you're too young & eager to love
16 August 2016 @ 09:39 pm
 
Henderson is a warm face in a sea of strangers. (The talk had gone well, but they usually do.) You handled yourself with your typical poise and grace. It’s the same poise you possess when he introduces you to Jasper.

You shake hands.

He’s polite and gracious, thankful for the opportunity. You’re flattered that the occasional college student can still fluster himself over your name.

You do not remember thinking much about him afterwards. You recall liking his hair, its length and feminism, and the sharpness of his cheekbones. You could cut yourself on them. But his face quickly loses its distinctiveness in the blur of your memory as the days go on. You fall back into your wifely routines: laundry, cooking, dinner, chaste sex between clean sheets with your husband.

You’ve almost forgotten him by the time Henderson says his name over a lunch that consists mostly of white wine.

“Who?” You ask, rubbing a smudge of lipstick from the rim of your glass with your thumb.

“Jasper, the art student. I introduced you. I think you’ve inspired him. He’s made three new pieces since your lecture.” Henderson sounds amused and a little affectionate. It’s the sound proud fathers have when discussing their talented sons. “I think you could be good for him, Margot. He’s been in a bit of a creative slump this past semester. He’s worried about all his work being derivative or some such dribble.”

“Well, we are our own worst critics.”

“You would know, my dear.” He smiles and clinks his wine glass with yours.

You roll your eyes, laughing a little, accepting his passive criticism. Henderson has been one of your primary supporters since your early days. He had dutifully proofread your manuscripts and listened to your midnight phone calls about character concepts and plot twists. You feel like you’ve disappointed him now that your success has lost its luster and your life as a novelist has waned. He’s too kind to say as much, so instead he offers you a prodigal pupil.

You point out your hesitation. “I don’t think muses should feel this cheap. Or like such a fraud.”

“Oh, come now. He’s just a kid, Margot. You can’t disappoint him. He already thinks you walk on water. You should hear him analyze Albtraum from a Freudian perspective for Pete’s sake. Have coffee. Take him to lunch. Let him talk your ear off, although Jasper may be just as happy if you do all the talking. He’s a serious kid. Passionate, but a little too intense at times for his own good.”

You shrug, still uncertain. Do you have time for this, you wonder? The drive to the campus is a hassle now that you’re in the suburbs, and you’re a creature of habit. You’ve found routine in your day-to-day happenings, if not a certain measure of boredom.

“Who knows,” Henderson says, “he could be good for you too.”

You think about those prophetic words when you’re awake in Jasper’s bed and two months have gone by since your luncheon. You sit with your back against his cold, iron headboard. Jasper rolls a joint casually, his sweatpants hanging from his sharp hips, his hair in his face and an indulgent smile on his mouth. There’s a red mark on his shoulder from where you scratched him too deeply, and you can feel a bruise blossoming on the inside of your hip from where the bed frame’s blunt edge dug into you as you bent over the side of the mattress.

Good for me, you think, and the thought makes you want to cry as much as it makes you want to laugh.





It bothers you because it’s true. You hate to admit it. He is good for you, even if being with him rips another hole into the fabric of your marriage. But if you’re being honest with yourself then you know that your marriage has been situated on a cracked foundation from the start.

You used to think you were an honest person. Now you’re not so sure. You’re sometimes paralyzed by the things you have found yourself capable of.

You think about him on the days you cannot see him. You fold laundry in a daze. You wash dishes by hand after dinner, up to your elbows in bubbles and murky water, too scared to dry the glasses and plates in case Kenneth sees how badly your fingers shake. You feel dope sick with longing, all of your cravings as petty and paradoxically substantial as any addict’s. Your stomach is in knots and your mind turns manic, replaying the same thoughts, the same images.

You mourn for your marriage, but you mourn your time away from Jasper with the same intensity.

You stop recognizing yourself in the mirror.

You try to stop thinking about your life in terms of black and white. You try to live in the grey.

You try.





As it turns out, the grey is an old apartment off campus.

