BY ATTILA ZONN
This is the second and last of a two-part excerpt from a novel in progress. Read the first part here. Copyright is held by the author.
“WE GET to the restaurant. Nice place. Five waiters to a table. It had romantic lighting; personally, it was a little on the dark side. I thought, this’ll soften her up. There’s no way a woman can’t be softened up by lavish catering. I get the menu but I can’t read a fucking thing on it it’s in French, obviously. I asked the head waiter to suggest something. He picks some kind of meat with Hollandaise sauce on it, and you know what? I liked it. She ordered some kind of fish. She didn’t like it. She said the food was phony food. That it was fake art on a plate. That it was unsubstantial and arrogant. I never heard her talk like that before, like she got a PhD all of the sudden. I heard somewhere that a woman’s brain is smaller than a man’s brain.”
I said, “That’s only in proportion to body mass. They’re no less intelligent than men.”
“Yeah? Well I gotta argue with you on that one.” He looked over at Gin who was pushing all the buttons on the photocopier. She looked back at him and smiled then continued pushing buttons.
“So dinner’s over now, and we’re headed for the show. She’s not even a bit curious as to what we’re going to see. But I picked a good one; the one with Donny Osmond in it; the story from the Bible about Joseph and his Technicolor dream coat. I picked that one because she said she used to love Donny Osmond when she was a kid. I was getting excited just thinking about seeing her face light up. Do you think she got excited when Donny came onstage? Nope. She sat there like a lump on a log. But you know? I liked the show; it had funny bits. I didn’t know live theatre could look so polished. I was hooked and it distracted me from all her negativity. There were moments when it felt like she wasn’t there. But then I became aware of her again; fidgeting in her seat, looking at her watch, sighing.” He shook his head and stared at the floor. “That fucking sighing.”
“Sighing is a sign of stress,” I said.
“Oh really? Stressful for her or me?”
“ Maybe she’d had a bad day.”
“Yeah, you’re right. Her bad day started when I showed up.”
“No, it could be she was going through some kind of mental distress over something that had nothing to do with you.”
“Hold on. I’m her husband right? We’re supposed to back each other up, right? If that was the case why didn’t she talk to me? I’d have helped her out of it. You know, every time she ever got in these moods I’d ask her ‘What’s wrong?’ and her response was always ‘Nothing’ so I stopped asking.”
I nodded and said, “But some people keep things to themselves. Maybe that’s how she is.” He held up his hand and said, “David, you’re the smartest fucking guy I’ve ever known, and you could probably explain the possible whyfors of all my wife’s mental hang-ups on any given day, and maybe you want everybody in the world to get along but you’re talking to a guy who’s developed selective hearing when it comes to her feelings. It’s too late. I don’t give a shit, and you’re interfering with my story. Let me continue. I’ve been carrying this around for all these years and now I’m going to get it off my chest.
“So . . . the shows over now. Here comes the surprise. Big surprise. I said, ‘You want to meet Donny Osmond? I made arrangements.’
“She said, ‘No.’
“I said, ‘But baby, you loved Donny Osmond.’ She turned to me and I’ll never forget this. I’ll never forget that sour look on her face and the tone of her voice when she said, ‘I was a little girl once, now I’m a woman. I want to leave.’” Freddie stared at his bottle of beer then quickly clamped his hand around the cap, gave it a violent twist and flicked it across the room. He downed the beer in one shot then set the bottle on the floor beside him.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was stunned. Why the hell did I do this? Not for me. I could give two shits for Hollandaise sauce and Donny Osmond. I blew a shitload of money for this fucking special occasion, and what do I get in return? Attitude?
“So we went to the hotel. I made myself a drink, she took a shower, then she came to bed. We got in bed, and you know what she did? She went to sleep. She rolled over and went to sleep. No goodnight, no thank you, and most of all no sex. It’s our anniversary for Christ’s sakes and not even a blowjob to tide me over? What the fuck? She just rolled over and went to sleep, to hell with me.
Now, you’re asking yourself, did I expect any sex even after she trashed the whole evening, and I say yeah, why not? We’re married aren’t we? It’s our anniversary isn’t it? I did my best so how about some wifely duty here? What’s her problem? She lives in a nice house, drives a nice car. She can buy anything she practically wants, and I’m responsible for all that so how about something for me? She doesn’t make any money at her job. It’s a joke. It’s just a gathering of gossiping women and a nail polish competition. I told her one time that she didn’t have to go to work. Stay home, baby, relax. She said she didn’t want to be a kept woman. She wanted to contribute. I said baby you can contribute by keeping the house clean and having my dinner ready when I get home. She didn’t like that. Boy, she didn’t like that. I got the cold shoulder for a couple of weeks. Anyhow, what’s wrong with being a kept woman? Is that a bad thing? I wouldn’t mind it if I was a kept man. If there was some rich broad who wanted to keep me in a nice place and pamper me all over, I wouldn’t disagree with that.” He turned to Gin and said,” Hey, Ginny, you got a problem with being a kept woman?”
