As If It Matters Either Way


I

She snatches the postcard from her husband's hand.  "Mousehole?" she asks.  The handwriting on the back is smooth and florid; she doesn't recognize the woman's name.  "It's pronounced Mow-zle," he says in his Assistant Professor of History voice.  "It's a fishing village in Cornwall.  An important port from as early as 1266, according to some records."  Falling from her fingertips, the postcard lands on the floor between their feet.  "I like 'Mouse-hole' better," she says, turning away from his scowl.


II

In spite of his nagging, he comes home to find the heat turned up so high the windows sweat like onions in a pan.  She will be on her yoga mat, ankles clasped behind her head, and when she hears him enter, she will open her eyes and smile, waggling her foot as if it is a hand.


III

He thrusts the utilities bill under her nose.  "Look how much we spent this month," he says, forcing himself to say we instead of you.


IV

She remembers how they met rollerblading on the lakefront, how she pretended not to know how to go backwards so she could ask for his help, how he talked and talked?about the books he loved that he thought she'd love too, about the importance of finishing at least an undergraduate degree, about how teaching yoga was great but not something one could do forever.  She remembers she found him passionate, intelligent, and not the least bit condescending.


V

The postcard was unexpected; he hasn't heard from Lise in years, since she disappeared to Cornwall with a man twice her age.  He wonders what she looks like now, and if she's cut that waist-length hair, so blonde in the summer it was almost white.


VI

She isn't caught completely off guard when one of her students, a man in the back row, waits for everyone to file out before asking her out to dinner.  Earlier as she draped her torso over his back, coaxing his upper and lower halves to meet in a seated forward bend, she felt his body respond to hers: his muscles lengthening and softening beneath her weight, their inhales and exhales coming into sync.  She declines, and later as she slams cupboard doors and drawers in the kitchen, her husband asks why the bad mood. 


VII

"I want to come," she says.

"It's a conference, not a vacation."

"I've always wanted to go to Cornwall."

"You'd never even heard of Mousehole until last week."

"Is she prettier than me?" she asks, as if it matters either way.  

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