It’s sticky and humid inside. The air conditioner is broken. It’s the middle of summer, but you don’t care. Kenneth took an unprecedented vacation from work, so you spent three weeks with a husband who barely looked at your face and didn’t even bother to throw his dirty shirts in the right laundry bin. Sunday evening, you took a bath so hot that it scalded your too-thin skin. You shaved your legs and bikini line. You washed your hair with jasmine shampoo and tried not to feel guilty. After Kenneth left for the precinct Monday morning, you all but ran to Jasper’s doorstep.

Your hands shook the entire way, clutching the steering wheel till your knuckles were white. You feel pathetic, and your need disgusts you.

But you kiss him when he opens the door anyway, hardly making it through the threshold. You’ve forgotten about the possibilities of his roommate or if the blinds are open or any shred of decorum you once possessed. Your kiss is mostly teeth; he’s much taller than you, so he has to bend to meet your mouth, but his arms are sure and steady. They find their way around your waist before dropping to the backs of your thighs.

He sweeps you up and off your feet. Like you’re one of those damsels in those romance novels you hate. It’s a cliché. You’re turning into one, you know, but it doesn’t seem to matter once he’s sat you on top of the makeshift dinner table and knocked your legs open with his knees. He reaches behind him and pulls his shirt off from the collar, throwing it to the side with a lascivious grin. Jasper looks older than his years when he’s like this – excited by the prospect of having you.

You think he plans on pushing up your skirt and shoving down his pants, that he’ll keep your ass perched on the edge of the table and fuck you until your knees are sore from bending and you’ve clawed ownership marks into his back.

He surprises you instead.

You suddenly understand why your husband conducts his affairs with girls in their twenties.

They’re refreshing in their unpredictability.





He is holding you down and spreading you wide. One of his long, lean arms is thrown over your lower stomach. He doesn’t seem strong enough to pin you, and maybe he isn’t, maybe you’re letting him. Like how you’re letting him use his mouth on you, between your thighs, his tongue and lips blurring into one. You can hear a ragged, pained breathing, and you’re surprised to realize that it’s your own.

It sounds like he’s hurting you.

He isn’t. He knows it.

He uses his free hand and suddenly there’s two fingers inside of you, sliding and stretching, making you shiver.

You make an “oh” noise that is sharp, glass-like, and you hear his laughter on your wet skin. It’s the sound of someone who is young and proud. You feel his smugness in the way he breathes against your navel when your hips rise on their own accord, and he adds more weight to the arm thrown across you. Pins you more securely.

You want to get away. You scratch at the backs of his shoulders with your blunt nails. You’re close to sobbing. You want to stay.

Jasper doesn’t know that Kenneth never does this for you. It’s selfishness on your husband’s part, but it’s also because you always thought this act, more so than any others, was the most intimate. Even as a teenager, your adolescent boyfriends were barred from exploring southward with their mouths. It’s too messy and too personal. You’ve always been bashful about the idea of spreading your thighs wide and watching someone lick their way down to your cunt. (It’s a strange thing too – thinking of your own anatomy in such crude terms. You’re an author – you’ve written the words in your own stories – but you have trouble speaking them or conceptualizing them in terms related to your own body). Vulgarly open, you can smell yourself too, your arousal that is heavy and somehow foreign to you ever since you turned forty, and your sweat. It’s sharp and florid. There’s that small, embarrassed part of you that still finds reason to blush from the obviousness of your own excitement (unladylike, your mother would have said).

But then you curse under your breath because his tongue is rolling over your clit. Your legs are shaking. Your hair has curled with sweat against your jaw, sticking to your neck.

He replaces his tongue with the pads of his fingers. He has a delicate touch. You picture him with paintbrushes and metal tools, his dark hair pulled loosely back at the nape of his neck, his gaze serious and focused. You feel like artwork at the moment, like he’s molding and burning you into the proper form.

He murmurs something against your skin. It’s wet noise. His breath is hot on your thighs. You reach down and curl your hands into his hair, suddenly appreciative of its length. You want something to ground you with, some small action that will keep you here, keep you from shattering.

Please, you whine. It’s been awhile since you’ve sounded like that – exasperated with need – gasping with sweat on your collarbones and one of your hands thrown up over your head, arm bent backwards, fingers curled to grip the back edge of the table. Please, fuck, Jasper…

You feel him hesitate, the sudden slowness of his ministrations filling you with an ache that must be impossible to fill. He says something again. His hair tickles across your legs, and you curl one of them around his back, trying to drag him closer.