“I don’t mind,” she said.
“There you go. Anyhow, she was my wife. That meant something to me. She wasn’t some strange pussy you snagged on a Friday night or some ditz who’d spread her legs for you whenever you wanted it.”
I looked over at Gin who was reading the copier’s operating instructions out loud. I leaned towards Freddie, lowered my voice and said, “I don’t know what kind of relationship you have with this girl. But the way you’re talking in front of her, it’s pretty disrespectful.”
“What are you talking about? Don’t worry about her. She’s got thick skin. Hey, Beautiful, you don’t feel insulted do you?”
“I don’t mind,” she said.
“No. She doesn’t mind and she knows — he turned towards her — that if I ever say anything bad about you I don’t really mean it. Right babe?”
“I guess.” she said.
He stared at her. “You know I don’t mean it,” he said. She smiled and shrugged and focused back on the copier.
He stared at her a little longer then said, “So there I was, lying in that bed thinking, I might as well be lying next to a dead body. Now, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t do all this for sex. I’ll be honest, I’ve paid for sex a few times, but a fuck has never cost me what I paid out that night. I did it for her, out of love. I wanted her to enjoy herself, have a laugh, be happy, and then as a climax to a wonderful time we would make love. Like husband and wife; reinforcing our bond after seven years. Tell me that’s an unreasonable expectation. To say I was disappointed is a gross understatement and I’m thinking why am I wasting my time with this woman? Now, I`ve got two beautiful girls at home and I would never do anything to destroy their sense of security, but I’m a man. The pressures of life build up inside me till I need to explode, and this thing I call a wife? She’s not helping me explode, so I gotta find another outlet and I end up with this.” He waved a hand towards Gin who had a chair up against the photocopier.
I said, “It’s not good for kids to witness their parents arguing all the time. It rattles their sense of security. If you’re not happy wouldn’t it be best to make a clean break?”
“First off, they’re not kids anymore. Maybe they’ll understand. Maybe they won’t. But if I left the house it would be quite a disruption. They’re living their carefree adolescent lives and I don’t want to rattle them with thoughts of mommy and daddy splitting up. I don’t want to take the chance. Besides that’s a moot point. We don’t argue. We don’t even talk. I come home, she goes out. She comes home, I go out. It’s a cold arrangement, but it works.”
I said, “While you guys were married, did you ever screw around on her?”
“Never!” he said, his eyes wide. “Are you kidding? Even if I wanted to, I had no time for that. I had a business to grow. Maybe I wasn’t around enough. Maybe I didn’t have the energy for some things. I was always working, but I did that for us. So we could get ahead. So we could have what we have now. But after that night my attitude changed; I started banging broads left, right and center; free or paid I didn’t give a shit. I had to relieve my stress.”
“Freddie?” Gin called out. “Freddie? I want to make you a copy of my bum. Is that okay? You can keep it with you, to look at whenever you want. So I’ll always be with you. So you won’t forget me.”
Freddie looked at me and smirked. “Go ahead,” he said. “I’ll put it in my wallet.”
She rolled up her dress, slipped her panties to her knees and mounted the copier. She pushed the button and as the beam of light crossed from one side to the other she looked at me and said, “I really do have a nice tushy.”
Freddie laughed and said, “That’s right, if you didn’t have that ass you’d have nothing.” She smiled. I suddenly felt sorry for her because I thought she had taken his insult as a compliment.
I said, “Ginger’s a nice girl. There’s a lot more to her than her bum.”
She hopped off the copier, wiggled her panties back up, pulled down her dress and walked over to me. “Oh, no,” she said, “no. You’ve got that wrong. My name’s not Ginger.” She leaned towards me and whispered, “It’s Ginesta.” She giggled. “Isn’t that the strangest name you ever heard?” As she spoke, her boozy breath came at me in puffs and at that moment I couldn’t help taking a quick peek at her cleavage. She saw it and smiled. A knowing smile, I thought, and for an instant I wondered if she wasn’t consciously portraying an airhead and that it was her choice to be no more useful than an inflatable doll. Then that spark of awareness disappeared and with her drunken eyes she focused into my eyes and said, “Do you want me to make you a copy of my bum too?”
I turned to Freddie.
“It’s OK, sweetie,” she said, stroking my cheek. “You don’t have to ask him. It’s my bum. I can show my bum to whoever I want.” Then she took a step backwards, stumbled and fell on the floor. I got up from the couch but Freddie stuck out his arm and held me back. “I’ll take care of this,” he said standing up. He stood over Gin and said, “Why do I always have to pick you up off the floor?” Then he helped her to her feet, telling her, “Slow down. You’ve got the rest of your life.” She quickly embraced him and started to cry.
“Aw,” he said, rubbing her back. “Who’s feeling sorry for herself tonight? I told you. You’re my only girl.” They stood there; she sobbing into his shoulder, holding tight to him while he rubbed her back. Then he looked over his shoulder at me, winked and said, “She’s no brain surgeon but she gets the job done.”