The husband arrives home from work, gets changed, and then leaves for his girlfriend’s place again, all without a word to his wife. She’s almost accustomed to it now, accepts the fact that he spends all his evenings with Connie, that he returns home not to their bed but to a rickety cot he’s set up in the unfinished basement. She works hard to take her mind off it, plays with grandchildren and has guests over in the evenings. She doesn’t say a word.

She was torn apart (but hardly flinched) when their youngest daughter told her about the father’s attempt to rape her. “Tried to get around me”, the daughter said with extreme euphemism. The wife had also come across a small cache of pornographic movies in a cardboard box nearly flattened by the metal slats of the sagging cot. A projector. She dared not watch them, remembered only some titles beneath the triple X’s: Throat II, Erotic Misadventures.

Tonight he comes home and tells her he has to go in for an operation on his groin. She nods silently. Later, she tells her sister she will not visit him in the hospital. She becomes venomous. Tells her she hopes they cut him open and find him full of cancer.

He comes to her room to ask her what size underwear he takes: in their twenty-five years she has always bought most of his clothes, silently replacing what was worn out. She gives him two pair she has recently ordered from Sears. “Can’t get those in the stores”, she says.

He has simply given up on it all. Tells her he doesn’t care whether he lives or dies. Cries when she gives him the underwear.

published in Blood & Aphorisms, fall 1993