The heat is a presence. Palpable and relentless, it rolls over Albuquerque like a hot iron.
Right behind it come the spring winds, pushing several thousand tons of dust from Arizona on through to Texas. Whistling around the corners of the buildings. Drying the new grass and flowers to brittle straws. Blowing patio furniture into someone else’s yard. Making people yell at the spouse, kick the dog, slap the kid, start smoking again, drink more, drive faster.
Michael’s already dressed for work and making coffee when I wander into the kitchen, wrapped in my terrycloth robe, still damp from the shower. I sidle up to kiss his neck, just where his dark hair is starting to creep down over his collar, and wipe away a little smear of shaving cream behind his ear. He reaches around me for his coffee mug and kisses the top of my head absently.
“It’s supposed to be hot like this all week,” he says. He sits down at the table and submerges into the newspaper.
“Want some cereal?” I take clean bowls and spoons out of the dishwasher.
I pull the box of corn flakes out of the pantry and pour some in my bowl, add milk and sit down across from him. I’ve already eaten about half of my cereal when he looks up.
“Did you say something?”
“I asked if you wanted cereal. Since you didn’t answer, I took it as a no.”
“Sorry. I was thinking.”
The coffee maker sighs, announcing the completion of its cycle. I pour some in his cup and set it on the table. “What are you doing today?”
“This morning I’m meeting with Ted Rossmore.”
“Venture capital guy. Then this afternoon I’ve got a couple conference calls…” The silence is filled with the rustling of the newspaper, the clink of my spoon against the bowl.
After a minute or so, I lay my hand on his arm. “Tell me what’s wrong.”
He gives me an indulgent smile. “Nothing’s wrong.”
“Something feels wrong to me.”
“Something always feels wrong to you. It’s your normal state.” He folds up the sports section and smiles at me. The intense blue of his eyes is still startling, even after almost three years of seeing it everyday.
“What? I don’t know what you want me to say.”
“The truth. Whatever it is.”
“The truth is, nothing’s wrong.” He pats my hand, which I guess is supposed to be reassuring, but it’s a gesture so unlike him that it has the reverse effect.
“Okay, everything’s great. But I still want us to sit down and have a conversation. Tonight.”
He gets up, pours the dregs of his coffee in the sink. “Tonight,” he says.
“Come home early, okay? I’ll make a big salad and we can have a nice, relaxing—”
“I will.” He gives me a quick coffee flavored kiss.
The door shuts with that hollow sound and I stir my soggy corn flakes while reviewing the evidence.
Exhibit A. I enter, damp from the shower, smelling of coconut body butter. I brush against him and kiss his neck lightly. His response? Reaching around me for his coffee mug and a mechanical peck on the top of the head. I didn’t expect him to rip my robe off and throw me down on the breakfast table, but a real kiss would not have been out of place.
Exhibit B. Monday night. He came home late from his poker game but I was still awake. I wanted to talk. He said he had emails to send. So I left him in his office and I went to bed, tending the embers of my hurt feelings and resentment. I heard him come out of his office, walk into the living room. When the TV went on, the embers ignited. I marched into the living room and told him I was sick of his lying. He said, lying about what? I said he didn’t really have any emails that couldn’t wait till tomorrow; he was just avoiding talking to me. I wanted to know why. He said he was tired. I said he was always tired except when there was something he wanted to do. He said this was exactly why he was avoiding talking to me and for that matter, why he was tired. Why couldn’t I just cut him some slack, give him a little room to breathe. I said he could have the whole goddamned apartment to breathe in if he wanted it. I said I would leave in the morning. I told him I’d go stay with Betsy till he was finished breathing. Then I marched back into the bedroom, got back in bed and seethed.
He came in about fifteen minutes later and I pretended to be asleep. He knew I wasn’t. He didn’t take his clothes off. He just lay down next to me, on top of the covers and he put his hands on me. This was his solution to everything. Touching. Sex. I never knew how to tell him that it was those times when I felt the most distance between us. A yawning canyon full of all the things we never said. But that night I was tired, too. I was sad. I wanted him to hold me. I wanted things to be the way they were before. Before I started getting this panicky feeling that maybe things never really had been the way they were before.
On the other hand it’s perfectly true, what he said. A perpetual sense of impending doom is my natural state. I should be used to it by now—this feeling that every next moment is a catastrophe waiting to happen.
So maybe it’s just the wind.