I don’t love you anymore. We had been married ten years when he said it. I was staring out the kitchen window and my yellow dish gloves were still wet. It was a Tuesday night. Chicken taco night. The words played over and over in my head. Love you anymore. Love. You. Anymore. Anymoooooore. I turned around to look at his face. He wouldn’t meet my eyes.
“Fuck you,” I said with no conviction.
“Ok,” he said, walking out of the room. I heard the front door close. I sat down on the kitchen floor and cried, my head in my hands. I don’t know how long I sat there. When I finally got up I tried to look out of the living room blinds, but it was dark and I couldn’t see anything except my own eyes reflected back.
As I let the bent blind snap into place, I realized I was still wearing the dish gloves. I tore them off and threw them. One of the gloves landed on the blinds and hung there limply. I walked off, leaving it.
I texted my boss at six the next morning. I hadn’t slept and he hadn’t come back. I’d spent the night smoking cigarette after cigarette, walking from room to room, playing record after record at full volume, every light in the house blazing.
“Can’t make it in today. Stomach bug I think.”
She texted back half an hour later. Ok, feel better.
Last year I got perfect attendance. I won an award to hang on my cubicle wall and a twenty-five dollar gift certificate to Olive Garden. He and I went to the Olive Garden and laughed about it after, saying we’d never go back.
I watched the sun come up. I was sitting cross-legged outside on the deck, smoking more and drinking a cold green bottle of Perrier. My little dog was asleep beside me. He’d tried to stay up all night, but he was worn out. He had no heartache to fuel him.
The drought was so bad that the yard looked like fall. All the leaves had turned yellow and fallen to the ground. A squirrel was standing there and for a moment you could almost believe it wouldn’t be a hundred and ten degrees by five o'clock in the afternoon. I lay back and looked up at the reddening sky, a ring of tree branches around the perimeter. I pretended I could float up and away and live in the sky forever.
I fell asleep and when I woke up, the sun was full on. I felt parched. My dog had knocked over my Perrier. I sat up quickly, looking for the little dog. The world turned black and I put my head down to my knees. I called the dog’s name and he came running, licking my leg.
My retired neighbor was puttering around in his backyard. He noticed me and waved. “Not workin’ today?” he said.
“Took the day off,” I responded, my voice cracking. I waved, walked back inside. Stood in front of the water cooler and drank three big glasses of water. I checked my cell phone- no calls or texts- and went to the bathroom. I saw my face as I was washing my hands. I was lobster-red from falling asleep in the sun with no sunscreen. Great.
My hair was greasy and hanging in thick strands. I pushed it back with both hands and secured it with a clip. I bared my teeth at the girl in the mirror and thought about flossing and brushing. I gave it up and walked out. I fell asleep again, this time on the couch with the TV blaring. When I woke up, the news was on. Record heat again. Rolling blackouts. An elderly woman had died of heat stroke in her apartment. She’d had to choose between groceries or air conditioner. I hit mute on the remote control and stared dumbly at the screen.
By the time I left the couch, it was dark outside. That meant it was after nine. I got dizzy standing up and realized I hadn’t eaten anything since lunchtime yesterday. I went into the dark kitchen and opened the fridge. I looked inside, seeing nothing, cold air swirling around my ankles. I closed the door and went outside and sat on the front porch. Cicadas were singing and the teenager across the street had his car up on jacks, his legs sticking out from under it. The radio was on in the car and I could hear a tinny version of one of those popular rap songs. I tried to think of the name of it but couldn’t.
I figured if I sat outside long enough, he would come back. I’d be there waiting for him when he pulled up and I’d be able to hear the music inside his car, like I was hearing it underwater. He’d walk up and say hey and lean down to kiss me on top of my head. He’d go inside and I’d stay out just a little bit longer, thinking about what a great life I had.
I sat on the astroturfed porch for three hours. The teenager across the street had fixed whatever it was and driven off, muffler screaming. Every time I saw headlights, my head would snap up, only to slump down again. I could recognize his headlights from a mile away.
Back inside, I put on another record. Minnie Riperton. My clothes stunk so I took them off. I rummaged around on his desk and found another pack of cigarettes and some weed in a grinder. I smoked them both on the living room floor in my underwear, changing records every now and then and watching the ceiling fan spin lazily. I’d never smoked inside our house before.
