It was hot and the one air conditioner we had was broken, so I perched an old, furry-bladed fan in the window and let it push the muck around. I didn't mind the heat so much, because in a strange way it made me concentrate, but my husband was miserable.
We were lying down on the mattress, which had become a bit sloppy, because my husband was lying there with a bunch of wet towels around him. We'd just gotten back from my firm's summer staff party. I work as a receptionist for a mid-town law firm, and the party was held at The Tavern on the Green. It was a beautiful place, Japanese lanterns hanging in the ginkgo trees, a long esplanade of glittering mirrors. It was the first time I'd ever been there, but I liked it, even though they only served us franks and beans. I got a kick out of that: eating franks and beans at Tavern on the Green.
"Frank," I said, after a bit. "That was fun tonight, huh?"
"A blast," he said in a sarcastic tone.
I shook him.
"Jesus," he said. "What's the matter with you?" I could smell his Polo Sport cologne that I'd bought him mixed with the tangy smell from his gnarled feet. I didn't mind that smell.
"I want to know if you had a good time. 'Cuz I did."
"Christ, Mary. I gotta work tomorrow. And it's too damn hot to talk. Go to sleep."
"I can't sleep," I said. "Not when it's this hot."
"Try," he grunted.
"It makes me think," I said.
"That's a dangerous concept."
"You ever see yourself with anybody else, Frank?" I asked him suddenly. "Frank?"
"You ever see yourself with anybody else?"
"What do you mean?"
"Married. To somebody else?"
"Nah," he said. "Wouldn't want to go through it all again."
He sighed. "Why not what? You pick the strangest times to open up, Mar, you know that? I gotta be up at six."
"I'm sorry. I'll be quiet."
So I tried to be quiet, but as I lay there, my skin all syrupy, the fan doing nothing but making a thick, hissing sound, I began to wonder why we were a couple at all. I hardly saw him, he worked so much. He was a construction worker and came home at night so tired he merely slouched in front of the television all night until he fell asleep. I used to prod him awake to come back to bed, but he yelled at me once, so he often just slept out there on the couch. In fact, the entire living room had become his own bedroom, with his boots, sprawled socks, his construction helmet, his harness, his clothes all strewn about. Sometimes it felt like I had a roommate, not a husband.
"Frank?" I couldn't help myself. Maybe I was doing it to annoy him, but I felt like I had to grab him before he slipped away into sleep, as though I'd lose him forever. "I think we need a vacation," I told him. The heat did it to me, made me think think think.
"Umhm," he murmured.
"A real vacation. Just you and me."
I poked him in the side. That did it.
"Oh, Jesus H. Christ, Mary! I was asleep. What is your problem tonight? I gotta drywall an entire basement tomorrow and you feel like jaw-flapping my ears off."
"We need a vacation," I said, firmly.
"We're going on a vacation—"
"I just said not with your brothers. Somewhere nice. Romantic."
"We can't afford nice and romantic."
"I think we can—"
"Look, do you want to ever get out of this dump? The only way we can is for us to pinch every penny we got coming in. If I have to spend another year here I swear 'm gonna put a gun in my mouth."
"You can find cheap deals on the Internet all the time."
"The Internet." He said it like he thought it was a giant scam operation.
I let him try to simmer down a bit before I spoke again.
"I think a vacation would do us good. Let us get outta here, clear our heads, and just be with each other. I never see you." I nuzzled my head into his neck.
"Don't do that. It's too hot."
Silence, only the fan, struggling through the sticky gloom.
"Regina from the office got a really cheap deal to Hawaii."
"Hawaii? I'm dying in this heat and you want me to actually think about Hawaii right now?"
"It's beautiful," I said.
"Isn't Regina that rich bitch with the lawyer husband?"
Anybody who made more money than Frank did was either a bitch or a bastard. Anybody who made less money than Frank did was a loser.
"She's not a bitch," I told him. "She happens to be very nice."
"Besides, Hawaii's a frickin' place for honeymoons, not vacations."
"Fine, a honeymoon then," I said, "considering we didn't have one."
"We had one."
"Niagara falls? That's not a honeymoon. That's a car ride."
"Oh, please stop the belly aching and go to sleep. How can you be so full of energy in this heat?"
"I told you," I said softly, "it makes me think."
"Well don't think. Sleep. And let me sleep. Okay? Can you do that for me please?"
I was quiet for a while.
Down the street came a sanitation truck, gasping, snorting, its brakes squealing every time it stopped. It was pretty loud, and it always woke me up, especially in the summertime.
Then silence again.
"Hey, Frank? Are you in love with me?"
Nothing. Only the searing rasp of a snore.
So I'd lost him after all.
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