When I emerged from the bathroom, she was sitting in the middle of our bed, legs crossed, towel wrapped around her still-wet, chestnut hair. Hurt, betrayal, anger, and desperation shot from her eyes. She clutched a paring knife in one hand and cradled the blue, translucent plastic fruit bowl from the kitchen in her lap.
I hadn’t just broken up with her — I wasn’t going anywhere.
I hadn’t just told her I didn’t want the baby — there wasn’t one anymore.
I hadn’t just told her I’d cheated on her — there was no other woman.
Before showering, I think my parting words had been something like, “I’m not so sure about that comforter, babe. Paisley isn’t really my thing.”
I stood, staring in her direction, feeling detachment suffuse my body. I fancied I could hear the almost comic struggle between her illness and her untouched mind –
“He hates the comforter. He hates me. I’m going to kill myself.”
“He can return the comforter for store credit as long as I don’t bleed on it.”
She pressed the blade to her wrist. I wanted to tell her that I hadn’t sharpened the blade in a year or more, that it was a bad knife from a cheap set. I could spend money on the Stanley Kubrick collection on DVD — coming soon to Blu-Ray! — or the latest official Pearl Jam concert bootleg, but I couldn’t stomach spending money for a decent set of knives. Sorry, babe. It wouldn’t cut paper, let alone the flesh and sinews of the human wrist and forearm.
Then my stomach growled, so instead, I glanced at the fruit bowl and wondered, “What the fuck did she do with my peaches? I could really go for a peach right about now.” My mouth began to water as I envisioned tearing into a fragrant, ripe peach, slurping juices from its succulent, yellow flesh, fighting to suck down every drop as some struggled to flee my yearning maw for the relative safety of my chin and neck.
I was halfway to orgasm when her shouting broke my reverie.
“Don’t you even care?!? Don’t you even care that I’m about to kill myself?”
I knew what I was supposed to say. I knew that I was supposed to be comforting, supportive, sensitive, careful.
Standing there, I couldn’t bring myself to feel or be any of that, or to say the right things. It was too many — overdoses, days when she never emerged from a darkened bedroom, days where I’d thrown up my breakfast after wondering whether she wasn’t answering the phone because she was hanging from the closet rod.
A bitterness rose within me, and I had to stifle a laugh at the vision of her sawing futilely at her wrists and arms with a knife dull enough to be defeated by the wax on the skin of an apple.
“Fuck it,” I said. “Do what you want. I’m going to get a peach.”
BRIAN CHAPIN lives outside of Washington, D.C.