While I’m waiting for the light to change at the intersection, I make eye contact with a woman in a Pontiac. The blonde smiles and waves before turning left on 163rd Street. My wife Cindy wants to know, “Who the fuck was that?”
“How would I know?” I ask. “I never saw her before.”
“Bullshit. I saw you looking at each other.” Her shirt is stuck to her back with sweat; two wet rings extend from under her armpits.
I force a smile to keep the edge off my voice. “So what? You were looking at her too.”
“You’re fucking her: I know it,” Cindy shouts. She pries my hand from the steering wheel and sniffs my fingers.
“Aw, come on baby,” I say. “Calm down; you know I love you.”
This is not my wife. This is a monster. Nobody should have to go through this; menopause and breast cancer at the same time is a betrayal.
I want my wife back.
She starts hammering her thighs with clenched fists; both her cheeks are wet, her face drawn and gray. Suddenly, she rolls down her window and yells at the guy in a pick-up next to us, “Hey, pal you want some of this?” Her mouth splits into an exaggerated smile, rows of teeth.
Before I can figure out what’s going on, she pulls her top up and flashes him.
What she gets back is astonishment, and then alarm fades to repulsion. The light turns green. The stranger flips Cindy off and guns it, tires screaming. We choke on reeking clouds of burning rubber wafting through the open window. I could kill the son of a bitch. We don’t need this shit.
As we keep going north on Biscayne Boulevard, Cindy pounds on me, flailing at my head and shoulders; spit spews from bared teeth, and her eyes are rabid with fury and fright. As I try to deflect the blows, I veer across two lanes of rush-hour traffic. Brakes screech and drivers punch their horns. I hop the curb and stop the car in front of the Old Navy.
Cindy’s knees are at her chest, arms locked tight around them; she’s rocking, weeping and thrashing her head. We’re late for her final check-up before reconstructive surgery tomorrow morning and we are fried.
Stroking her damp hair, I kiss her salty tears and tell her, “We’re going to be okay, baby. We’re going to be okay.”
A few minutes later, she’s fumbling in my lap, groping for my zipper.
“Baby, baby, baby,” I tell her, “I don’t need a blowjob to make things okay, ‘cause we’re okay.”
I stroke her neck and she begins to calm down. She rummages through her purse for a Kleenex, blots her eyes, blows her nose, and gives out a meager chuckle. “He’s gonna have nightmares,” she says through waning sniffles.
“I hope so,” I say. I run a hand through my hair then ease back into traffic.
Cindy flips the visor down, checks her makeup. “Oh god,” she says, then turns towards me for confirmation. I look over, crack a smile, and we laugh like old times.
“You look like a monster,” I tell her.
“I am a monster.”
“Yeah, but you’re my monster.”
Tim Curtis was born in San Diego, California on a dark and dreary night causing his mother a lot of pain. They say he cried like a baby. Years later when he voiced an interest in being born again, his mother took a long sip of her extra dry Martini, lit a Tarrington 100’s cigarette, exhaled and said, “You’re on your own buddy.” One other point of interest: as a child, he never shared and if asked why he’d tell you, I just wasn’t into it. Also, it’s been years since he harbored the illusion he could kick anybody’s ass.
Tim Curtis received his MFA in Sculpture, from the University of California, Berkeley. He’s taught at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Iowa (among others) and has exhibited extensively throughout the US, Austria, Germany, Korea and Kenya. He is currently a graduate student in the Creative Writing program at Florida International University.