by CJ Spataro
Sometimes, I lie in bed and think about what my life would be like if my husband were dead. I don’t want him to die. I try to imagine life without him, what it might be like to have another man in my bed. This is what I tell my friend, Jessalyn. She is as exotic as her name. Her hair shines like golden lacquered silk. Her delicate fingers curve around her mug. She shakes her head and sips her tea.
“What?” I say. I lean in to the table, press my ribs against the polished wood.
She looks at me. Her lips remind me of two worms desiccated by the sun, thin and liver-colored. She tells me that I’m morbid and I need to find something more uplifting to think about. She drinks more tea.
“No question about it,” I say. “I love my husband. I don’t know what I’d do without him, actually.” I lean back and look down at my dry, peeling cuticles. My stomach rumbles with gas. I squeeze my sphincter tight because I don’t want any gas to escape in front of Jessalyn. She thinks my GI problems are not in my gut, but in my head. I cradle my cup of tea in my hands. I wish the cup was a bowl so I could stick my face in it and make motor boat bubbles. “The truth is that both our husbands will die before us,” I say and set the cup down. “Statistically speaking that is.”
She sighs. “That’s probably true,” she says. “But I don’t want to think about it.”
My hair feels greasy and Jessalyn likely thinks I need to take better care of myself. She likely thinks a lot of things about me. I hold the cup of tea to my nose and let the steam wander up my nostrils. The steam feels good. “Do you think,” I say, “that it would be more selfish to want to die before or after your husband?” I blink from the steam. “I mean, if you go first that means that your husband will live longer, but it also means that he will miss you and will be alone. If he dies first, you will live longer, but then you will miss him and be alone. Which do you think would be worse?”
Jessalyn finishes her tea and gets up from the table. Her kitchen is lovely. I admire her taste. The house is older, but she and her husband have sunk a lot of money into expensive finishes and popular updates. The granite gleams, the chrome shines. She returns with my coat and scarf and hands them to me.
“It’s been great seeing you,” she says. Her worm lips stretch into a smile. “I don’t mean to rush you, but I’ve got to go pick up my kids and take them to soccer.”
I take my things and nod. “Soccer,” I say. “Yes.”
At the door, I turn and look at her. “It was good to see you,” I say. I mean it. There are so many things I want to tell her about my husband, but there’s no time. I fling my arms around her and squeeze her shoulders. She pats my back.
“You should try meditation,” she says. “Or yoga. Focus on the positive.”
“Okay,” I say. “I’ll try.” She looks at her watch and I stumble out the door and down the steps toward my car.
I should have told my friend the truth. My husband is Kronos and I am his daughter, Hestia. When I crawl into bed with him at night I know what what’s going to happen and I don’t care that’s how much I love him. He waits for me to fall asleep and then he consumes me whole. He rips apart my flesh, tears my arms from their sockets, and grinds my bones between his teeth. My blood drips from his chin and his eyes glisten with my devoured fat and sinew. I am delicious. I am human sashimi. My brains and hair and bowel rest in his stomach and find comfort there. I sleep. And in the morning, he disgorges me and I am whole and wondering what my life would be like without him.
“I can’t take any more of your masochistic negativity,” Jessalyn says. She rises from the table and leaves to get my coat and scarf. I touch the tiny puncture wounds at my throat and think of my husband, feel the pressure of his lips clamped to the base of my throat. I hear his voice in my head. When she returns I smile and apologize, cast my gaze downward. My lashes graze my cheek. “I guess I should learn to meditate,” I say. “Or do yoga?” I tilt my head like a dog who wants to be forgiven for peeing on the rug. As we stand in the shadow of the gleaming granite of her kitchen, she flings her arms around me and squeezes my shoulders. “It’s okay,” she says and squeezes me again. I pat her back and feel my fangs descend. My stomach gurgles. Jessalyn thinks my GI problems are all in my head. “Thank you,” I whisper and sink my teeth into her fragrant throat. She shudders in my arms. I close my eyes as my lips latch onto her neck and I suck. I release her and her blood drips from my chin. “It was good to see you,” I say. I mean it. Her eyes are drowsy and she smears blood across her neck with the palm of her hand. “It was good to see you too,” she says. “I don’t mean to rush you, but I’ve got to pick up my kids and take them to soccer.”
