, or of swimming. He loves swimming, he goes through the water like a fish, head first. They’re so happy at that age and we think it’s because they don’t know anything about the evil of the world but they do. They may not know much about wars or the state of the economy, but instead they see yellow eyed monsters lurking under their beds ready to sweep them away to a darker place were children are kept in cages, fattened by evil witches and then eaten by gruesome unshapely monsters. Grown ups may think these nightmares are more compelling than ours but in the child’s mind those nightmares are just as real as serial killers and wars. And they aren’t carefree just because they are oblivious to the reality of horror. They do know horror, some of it real, some of it not.
I stroke his hair away from his eyes and hope that it’s tow trucks and candy he’s dreaming about. If it isn’t he’ll be in our bed come midnight, tucked between us in the space that’s already a thousand mile long but the gap becomes slightly less horrific when he’s there.
We’re bound with blood, the two of us, lurking in the shadows while the child plays in the sun oblivious, or not, of the web of lies we weave. He sees the way she rubs that kitchen table with all her might. Surely he sees something in me as well because I too bare the marks. I can sometimes feel it in the way my steps sound on the pathway from the car to the house when I get home. Or in the way I hum in the shower. There’s beauty in the rhythm and it seems to follow me. That same slow rhythm. Thump. Thump. Thumpthump. Thump. I hear it in the raindrops on the window. I hear it in the wind. I even sometimes see it in the clouds.
I used to share such nonsense with her. Once upon a time we used to lay in the grass, pick flowers, watch the clouds and tell each others our fantasies and daydreams. We shared our inner most secrets but somewhere along the line it all went sour. Perhaps we had too many days when we didn’t communicate. Perhaps we slowly wanted different things, things we knew the other wouldn’t be able to accept. I dreamt of red clubs in Amsterdam and she secretly longed for her Yoga instructor who understands relaxation, human spirit and has the body of a Greek god. I hate him with a vengeance and the way she giddily speaks of him every time she comes home from his class.
And she resents my business trips, quite assured that I’m frolicking in prostitutes or cheating on her with my partner in crime, long-legged Lisa. Instead of speaking of it, of course, we fight.
It’s easy to be passive aggressive when she sneers at me for staying late at the office with Lisa. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t mind getting a peace of Lisa, but she’s spoken for. And I’m sure mister yoga master has all the ladies googling at him, I guess my wife isn’t any hotter than the rest of them although the jury is still out on that. She does have a great ass for a forty-five year old.
I exit Daniel’s bedroom and close the door behind me, leaving him with his dreams, whatever they are. She’s standing in front of me, the look in her eyes angry and aggressive.
“You didn’t wake him up, did you? He needs to sleep and you know how hard it is to get him to sleep when he wakes up…”
“Relax” I tell her, “take a breath, isn’t that what he teaches you? To breath? Your yoga instructör?” I pronounce the word the way I do with her. It’s become a habit, hard to break. I shake my head.
“He’s asleep” I tell her and I hope she can hear the hint of peace offering in my voice. But she never has before, so why should she start now?
“Good” she says and turns around. Her hair dances around her head like medusa’s wyrms, beautiful but possibly deadly.
“Wait” I say without knowing what to say next. She turns and looks at me. Her gaze is slightly less toxic than before.
“Will you lay with me in the bed, we can listen to the rain together?”
She continues to look at me. For a long time she stares at me. She ransacks me. And I think for a moment that she’s softening up.
“Are you mad?” she says with a snort.
“Yes” I say softly, resigned. “I’m mad to think that I’d have a decent moment with my wife. Maybe we should just call it quits? Resign to the fact that we don’t like each other anymore.” I turn. I don’t want to look at her now that the cats out of the bag. I can almost hear her heart beating faster. Almost in rhythm. Almost. Thump. Thump. Thumpthump. Thump.
“What do you mean? Give up?”
“I don’t know if I’d call leading a decent life giving up” I tell her. I sit on our bed, put my hands on my head and fall backwards.
“We can’t just split up?” she says and I hear panic in her voice and the thump, thump, thumpthump, thump of her heart. Almost the perfect rhythm. “What would happen to Daniel? What would happen to me?”
“We’d share custody, he’d be fine. You’d be fine. You’d go to your yoga class and flirt with your instructor without guilt” I say the word right this time. Effortlessly.
“And you? You’d go be with Lisa?”
“I don’t want to be with Lisa” I tell her. “I’ve told you that a million times, you never believe me.”
“You don’t? Aren’t you having an affair with her?”
It always makes me angry when she accuses me of this. I never did much to disproof it but it still makes me angry.
“First of all why would Lisa want someone like me?” I ask her. “Lisa has a boyfriend and it’s not me. You can call her and ask. Her boyfriend might answer, beside she’s an annoying little know-it-all. It’s enough to work with her to tell you the truth.”
“What?” she seems crestfallen. Her image of the world crumbling to pieces.
Thump. Thump. Thumpthump. Thump.
She sits down beside me and falls backwards. We look at the ceiling together.
“Timothy is nice to look at. I might have flirted but there’s nothing more. I wouldn’t … you know?”
“I don’t know” I tell her and search for her hand. She finds mine.
“You don’t?” she seems startled. “Do you still love me?” she asks me.
I sigh. “I love you, but I don’t like you” I tell her.
“Can you even do that? Love someone you don’t like?”
I think for a minute. It’s a difficult question. Thump. Thump. Thumpthump. Thump.
“I don’t know” it’s the honest answer, “but I didn’t stop loving you. You changed. I changed. We drifted. I don’t know.”
“So we drifted” she says, “I guess you’re right”.
“What do we do?” I ask her.
“We do this once a week” I can hear that she is smiling.
“Do what?” I’m thump, thump, thumpthump, thumping with her.
“We lie here and we share” she says. “We say these things and it’ll get better. You can even flirt with Lisa if you like, just don’t tell me about it.”
I laugh. “I don’t want to” I turn towards her. A doubt enters the conversation. “You can flit with your yoga instructor” I tell her, “just don’t tell me about it.”
“I don’t want to” she says as she looks at me. “I never wanted to. He’s nice to look at. You can say his ass keeps me in shape but that’s all there’s to it”.
Thump. Thump. Thumpthump. Thump in unison with the rain on the window. Slow drops washing away the bird shit and the dirt. The wind joins the orchestra as I start to kiss her. Slowly, gently, the way I used to kiss her a long time ago. Her lips are still soft, the kiss turns passionate quickly as it always did.
“Mom, I had a nightmare” Daniel says and we both draw back. We look in each others eyes and there it is too, the thump, thump, thumpthump thumping. I smile. She smiles and lifts the boy into our bed.
“Come and sleep here” she says, “listen to the rain, it’s soothing. There will be no more nightmares”.
“Are you sure?” he asks.
I nod my head.
“No more nightmares” I say and lay down beside him.
No more nightmares.