There’s nail polish on the carpet.
I didn’t spill it there. I didn’t even bring it out there. In fact, the nail polish hardly even belongs to me anymore.
Don’t get me wrong; I tried to get it out. It is, after all, an apartment. I don’t want to lose the deposit because of a careless swipe of the arm, an accidental tumble of an innocently open bottle on the coffee table. The generic, Aldi-brand “orange cleaner” isn’t working. Perhaps if I soak the carpet in nail polish remover?
There’s a 40 oz. bottle of malt liquor in front of me, and a half-full ashtray holding my lit cigarette. I know he’ll empty it soon, probably as soon as I pick up the cigarette to take a puff.
I look in front of me: a television. There is something bright, colorful, flashy happening on it. A woman’s low, seductive voice, probably telling me to use her preferred brand of paper towel to wipe away my non-existent children’s messes. I don’t pay enough attention to let it register. I lose interest immediately. My gaze travels to my right: him, at his computer. Legs crossed, right over left. The mid-length pants that he convinced me to buy for myself only 3 months ago, the tan-colored gauchos, showing off the tattoos on his calves. He smokes his Camel Light in the elegant way I’d always figured I’d teach myself to do someday, then he stubs out the butt in a way I think only a man would put out a finished cigarette. The butt is crushed, slightly bent at the filter, the lit ashes left over burn the stained, yellow filter, making it harder for me to organize it into neat piles with the rest of the finished cigarettes in the tray after a few accumulate. The cigarette is now part of a filthy, aggressive mess in a frosted glass container.
He points to the computer screen… Look, Wisconsin has some law where you have to pay taxes if you want to illegally sell drugs. Illegally sell illegal drugs… isn’t that hilarious? It is, and I laugh, and I ask questions, and he looks up the answers. How is that possible? Do you incriminate yourself? Isn’t THAT illegal? Does it just make it easier for the cop who couldn’t get you for an eighth of weed to get you on something… like the taxes you SHOULD have paid for the weed?
It doesn’t matter. It’s only filler conversation for what will inevitably come later in the night, after more of this 40 and the two others in the fridge are consumed. After we’re drunk enough to have the conversation. It’s too hard to have the conversation end in tears if there’s no noticeable level of intoxication involved to blame it on.
I pick up my book. The Meaning of Wife, an interesting commentary on what it means to be a married woman, or even a woman in general, in the 21st century. I’ve been reading it sporadically for weeks now. Started on the first chapter, but got bored, so I skipped ahead, read all there was to offer at the end, and went back to the middle that I skipped. It’s a bad habit with social commentaries that I tend to have.
I randomly skip to the chapter about abused wives; I can’t relate. I skim ahead a few pages, get to the part about wives who kill their husbands; still can’t relate. Why did I buy this book?
He’s reached the peak of his interest on the internet. I’ve reached the end of my rapidly decreasing interest in my book. It’s time to start the conversation we got drunk for. It’s quiet. I begin.
“What about kids?” I ask, tentatively, but not so tentatively that I remember to hide my anger and manic mood swings… After all, I was pretty light-hearted about tax laws on illegal drug trafficking in Wisconsin a mere 20 minutes ago.
He asks how important it is to me… I can’t stop tears from welling up. It’s a character flaw, really. I only wish I could control them, let them out only when necessary to manipulate men into showing me sympathy and kindness, like they say all women know how to do from birth. I’m thinking about what it is that both sexes know how to do from birth far more frequently nowadays. I’m starting to think that I have no idea what it is to be a woman, and that it makes me resentful that he wants to be better at it than I am, and criticize the little I think I know, that I’m proud of knowing.
He brings up adoption… I shoot it down. I want to be pregnant. Funny how an idea that was so ingrained in my soul could be so easily shot down when it came to compromising the only way of life I knew. I didn’t even want kids a year ago. I was scared to be pregnant because I didn’t want to get fat.
A sperm donor? No, I shoot it down. I want to be pregnant with YOUR child.
Maybe he could freeze sperm?
No. I want to do it the natural way, the way that we’re both perfectly able to do it now. Why spend money we don’t have, and more than likely won’t have, in order to do something that we could easily do for free, without extra medical procedures for both of us? Why can’t you wait?
I’ve waited, he says, all my life. Now is the time. If I don’t do it soon, now, I will die.
What do I say to that? What could I possibly say that would justify my sudden desperate desire to have YOUR children, RIGHT now, when I don’t really want ANY for quite sometime, and I KNOW this, more than anyone?
Nothing. So I keep quiet. When I find the words to speak again, because you won’t, I tell you that it’s not fair, that I either stay, and lose the man I love, or I leave, and lose the man I love. It’s just not fair.
You say I won’t lose you. You’ll still be the same. But you don’t get it – you WON’T be. You don’t know what it’s like. It’s not fair.
Nevermind how it isn’t fair to you, to hide who you are for so long, to feel afraid to be yourself, to express yourself. And how I don’t know what it’s like. But what about me? Me, me, me. To anyone who knows me, it’s apparently always about me. But I can’t help but think that now is not the time to practice selflessness. What about what you said you wanted for our life, what about the things we talked about together, that we planned, that we were both excited for? Were they lies? Everything you said?
I can’t help but think that they all were… that they all are. Marriage? Kids? Sex? Do I not get to be a bride? A wife? A mother? Yes, I can be. I still get to be. But am I THE bride? THE wife? THE mother? No. Not if I stay. Not if things go the way you say they need to go for you to remain breathing and okay. And I have to be okay with that, I have to be okay with that, in order to continue a life that I thought you promised me from the beginning. I have to be okay with drastically changing my life, my desires, my sexual identity, my entire life, in order to remain with the person that I fell in love with… the person that you, at one point, deliberately portrayed yourself to be.
For the next two days, I cry when you fall asleep at night, I cry in the shower in the morning, I cry in the car on my way to work, I cry in the bathroom at work. For a brief, exhausting, and humiliating moment, I cry at my desk, while my coworkers whisper to themselves, trying to figure out how to help me. I rush to the bathroom, where, in the privacy of my stall at the far end of the restroom, my tears frustratingly stop. I need to go.
I leave work early that day. I shut off my computer, I slam my headset against my cubicle wall, I scream when I get into my car, hoping no one is sitting in a car nearby, chain-smoking the last of their lunch break away. I drive home manically, promising myself that I’ll feel better once I let some aggression out in the workout room in the apartment across the street that I have access to. Instead, I take a bath. I shave my legs, because I’ll be damned if your legs are smoother than mine, ever again. I try to think about how I’ll be okay when you get home, how I’ll hug you, and try to kiss you, but you won’t kiss me back, because you just got home from work and want to unwind for a minute before you perform the obligatory affection that your needy fiancee demands. I’ll pout on the couch until you ask me what’s wrong, I’ll say nothing, and eventually, you’ll bury your head in my lap as we each open another beer, and you’ll tell me about a doctor who specializes in issues like yours that you read about on the internet, or a girl with a really cute outfit you saw at work, that you wish you could buy and look just as cute in. I start to cry, and you ask me why. I can’t say a word. I know that in doing so, I will lose your confidence, I will lose you telling me how you feel, I will lose your openness that I was so proud of receiving. I am afraid.