“Soccer,” I say. “Yes.” I lick my lips and taste her again. She is delicious. I step toward her and she looks at her watch. I take a deep breath, inhale the jasmine scent of her silken hair, and walk out the door toward my car.
I should have told Jessalyn my husband is a hydra, a masculine Gorgon, a snake-haired monster from Greek mythology. We have no mirrors in our house. The only reflection that he can look at is the one he sees in my eyes. The male hydra is rare. My husband is the only one. During the day he wears a wig, but at night, when he climbs into bed, he removes his wig and releases his hydra head. His skin flushes an unnatural shade of green. The snakes uncoil themselves and hiss with their tiny red forked tongues. They slither between my breasts and the folds of my vagina. They wriggle and bite and slink. I stroke their tiny heads with my fingertips and stare into their eyes, entranced. I turn to stone. My husband sets me in the corner of the bedroom. He strews the carpet with rose petals and burns incense at my feet. In my stone repose I clutch my breasts and exhale salt breath. The morning sun restores my stone to flesh. I am whole and wondering what my life would be like without him.
My friend Jessalyn and I sit in her newly remodeled kitchen. We chat over steaming cups of tea and I tell her that I’m afraid that I’m a masochist because I have fantasies about my husband’s death. She sets down her cup and blinks at me wide eyed. I rush to tell her that I’m not fantasizing about killing him, but that the fantasies are more about me and what my life would be like if he died. What I would do if he weren’t sitting on the couch watching TV when I came home from work, or smiling at me over the grill on the fourth of July, or if he weren’t snoring in the bed next to me at night. She said she’d never had a fantasy like that. She looks around her beautiful kitchen, gazing at the gleaming granite, the chrome that shines. Her hair glows like golden lacquered silk. She doesn’t understand me. She says, “Aren’t we supposed to fantasize about other men? Aren’t we supposed to fantasize about winning the lottery or being famous?” She sips her tea, her delicate fingers wrapped around her mug.
I tell her I don’t understand it either. I clutch my mug close to my face and the steam rises up my nostrils. The steam feels good. I tell Jessalyn that these fantasies come to me late at night, when he is working late, or early in the morning before he awakens. Often these fantasies leave me feeling bereft and in tears. I have tears in my eyes now. I wipe my face with the back of my hand and realize how greasy my skin feels. I need to wash my hair. My face droops and Jessalyn frowns. I look at my watch and remember my children. “I have to take my kids to soccer,” I say and rise to leave. “Soccer,” my friend repeats. “Yes.” She retrieves my coat and scarf. I stumble towards the door and she steadies me. “I should try some meditation,” I say. “Or yoga,” she says. We hug and I let my fingers linger on her long silky hair. I breathe in her jasmine perfume. She smells clean, unworried. She releases me and her eyes sparkle in the sunlight. She rests her index finger on my forehead and her lips, which remind me of two desiccated worms, curve up in an enigmatic smile. Her finger is warm on my forehead. Her touch starts to burn and then her finger presses through my skin and skull and penetrates my brain and I have an inexplicable desire to blow motorboat bubbles into a vat of tea. I exhale salt breath and feel my shoulders relax for the first time in months and then my friend removes her finger from my brain. I fling my arms around her shoulders and she pats me on the back. I whisper in her ear. “Thank you,” I say. She kisses me on the lips with her wormy mouth and then tells me I’d better go get my kids. I stumble out the door and down the steps toward my car.
I should have told my friend that my husband howls at the moon. Once a month, when he climbs into bed, his body transforms from that of a man into werewolf. This transformation is gruesome and bloody as he emerges from his human skin covered in long wolf hair. His massive jaws snap and snarl. His tongue lolls and is lathered with saliva. He rakes my body with his paws leaving wounds like trenches. The scent of my blood sends him into a frenzy and he tears at my soft underbelly. He disembowels me with his considerable maw and I shudder against the sheets. We are delicious. My blood drips down my chin and my husband wails at the moon and I clutch my breasts and exhale my salt breath. The sun rises and I pile my innards back into my open abdomen. My husband crawls back into his human skin. I trace the shape of his face with my finger and he writes his name in my blood. We come together in the morning light. I take comfort in his arms and wonder what my life would be like without him.