You have to open your eyes. You half sit, rolling your shoulders and chest up so you can better see him. “What?” You sound more annoyed than you mean to. Then you think you’ve forgotten something – the time, perhaps, and how you need to leave his apartment before the highway traffic thickens. You have a dinner to make and a table to prepare. Or maybe your phone has gone off, and you’ve missed ten calls from your husband.

“Say it again.” Jasper speaks softly, as though these bedroom activities require bedroom voices, despite the curve of a smile twisting the corner of his mouth.

His lips are swollen. They’re wet and shining. Because of you. With you. Your cheeks flush red.

You feel a bit like a child, self-conscious, and you lower yourself back onto the flat surface of the table and turn your head. Your hair helps, shifting soft curls that hide the side of your face. You laugh, hummingbird soft, and the hand in his hair relaxes. Releases. He catches your wrist lightly with his teeth in passing when you raise it to your own face, feeling the heat of your skin, covering your eyes.

“Come on. I like how you sound,” He coaxes. His fingers are tracing the insides of your calves now, and he turns his mouth and kisses the back of your left knee.

“Aren’t you supposed to be the devoted fan? Humble in your servitude and all that?”

“I am,” He says it seriously enough. There’s a glint to his heavy gaze that looks predatory, however, and not at all what you would describe as humble. He looks amused and patient, as though he could play this game all day, skirting his nails across your thighs, whispering his mouth against your cunt, all hot breath and no useful pressure.

He wants you to want him. He wants you to need him. His ego is flattered by this, you know, and he won’t do the one thing that would make you acquiesce. He could dip his head and continue, slow as molasses, and you would come, so close already that you briefly want to relinquish all your modesty and reach a hand down to get yourself off. But he needs you to vocalize your desire, to beg for it, so that this – the two of you, what he does with you and for you – is not a favor. Not a spur of the moment fuck or an indulgent weakness quick to be forgotten.

Your wedding ring is suddenly hot on your finger. The diamonds are sharp, pressing into your skin when you curl your fingers into your palm.

When you say it, you say it in a breath you’ve been holding.

Pleaasseeee.

His smile should be self-satisfied, but it’s loving instead. He lifts your leg and kisses his way up the inside of your calf, to your thigh, to where you want him most.

You come like that, his dark head buried between your legs, your back arched and your skirt pushed up to your hips.





It’s four o’clock, and you should have left by now.

You’ve moved to the threadbare couch, still lazy with orgasm, your heart beating slower and louder. Jasper kisses the side of your head when you finally untangle yourself to leave. You push your underwear into your purse and find your heels by the door.

Your knuckles are white on the drive back to your home, your fingers still clenched.

You have a dinner to make and a table to set.

You push through the grey and come out on the other side, back into the white and black.
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you're too young & eager to love
28 March 2015 @ 07:31 pm
 
Here we go! Setting things up. Making moves. Ect. Ect.


---

1.

Margot comes to Jasper’s home twice in a week, once invited and the other unexpected.

The first is after her lecture at his college, after the realization of her husband’s affair had settled in her stomach as a hard stone, after she lied to her friend Henderson and inquired about an artist with a curious last name. She comes to his door, a bottle of wine as a gift clutched in her fine hands, soft, bruised paper-thin skin under her bright eyes, secret agendas on her breath. If Jasper recognizes the look he doesn’t have the foresight (how could he?) to apply it to himself.

“Mrs. Davis, come in … please.” He holds the screen door open and when he leans his body against the open door to let her pass the hinges whine in protest.

Her body brushes against his as she passes, entering into the apartment, heat already an exchangeable property between them. She moves slowly, but with purpose, and she waits the appropriate amount of time before asking to take a seat.

There’s a three-foot glass bong poorly hidden in a corner. It’s one of those contemporary creations, brightly painted with swirls of blue and green designs. She points to it halfheartedly and tells him that she could never figure out how to use bongs - when to light, when to breathe, where to place her hands. Jasper looks at her suddenly, caught between surprise and embarrassment, but he grins, mouth curving slowly, when she asks if he can roll a joint.

The second time she comes to him his eyes are thick with sleep, the hour dark and fit for wrongness. It is not like a dream, a cinematic moment caught in slow motion. It is like the rainstorm that woke him, the kind that leaves you fearful and doubting yourself through the stretch of the day.

