Dishes before daylight

Dishes before daylight

by Tuere T. S. Ganges

3:15 am. You run the water in the kitchen sink because you realize it’s the only thing you can fix at the moment. You’d gotten tired of looking at the Happy Meal figurines he’d given you when you first started dating. It was cute then. Twenty-somethings ordering kid meals at the counter, holding hands and looking at each other with laughing eyes suggesting an inside joke no one would understand unless they too were young and in love. Even though you’d moved five times since then and lost things like the top of your wedding cake and the personalized wine glasses your aunt had given you, you’ve blown the dust off those figurines and shoved them in your duffle bag making sure they’d have a place wherever you called home.

Now, he’s saying things like, “I just don’t believe in anything anymore,” and, “there used to be a time when I loved you more than life itself,” and other than the weight you’d gained over the years and babies, you don’t know where any of it is coming from. To you, the over-analyzing worrier that you are, this says there’s something seriously wrong with your marriage. You bring this up to him and it turns into a fight. Somewhere in there, you learn that he’s only been pretending to be happy the last few years and oh, why can’t you pretend too?

After he begs you to come home from the desolate park you’d run off to, he says sweet things and rubs his hand on your side like always. You can’t believe this shit is happening and you grab a pillow and the spare blanket and sleep on the floor. In the morning, he says he loves you and goes to work as though nothing happened. He’s pretending again.

3:16 am. You realize you hadn’t put in any dishwashing liquid so you squirt in more that’s recommended. The dishes have been sitting. It’s the only thing you can fix at the moment.

3:20 am. You use the scrubby sponge to get the caked-up sauce off the new serrated knife and you wonder what cuts through your flesh more, the knife or knowing that your husband can break your heart and then pretend like nothing was said.

You made arrangements for the kids to stay at Grandma’s so you’d have time to talk without them listening or seeing you cry if things didn’t work out. You wanted him to acknowledge your pain, to say he was sorry, but you already decided none of that would solve the problem because you needed counseling. He didn’t offer up any apologies. Instead, he asked about other things that didn’t warrant much thought or feeling. Yes, the boy is growing like a weed. Yes, the girl is getting to be a real looker. My day? Really?

So you go to sleep in your daughter’s room across the hall and try not to look at the Happy Meal figurines you placed over the door as whimsical decoration. But the more soundly he can sleep knowing you’re not next to him eats away at you. So you jump up, knock the figurines off the door frame with one sweeping motion, and head downstairs to take some baby aspirin because now you have chest pains.

That’s when you notice the dishes. You’d forgotten all about them. You don’t want to ignore their need to be clean. It’s the one thing you can fix at the moment.

refers from the art piece Sun Chair by Jimmy Pitts

  1. I feel her helplessness, the brick wall she faces when she wants to communicate. Sometimes pretending is all you feel you can do, and her refusal to accept this is her sorrow.

  2. Thank you for another real story, Tueres. The way it is told makes me feel like it’s happening to me!

  3. Thank you for reading and thanks to Referential for its fabulousness in general!

  4. I’ve just come back to this story and it remains as powerful as it did the first time. Almost too real in its on-the-ground look at a marriage, a relationship. Sometimes there are no answers, but that doesn’t mean the questions won’t drive you crazy. Excellent.

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