Steamed Zucchini

On my way to the refrigerator, I imagine meeting my ex one more time.  He is returning my round cutting board from the turn of the century.  I see him looking guilty in the doorway, his face, long – his eyes locked on his toes.  I imagine being gracious.  Ushering him in.  Showing him the objects of our fifteen years together transformed by new rooms and adobe walls.  No more of that New England clapboard bullshit.

 I open the refrigerator as he heads down the hallway looking for himself among photographs of grandmothers and friends and fathers as little boys.  How surprised he is to find himself gone.  His photos covered with hats and snapshots of people he’s never meet.  How useless he feels when he walks into my office and sees my desk piled high with purpose.  And children.  Not my children … but the children I teach.  It makes him sad.  I see it in his eyes.  ‘They should have been our children,’ he thinks.  I should’ve stayed behind clapboard while he came and went.  I should’ve tolerated his furtive attractions to cheap girls and brought his babies into this world.

I look at a plastic bag of zucchini.  I am sick of zucchini but if I don’t eat it it will spoil.  I put it on the counter and see him in my bedroom.  The French doors are open, the squirrel embraces the bird feeder, the bougainvillea drips onto the lawn.  His eyes dart to my bed, to “his” side piled high with books and poems.  A knot forms in his throat.  I sharpen my knife and dare him to swallow.

As I slice the zucchini into neat little rounds, he wanders into my living room and sinks into the low, musty couch, his torso limp, his long legs bent like hands over his ears.  He doesn’t say he wants me back.  He’s too smart for that.  But he does say he’s sorry.

And I say, “Sorry is too small a word for the child you had by that one-night-stand when we were married.  Too small for the paternity suit that followed.  Too small for the deceit I inherited because you couldn’t keep your dick in your pants.  And let’s not go into your subsequent marriage to the mother.  Or the birth of a second child in the house you and I renovated.  In the bed you and I designed.”

He picks at the dark brown barn siding that is my coffee table.  “And what on earth were you thinking when you moved to Mt. Riga?” I ask as his fingers play with a thin sliver of wood, lifting it then releasing it as if it were a scab.  I glare at him.  “That’s my table you’re breaking.”  He sits back.  He puts his hands behind his head and tries to justify the new house he bought for his vapid wife and accidental children at the foot of the mountain where I grew up.

I look at the waxy vine on the mantle piece.  It has aphids.  I must remember to disinfect it.

He clears his throat and talks about his career.  His fatigue.  The recording studio the Chevy people are building him so he won’t have to drive into the city.

I take a deep breath and throw the zucchini in the steamer.  Then I open the front door and usher my ex-husband out.  His back bends with the weight of everything he can’t explain.  His overcoat smells like mothballs.  “How do I keep you in my life?” he asks in a voice so low I think he’s talking to himself.

I put the cover on the zucchini.  Listen to the water boil.  To the lid rattle.  I try to imagine what she looks like.  I have heard she polishes her nails but prefers to wear them chipped.

I set the timer and look out the window.  I see my ex in his rented car, his hands heavy on the steering wheel.  I open the freezer and get out the marijuana.  I hear his key turn in the ignition.  I roll a joint and imagine him backing down the driveway.  I strike a match and wave goodbye.

His brake lights flood the lace curtains in the breakfast nook.  His car door opens then slams.  His

shoes are heavy coming up the stairs.

He can’t go anywhere without my forgiveness.  I take a hat off a photo of the two of us on Mt. Riga and take a toke.  Long and deep.  The timer rings.

The neighborhood ice cream truck rolls by my window tinkling its irritating tinkle and I wonder if he ever sells anything, the ice cream vendor, or if he just keeps going round and round and round and round.

2 Responses to Steamed Zucchini

  1. Kathy Talbert Weller says:

    This is wonderful as well…oh, Edward….oh, Leigh…….

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