The second time she visits, uninvited, unexpected, he takes her wrist in hand. That second time he takes a lot of things from her. He takes everything she offers.


2.


Kenneth always answers the phone the same way.

He will say, “This is Davis,” his voice pitched dark and low, suspicious.

“It’s Margot,” she will say, and then offer him a question. About dinner (always dinner), about what time to expect him, about some insignificant home repair that will go unfixed.

After a time Margot realizes that she needs to invent reasons to phone him. She does not call simply to talk. She has nothing to share.

Sometimes, she invites Henderson to dinner, although he can rarely find the time to drive out to the suburbs, to take a night away from grading. She’s made friends with a young doctor in the neighborhood, a strawberry-blonde with a doll’s face. Regina is in the middle of her first year of residency. She’s either stressed or starving or some combination of both, so Margot invites her to dinner too. She does this often, neighborly and charitable, offering her a seat at their table. But Margot can count on one hand the number of times Regina eats at that table with her and her husband and her food. Kenneth is close to always absent, so the two open wine and push rice pilaf around their plates with silver forks. More often than not, they let the dinner sit on the table, picked at, and the two move to the patio. Margot bums cigarettes from Regina, both of them guilty over the habit, but bonded by it.

It is one of these nights that Margot shares her secret. It spills from her mouth in a breath of smoke. She curls her fingers around her necklace, suddenly self-conscious, and waits.

Regina blinks her blue eyes and chokes on a laugh. It isn’t meant unkindly. “What are you going to do?”

“What would you do?”

“Was it a one-time thing? Or is he having an affair? Has he done this before?”

Margot isn’t sure how to answer this, so she lets the silence speak for her.

Regina whistles, soft and low. She lights another cigarette with the burning butt of her first one and tucks a piece of hair behind her ear. “Well … hm. I guess you have two options, Magpie. Forgiveness or revenge, right?”

“I don’t think I know much about the nature of revenge.”

“Hey, I’ve read your book. That’s a boldfaced lie. Aren’t you writer types supposed to be creative? Use your imagination.”

Margot catches their paired reflection in the darkened window behind them. She laughs, hummingbird soft, and sips her wine.


3.


She wears: simple cotton underwear in off-shades of white. T-shirt bras that are nude and soft, the fabric seamless and hidden beneath her downy sweaters and cashmere cardigans. She wears subdued shades, conservative skirts that leave her legs pale and bare beneath. Margot wears her hair loose, lightly curled, and sometimes Kenneth used to call her beautiful.


4.


She loves to cook. She hates to cook. There’s a terrible loneliness she has come to associate with her kitchen. The phone tucked under her chin as she drops peeled potatoes into a pot. After they boil she will mash them. She does not report this plan to her mother or Regina or whoever else is on the other side of the telephone tucked beneath her chin. She says instead, “The landscapers have finished planting the front hedges. Finally. We added violets to the flowerbed by the mailbox. Oh, and it looks like the downstairs bathroom needs to get remodeled. Something about the pipes. It’s getting a little old not having the house to myself much.” She’ll say it without knowing if she believes herself.

Maybe the house deserves and demands her loneliness. Maybe it is her penance for making poor decisions, for trusting blindly, for losing a child and never having another.

She lets her mother or Regina or whoever chatter on in a feminine voice, but she doesn’t think the conversation merits much more than an occasional huff of a response. She’s only partially listening. She keeps mashing potatoes. Like a collector of unwanted and discarded things an old quote will float back to her:

If I can’t dance then I’d rather be dead.


5.


“This is delicious,” Kenneth says, a forkful of meatloaf at his mouth, eyes never breaking from the Sunday football game. “You made this?”

“Sure,” Margot lies. Kenneth nods in approval and she finds she hopes he secretly does not believe her. That he knows she bought it ready-made at the store, her effort with this dinner as half-hearted as her lie.

Neither speaks after she replies. Their silences have come to say more than actual words could. Not for the first time, Margot thinks if they had succeeded in having children then maybe the sound of their sons filling the table with their bright chatter would be a buffer for these silences.

But maybe not.

