It was hard to believe there had been a time when she had loved Scott. Looking back, though, it made sense. When you’re young, vulnerable, it’s easy to fall in love with a man who can do things. You think to yourself, God, finally someone who doesn’t bore me. Someone who can make the earth move. Five years later, she couldn’t stand the sight of him. She couldn’t stand the way he would take an hour to pick out his one damn suit to wear to work (he owned over fifty now by her count). She couldn’t stand the way he raised his voice whenever he was trying to make a point. But more importantly, she just couldn’t stand him.
In college things had been different. They would go to these awesome clubs where they would serve cocktails and it seemed like Scott could do anything. She had always been a beer girl before Scott, but since her sophomore year and her time with him, she had learned to drink cocktails and wine regularly. And it wasn’t until they were actually married and on their honeymoon at a Sandals resort that the long bouts of quiet started. Then it occurred to her that they really hadn’t spent that much time alone together—you know, except for the sex. Two days into their honeymoon, Scott snuck out of their honeymoon suite to the bar. An hour later, he called her on his cell phone and told her to meet him there. Scott had picked up several new friends, and for a little while things were kind of the way they used to be.
With their new friends they found a way to pass their honeymoon.
Then things became horrible again. Things were certifiably awful after the financial crash of 2008. Scott, now the department head of his own section at a large financial firm, was responsible for firing large numbers of his staff. He would come home, and even little things would make him shout. A smudge on a glass that was supposed to be clean would set him off. He would yell almost as if he had to make himself feel in control. In fact, she half expected that one day he would come home after work, take off his shirt, sit down for dinner, and scream: “Goddammit, I’m in control.”
He didn’t, though. After all, that would be tantamount to admitting the obvious, which was that he wasn’t in control.
Now, on the seventeenth floor of the Tokyo Premier Hotel, Scott was lying in a pool of his own blood. She had just experienced her first earthquake. Her first thoughts were: Am I injured? My God, I’m injured. Her second thought was that someone was going to come and rescue them. But rescue them from what? What had just happened? The earth had moved.
She didn’t even notice Scott until it occurred to her how quiet everything was despite what had just happened. Her mind vaguely registered his body lying on the floor. She half expected him to spring right up and start yelling orders, to pull out his cell phone, start making calls, and just do what he did, which was to act like he was in charge.
When he didn’t, when his body lay limp for more than a full minute, she knew she would have to do something. She moved toward him slowly, still half expecting him to bounce back up as if nothing had happened. When she finally got to him, following what she had seen others do in movies and TV shows, she checked to make sure he was still breathing. He was. But now what? The earthquake had been a fierce thing. Terrible, yet exciting.
Unconscious he didn’t look so intimidating. He even kind of looked unreal, like a movie prop. There was a lot of blood. She couldn’t tell where it was coming from, but she realized she would have to do something. After a few seconds, she remembered the next step. She would need to stop the bleeding. She thought about this man, whom she hated, lying in blood. The man she had been thinking about divorcing only a few minutes ago.
She was sure that he was cheating on her. Why else would he have smelled the way he did last night? She had found the Viagra pills in his travel bag before coming on this trip. Twenty-eight and he already needed pills to get it up—pathetic! But that’s what the stress had done to him. She had even noticed a few grey hairs on his head the other night.
The blood was thick red, and the puddle was only getting bigger. She could call an ambulance. Her head was heavy with thoughts. There was a good chance the operators would all be busy with other victims, and they might not speak English.
Last night she had smelled another girl’s pussy on him. He reeked of it, and for all she knew it could have been two or three women. He could have popped one of those pills and done several prostitutes. He could have licked and been sucked at the same time, just like the guy in the movie he watched the night before last while he fucked her.
Looking at him, helpless, unconscious, she realized that she was no longer nineteen. She couldn’t be his nineteen-year-old forever, and she didn’t want to go on trying. She was no longer that stupid girl who fell for the handsome guy, a senior well on his way to success. She no longer fed off guys with self confidence like Scott. She was old enough now to date a guy secure enough to be just a little diffident, modest in the company of others.
She realized that to go on like this would only be to accept what she knew was now the truth. That she was going to grow older with this horrible, horrible man unless she did something drastic. Or nothing at all.
She watched him on the floor for another few seconds. The puddle seemed to get just a bit thicker. In a fury she watched him. She thought about the other girl’s pussy. She thought about how he watched porn while fucking her, the way he talked around her in the company of others. She thought back to how stupid she was back then. How she would slap herself if she had the chance. She thought about Scott’s job that made him grow even more horrible over the years, her future, and how she’d never have to depend on him again. She’d never have to go with him to another of his stupid business dinners, aggrandize him, or suck his cock.
The phone to her room rings. It rings again. She thinks about answering it. Then when the phone stops ringing, she finds a chair, sits down, and waits. She thinks about her life without him. It all unfolds for a second like a dream. No champagne, yachts, or anything like that. Just quiet and independence. A job, maybe her own company. She wants to do charity.
When she looks at Scott now, she thinks she feels just a bit of love for him. On the floor, helpless, he doesn’t look like some movie prop anymore. As the pool of blood gets wider, he looks innocent, and she thinks that maybe she could even love him a little again one day.
She looks at his face and for second she realizes, or maybe she just imagines, that his eyes are opening ever so slightly.
She’s not sure exactly how it happens or what she thinks when she does it, but before she knows it the phone is in her hand and she’s hit him on the head with it twice, maybe even three times. She looks down, not knowing what to think. She sits down again, the thoughts and day overwhelming, and for a second she thinks maybe she too has hit her head, and what a convenient thing that would be. She lies back and lets the world go black.
This story is from my upcoming short story collection “Something to Stem the Diminishing.” If you are interested in helping with proofreading, please get in contact with me at firstname.lastname@example.org