I pulled one of his t-shirts out of the laundry and put it on along with some clean panties out of the dryer. They had a hole in the hip. I stuck my finger through it and figured the only way out of this mess was to kill myself. I thought how dumb he would feel when he finally stopped being so childish and came home and I was dead. I thought about how I’d tell him in my note that no matter what people told him, it was definitely his fault.
My dog wouldn’t stop whining at his food bowl so I got up and gave him a big scoop of kibble. The weed had made me hungry so I ate some deli turkey and wheat crackers. They were dry and turned to clay in my mouth. I drank some soymilk out of the carton with the fridge door open and went back to the couch with a little cup of chocolate pudding. I peeled the lid off, licking it before setting it on the coffee table. I flipped through the available movies on Netflix and Hulu and ended up watching Dirty Dancing.
Called in again the next morning.
I went back to work after three days off plus the two day weekend. I’d congratulated myself for showering after nearly a week. My eyes were red and puffy and I looked like hell, especially since my sunburn had begun peeling. My coworkers chalked it up to my illness. I laughed it off and woodenly performed my job duties. After work I went to the billiard bar beside my office. I smoked and drank for three hours and spoke to no one and drove home just as the sun was setting.
It was the first time I’d left the house in the five days since he’d said it and I found myself holding my breath as I pulled onto our street, thinking his car would be there. It wasn’t. A squirrel darted in front of me when I was two houses away and I hit it. I pulled into my driveway and looked back at the squirrel, squished. I hoped that he was dead and that it had been quick. I stayed out there in my car a long time, until I could no longer see the squirrel on the road in the darkness.
He’d been gone for two weeks. I’d fallen into a shaky routine but I still wasn’t eating much. My clothes were all loose and my gums were bleeding again. I hadn’t answered any calls from friends or family. I faked my way through work, obsessively checking my cellphone for his call or text, and pretending to work through lunch so I didn’t have to eat. I tried, but everything I chewed gagged me. After work I’d sit at the bar for a couple hours, come home and drink some more from the bottle of tequila I’d bought, and fall asleep on the couch with the TV on.
The mortgage was due, but he’d paid it when I checked the online account. I texted him but got no response. I wondered where he was, who he was with, what bed he was sleeping in. This line of thinking drove me crazy so I drank some more. I threw up on the deck outside and rolled into the grass, reveling in the cool, wet ground. The sprinklers had recently gone off. I got up once I felt an ant bite.
I was getting used to living alone and pretended I'd always been single, making up single lady scenarios in my head. I started calling my dog Kitty.
I’d gotten an email from him, telling me he’d like to keep the house and hoping we could talk about the divorce amicably. I deleted it and got hungry. It was still a hundred degrees at ten o'clock at night. I drove to the grocery store and sat on the hood of my car, eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and watching some skateboarders in the parking lot. One of them was particularly good, jumping and spinning, dreadlocks flying behind him. He laughed as his buddy slapped his hand and I watched them wheel off down the street, losing sight of them after a few street lights.
I left my windows down as I drove home and when I stopped at a light, a guy in a truck smiled down at me. I smiled back and drove off, remembering for the first time that single ladies could have random sex with whomever they liked.
The day the divorce papers came, I threw them in the pool. I went out that night and let myself get picked up by a burly guy at a cowboy bar. His apartment was surprisingly clean and decorated and I was nervous about touching another man. He smelled like fresh tobacco and man soap and when he kissed me his lips were soft and he tasted deliciously like beer.
This time when I came home, I was't hoping his car would be there. I let myself in, gave the dog some kibble and ate a sandwich at the kitchen table. I set the iPod dock to shuffle and it chose “Pale Blue Eyes” by Velvet Underground, my favorite song. I showered and brushed and flossed. I slept the whole night and when I woke up, the heat wave had broken. It was raining, cool and clean.
About the Author: Guinnevere Courvoisier was born to an asexual alien crusader while stranded on Mir. Rollerskates, rare steak, fast cars, and kissing till lips are chapped are among her favorite Earth joys. She writes like she bleeds.
Story Song: "Pale Blue Eyes" by Velvet Underground