Her husband is still handsome despite his deception. It’s a cruel fact. He looks better now that his hair is short and he keeps his beard trimmed, stylish. Manly but not rigid. He is tall and lean, his arms muscular, his abdomen still creased with the lines of muscles. He works hard to look younger than his age, but she supposes she does too. Margot runs daily. She spends an hour before each breakfast in their at-home gym, her limbs burning from pilates, sweat dampening her shirts. The difference, she now knows, is that she was never crafting her body into a weapon. She was not shaping her thighs and stomach for the sight or touch of another.

They married too young. Margot initially kept expecting to hear this about her and Kenneth, from Regina, from Henderson, from her mother. But those words never came, not from anybody but herself. She kindled that expectation within her, craving the validation. Because they had been too young. She had been all skinny long legs and boyish hips, summer freckles over the bridge of her nose, long messy unkempt hair, her boldness attractive and encouraging. She had been young.
And so had he.

Kenneth and his impotent masculinity. She doesn’t mean sexually, but she’s grown since nineteen and what she has grown to learn, and perhaps even mourn, is that there is a vital piece missing from her husband. Self-awareness, a vital piece it takes to be a man. Kenneth does not keep secrets from himself. How can he, when he doesn’t even know they’re there?

He had been the first man she ever loved, and without meaning to, she had made the intuitive leap that meant he’d be the only man she’d ever love.

Kenneth cleans his plate. With a triumphant grin shaped like a challenge he reaches for seconds.


6.


From the chair beside her, Jasper stares at her. He is minutes away from grabbing her wrist, but the tension crackles between them, mounting. Margot sips the beer he had given her. It’s too bitter. Her hands are shaking. Her hair is wet from the rain and sticking to her cheeks, her neck. She feels cold and hot at the same time.

Jasper pushes his hands through his dark hair, and she gets the impression that he does it to get a clearer view of her. But she can see his face better now too. She’s struck by how young he is, and how his face doesn’t hide his youth. He doesn’t look like Kenneth. He doesn’t have his fairness. Jasper’s mouth is a little too feminine. He has a broad jaw but well-defined cheekbones. His nose is similar though and the cut of his brows. But Kenneth never stared so intently, so deeply focused. If he had, it had never been at her or she simply can’t remember.

“What?” She asks, pushing hair off her face. She fights the urge to look away, to shield herself from such scrutiny.

He shakes his head, a tiny measured movement, a faint smile almost trying at his parted lips. “You look just the way I imagine you look.” He says it like a riddle; he doesn’t talk like other boys his age, she’s learning.

But immediately Margot can tell he regrets what he said. She smiles in confusion (and flattery, something terrible, something else), a laugh building. “So … I only exist because you will it?” It’s meant as a tease, but a note of incredulity bleeds through her tone.

The light in him shutters out for a beat, and she knows that wasn’t what he meant at all.

She likes that.

“No,” he says softly, patient. His fingers are wet and they tense against his knee. “When I think of you,” he says, and if he leaned further in their knees would touch, if he said it any softer it’d sound less like a truth and more like an emotion, “I picture you. Like this.”

She likes that too.


7.


When she stands to leave, apologetic about the absurdity of her visit, about the hour, about a secret she hasn’t told him, he grabs her by the wrist. His fingers are tight at first, his grip without mercy. It’s unexpected, but when she looks him in the eye, thinking to find his gaze somewhere else, unfixed, miles and years away from her, she sees that he is there. He is with her. He looks at her wrist before he looks to her face. His fingers loosen, play over the pop of bone, paper-thin skin at the base of her palm, the blue network of veins converging there, beneath. Margot holds her breath.

But it’s her that kisses him, tentative, kind, her lips brushing over his. Jasper takes her face between his hands and deepens it, his mouth inquisitive and demanding. He leaves a smaller, tinier kiss on her bottom lip when he pulls away, suddenly strict and bashful at once.

“You’re married,” he tells her, like she may have forgotten.

The flush of goodness in him makes her smile. It should make her feel guilty, but it doesn’t. Not yet. She pushes her hand through his hair, feels the way he leans into the touch, reluctance dissolving by the time she slips from her chair and into his lap. She crawls above him, the weight of her a solid thing, emanating heat, and catches his mouth again.

