Every Four Weeks
My wife looks just like a vampire. Her skin is nearly translucent; her hair is, has always been, dyed jet black. I have asked her repeatedly to cut it short, letting her natural color grow slowly back. But she won't do it. And, now that I think about it, it isn't just her physical appearance. She sucks her cuts and relishes the iron-y taste. I wake, hours after I have gone to bed, to the swishes of her long skirts through the bedroom. In the morning she is curled up in bed, catlike, away from windows in the far corner.
I thought her habits would change once we were married. Not change exactly, but grow into adulthood. When we first started dating she had been eager to please me, childlike in her persistence. "I'm young. Of course when we are older, I'll change." I took her looks in, absorbed by each clichéd eccentricity and anxiously awaiting her maturation. Now I am just anxious.
I move my head around while driving home from work, trying to see through layers of filth encrusted on my windshield, stuck there through the storm, encased in the snow. The moment that I find that spot, the one clear moment when the car in front of me keeps its shape, no longer kaleidoscopic, I hit the wipers on. And the damn wipers spread their filth, back and forth, like the quick conversations between cashier and buyers. Will that be all? Yes, thank you. Will that be all? Yes, thank you.
I stop at the drug store right around the corner from our house. The intercom Muzak grates on my nerves, my eyes peeled and peering through aisle after aisle. The orange signs are misleading. Soap, bath care, vitamins, all in the same aisle, but I am stuck in the middle. Which side do they mean? Hair dye, is it hair care? I see the word "hair" and head left. I will find it under this sign. But it's just like the time Mrs. Mahoney called on me in grade school; I'm completely unprepared and unthinking about what happened around me, blurting random answers from last week's lesson. All these boxes are the same shape, with different pretty heads, all the same, with different lengths, widths, and styles of glossy hair in a rainbow of hues. I see brown. I grab it.
Mmm. The model looks right. My decision is solidly made, and I'm ready. The woman behind the register is heavy with weight, makeup, and hair. "Will that be all?"
"Yes, thank you."
The apartment, on the second floor, is uninvitingly dark. For a split second, I see a red glow, but realize a passing car's brake lights have tricked my eyes. My acidic stomach bubbles and churns, afraid of what I might do next. Under the streetlight, I check the parcel again, knowing full well I have bought the wrong color.
There is shuffling of quick feet. She swishes and rustles, jingling with rediscovered charms. Andrea meets me in the hallway halfway to the bedroom, trapping me between the walls.
She looks at me: smug and unemotional. The dim light is overshadowed by the unanticipated glow of my face. I hold out my offering. She looks at it through slits, looking back up at me, eyes silent—there is no avenue to her emotions.
My heart jerks under her stoic stare, remembering every mistake I have ever made.
Copyright © 2003 Cheryl Chambers