His hand slips beneath her shirt, palm heavy on her bare stomach, more intimate than it should be, pressed against the shelf of her ribcage. Holding her together and cataloging her at the same time.


8.


In the future Margot will not remember most of the context for all the fights she ever had with Kenneth. She will remember bits and pieces, which, when cobbled together, could illustrate a larger picture. A larger fight.

She will remember Kenneth saying, “Wanting a person to ... to touch you sure isn’t the same thing as love.”

Margot with her hands clasped in her lap. Margot sitting on the edge of the bed. Margot regretting the concept of forgiveness. She will remember all of that. That Kenneth had been drunk, he had been late, she had been awake, she had yet to hear the name Jasper.

“Sometimes it can feel like it is,” she had said.

Margot will remember less than she forgets.

In the near future, she will wonder how many people they have shared their marriage with.
When she comes home to an empty house from visiting a college apartment, she will realize: they, as a marriage, will always number at least three - Kenneth and Margot and whoever threatens, tempts, successfully comes between them.
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you're too young & eager to love
22 March 2015 @ 08:53 pm
 
Trying to get into Margot's writing mindset. Or her lack of it, as it may be now.

I was going to wrap this up with a more concrete ending, but I ran out of steam.

--


Kenneth is straightening his tie. He’s using the mirror she hung by the front door. Originally, she thought she would need it for last-minute lipstick touch-ups, but Kenneth uses it more often than she does.

He speaks around his sunglasses that are dangling from his mouth, so he sounds like he’s mumbling. “Are you going to try writing today?”

She graces him with a smile that is all teeth. Her hands are soft when she comes up to him from behind and touches him, smoothing out the back of his shirt. “Like I do every day. I have some time after I run to the store. We’re out of milk.”

He makes a noncommittal noise, a huff from the back of his throat, and kisses the top of her nose before leaving.

She hates when he does that. It makes her feel like a child.



Her office has become a place for bills. A place for filing and records. For the shredding of private documents and failed drafts. It used to be a nest, a creative birthing unit. She once kept immaculate notes pinned to the entire back wall. She had stacked books by her desk for reference, color coting their pages with post-its. Kenneth had never ventured beyond the threshold. He didn’t even knock if the door was closed.

These days, the door is always open. Her computer sits, waiting, blank except for the Safari browser left open. A page of so-called easy recipes for busy weeknight dinners.

With a glass of sweet tea in hand, Margot thinks she might start reclaiming the space. That today is the day where she will finally renew her abilities. Through the shifting of furniture and the decluttering of files, she will see what she once had obtained. The pieces will fall together. Her Word Document will be more than half-hearted notes and unfinished sentences.

She will do this after she gets milk and before she vacuums. She is convinced.



Sometimes, if she’s feeling particularly masochistic, she watches her old interviews. There aren’t many, only a handful, but there’s enough to remind her of how she once was – the potential she had. Her favorite is the second one when she was asked to discuss character creation for a literary magazine of mild repute. The interviewer had been a recent graduate, and he kept pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose while they talked. His shorthand was illegible, but he’d had enough insight to record the interview for reference. He sent her a copy afterwards as a memento. It was a nice personal touch; Margot doesn’t think most interviewers would do that now.

Her youth surprises her every time. She forgets how long her hair was or how easily she used to laugh. Her nervousness is noticeable but so is her excitement. Clearly riding the high that is success, her younger self has a habit of smiling while she speaks, of gesturing wildly with her hands. They flutter around her lap like butterflies, punctuating her sentences.

The interviewer asks about Harrow, one of the characters she is most proud of for his ability to be both villainous and occasionally sympathetic.

On screen the younger Margot answers, speaking softly, intimately, but at length. Her excitement makes her breathy. “We’re talking about a rapist, essentially, and a narcissist. But the thing with Harrow is that the act of sex is something he doesn’t particularly like. Something about it feels unnatural to him. Uncomfortable psychologically, like he’s putting on an act. I always imagine Harrow as the man who sees sex as dominance, which is a popular conception in today’s young men, but not an act to appreciate for any other reasons. Sex is a base urge and Harrow wants to be above his baser impulses. Harrow might force Ita, during their early days, into a brutal sexual encounter and then disappear by himself afterward, trying to breathe through that uncomfortable feeling. It’s not guilt. It’s ego. He might intellectualize the sex in the abstract but in the context of his own life, he understands it’s a performance that is expected of him. If you remember, one of his first initiations for Roman is to witness Roman having sex with one of the companions. As an extension of himself, he needs Roman to perform too. Without the threat of a romantic connection.”

“This a complicated stance on what should be an intimate act. What did you do to consider his mindset? Do you make comparisons with your own life, your own marriage?”

The camera is focused on Margot; she can hear the interviewer but she can’t see him in the recording. On screen she laughs – it’s a bold insinuation to make, and Margot remembers feeling surprised by the suggestion, amused even. As a rule, she always kept her interviews on topic, on the work, on the art. She used to dodge questions about her personal life, for Kenneth’s sake, and maybe her own.

She hears herself answer diplomatically. “Most authors pull from inspiration they are familiar with. We know this. Write what you know, right? Lesson number one. I may be inspired by my own life at times, but this is ultimately a work about societal anxieties at large. The characters are representations of a deeper psychosis.”

She stops the interview.

She isn’t sure if she feels the same now.
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you're too young & eager to love
22 March 2015 @ 12:38 pm
 
New piece! With new characters!

Sometimes, after taking a hiatus from writing, I manage to come back and even impress myself. I applaud my muse of a Muffinpants for this.

Some reference pictures:

Young Margot - http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_ATokN4zR8dg/TFHH_maOWFI/AAAAAAAAAF8/K_rZHsmkr0g/s1600/marion-cottillard.jpg

Current Margot - https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/5b/4d/ac/5b4dac2cdc01c4933efb6df0b492280f.jpg



The stupid house you made
fell away like paper lace.
Paper burns and paper fades and
paper crumbles into ugly shapes.
- Sunset Rubdown



1.

Margot finds the text messages on his phone when Kenneth is showering. The photos that leave an imprint on her brain, a visual scar every time she closes her eyes.

She spends what feels like a long time sitting on her (their) bed, the phone in her thin hands, swiping down the conversation screen. She stopped reading halfway through, but she feels compelled to continue looking. She isn’t sure what bothers her most: the adultery or the particular form it has taken.

Her husband is sleeping with a woman half his age. Half her age. He has the pictures to prove it. She has dark hair that falls around a small face and eyes that are bright, large, framed in thick lashes. She looks like she could be a barista or a bookstore clerk or a college student. She looks much like Margot had when she’d first met Kenneth.

It hurts. The agony in her belly is mounting, moving up into her chest. A spreading sickness that is caustic.

Her thoughts are muddled, and these first few moments of realization overwhelm her with layers of anger and shock, all painted in shades of pain.


Her husband doesn’t care about hiding his affair.
Or worse – her husband thinks she is so ignorant, so trusting, that he doesn’t need to bother deleting his text messages. He can even save sordid photos on his phone, because why would she look?
Her husband is fucking a girl.
Her husband is fucking a girl outside of his marriage.
Her husband is fucking a girl outside of his marriage and maybe not for the first time.
Her husband is fucking a girl, a child, and this home wrecking, inconsiderate little slut might be prettier than Margot is.
Or was.
Her husband is showering, and he’ll be done soon.


She leaves the phone on the bed.

She goes downstairs and makes coffee for them both.


2.

Kenneth leaves for work, his shirt devoid of wrinkles, his eyes hidden behind sunglasses, his smile disingenuous now that Margot has seen the insides of his life without her. She gets the horrible thought that maybe she has become his void; maybe this house, their marriage, their life is not what shelters him but the thing that he must escape from.

Her hands are shaking, but she pours herself another cup of coffee. She sits at her kitchen table. She can hear the birds outside, the automatic sprinklers watering the lawn, the bark of a neighbor’s rat-sized dog. Margot hates dogs. She hates this neighborhood too, their 300 thousand dollar house a mark of financial esteem but a sign, instead, of a suburban alcove that never fully accepted Margot. She hates the housewives that, like her, are filling their days with errands, with wine, with gardening. She hates how she has, more than once, broken a glass so that she might have something to pick up. She hates her need to occupy the hours until Kenneth returns and how that need has become more and more desperate throughout the years.

She used to spend her days writing, preparing for lectures, annotating next month’s memoir for a unit on creative non-fiction. She used to be what Kenneth called “intellectually active.”

She used to.

She used to have long hair. She used to drink tequila and smoke too many cigarettes. She used to wear jeans that were ripped at the knees and threadbare tank tops that never hid the pink shadow of her nipples. She was, once, a twenty-five year old who had already achieved an MFA in creative writing, whose novel was being published, who was preparing for interviews.

Had Kenneth been cheating on her then? When he had devoted his time and money to supporting her graduate degree, her novel? When he went to every interview? When he bought her a diamond ring and knelt on the street and promised that he would always love her?

Margot doesn’t know, and the silence of her unanswered questions expands into the house.

There’s penance in listening, she thinks.


3.


Margot with her hands in dirty dishwater. Margot with her hands submerged, the water still too hot despite the grease, the scraps of dinner bloated and dissolving at the bottom of the basin. Her skin is too thin so it burns.

In the winter months her fingers crack and bleed but there is no cold to blame now. It’s spring and the heat is already blossoming. It’s thick and damp, keeping close company like an uninvited guest. She’s been having trouble with the lawn because of it. The hedge-clippers snapped earlier, and her shoulders are red from being bared to the sun too long.

She cleans the kitchen until it shines, until it’s pristine. When she can see her reflection in the stove, she drops to hands and knees and starts scrubbing the floor. The work barely serves as a distraction for her. If anything, it offers more time for her to dwell. In the laundry room Kenneth’s dirty shirts stink of stale smoke and spilled beer, dried sweat like an offering to her, putrid and male, evidence of a life she only partially shares in.

She does the ironing next.

Margot burns the inside of her arm when she reaches for a shirt. She hisses under her breath. In the same room, Kenneth watches the Vikings play Green Bay, but he talks about the Saints.


4.


She waits three weeks before she confronts him.

By that time, the house is spotless.


5.


“I know you’re upset,” Kenneth says. “I know that I have ... I’ve made you angry. But you, you are my wife, and I – ”

Margot slams the bedroom door. She doesn’t walk through it; she doesn’t close it behind her. She simply wants to stop him from speaking, and it works. The noise cuts him off mid-sentence, just as his indignation crests and begins to crash down angrily. Messily.

The silence that settles is palpable. She would describe it as pregnant. The word stirs old feelings, opens wounds that never fully healed, and she can feel her mouth tremble. She rubs at her lips, those betrayers of her emotion, stubbornly.

Kenneth’s voice cracks when he says, “Please.”


6.


There are three secrets Margot keeps from herself:

1. She had wanted a son.

They hadn’t planned on having children. Kenneth had made detective right after her novel truly became successful. Married early, they had undergone the same struggles as others, only to finish on top. At the time, she hadn’t been able to fathom why they were worth such luck. She was tenure-bound, working on the sequel to Albtraum, and then it had happened. Unplanned. Accidentally. But Margot found she warmed to the idea of motherhood quickly, and it had been her idea to take a respite from teaching. She would have more time to write, more time to baby-proof, more time to trade in holed jeans for maternity dresses and cigarettes for prenatal vitamins.

When she began to show, when the curve of her stomach brimmed full with life, her secret hardened itself, calcified into something mean and unforgivable inside of her. Sitting out on her mother’s back porch (never her father’s, never joint ownership, always her mother’s), she had looked at her mother with little more than barely tolerant disappointment and pity.

She knew girls were more difficult to govern than boys.

There were too many ways for a girl to go wrong.

2. She tells herself differently, but she has distrusted Kenneth for years.

Suspicion and doubt arrived as easy as any expected marital love and affection during that first year. She accepted it that first year, she accepted him, and only in secret considers this her mistake. She can thread the causality back to her for allowing Kenneth to be this man, the one who can be so dishonest while looking her square in the eye.

This distrust lives like a monster under their bed, slithering out to keep her company the nights she lays alone, Kenneth’s side of the mattress cold.

3. The third secret is new to her.

The third is still too bright, too sharp and shameful for her to touch on, even in these self-denying moments.

Margot is learning to want again. She thought she had everything. There was a vision, a portrait, of a life worth living. She had that. To want anything more would be, as her mother would say, unchristian.

She wants so much more.
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