Since I’ve stopped seeing you and other women, I’ve been sleeping in the middle of my bed. Each night I sprawl out on my back like a king and try to reach the four corners of my ratty sheets. I fart freely beneath the blankets. In the morning I usually wake up on my belly, so I press my piss hard-on into the mattress for a while. I am free to do this since I stopped sleeping with you and other women. My morning arousals are my own.
Since I stopped eating with you and other women, I’ve usually let my dishes pile up. Rather than scrub them, I’ve thrown away the blue ones another woman gave me. But your yellow set I washed in the bathtub using a face cloth and the aroma-therapy body gel you left behind. My dishes have never smelled so good.
You never liked my chest hair. I can now tell you that other women did.
Since I’ve stopped seeing you and other women, I no longer have to: eat low fat food; sit in non-smoking; go to Tai Chi; hide my desire for your sister (since that time at the beach); miss The Young and the Restless; worry about being fit to stand trial; let your sister-in-law cut my hair; wait to read the front page; feed birds with your mum; care if you faked (okay, not you, another woman); come when I’m called; watch football with your dad; phone if I’m late; fib about my salary; feign I like kissing (yes, you, not another woman); visit fabric or craft stores; rent movies every second Friday night; use bathroom air freshener; pretend to work late; wait until you’re asleep before going to bed; remember: your bra size, your tampon brand, your birthday (36 B, Tampax Naturals, March 12. Fuck!); lie to see my friends; sympathize about your boss; hum when I’m mad; pretend I think your brother has made sensible choices in life; listen to adult contemporary music; enjoy marmalade; rinse the sink after I shave; eat Italian every third Saturday, Chinese take-out on video rental Fridays, and at Perkins every god-damned Sunday morning; wash your hair when you bathe; keep a grocery list on my Fridge; subsidize your credit card debt; or find new ways to admire another plush/ceramic/wicker/metal/glass/wood/plastic pig.
Since I’ve stopped dating you and other women, I can answer my phone without fear. But I’m just as happy to let it ring. I’ve also found I prefer using pencils to pens.
You could keep up on long walks. You didn’t snap your gum. You understood that, more often than not, my silence was a sign of contentment, not anger. You never did catch on to the humming (although it happened fairly regularly). You certainly knew how to use your hands, not like J., who wasn’t sure about her own body, let alone a man’s. You kept your fingernails short and painted your toenails. There are parts of you I would use when constructing the perfect woman. Not the parts you might think. (Okay. I’d start with your nipples and teeth.) You didn’t try to make me love you. Perhaps you should have, just for the sake of saving us time.
Other women have other qualities that I won’t share with you.
Since I’ve stopped seeing you and other women, I’ve been able to: play industrial league hockey; order from a drive-through; watch golf; experiment with facial hair; read Tolkien; eat my dinner from the pot I cook it in; clip my toenails where I want; go to confession; have a barber cut my hair; accept my sister’s companion; get rid of my answering machine; tend to my lawn; wash and vacuum the car on Sundays; take up Karate; walk through tall grass prairie (you and your allergies); understand why my father left; smile at strangers; muse aloud about my future; speak my mind to my boss; change the bandages myself; throw away the ties you picked out; have a beer in the morning; roll stop signs without feeling guilty; remember most of your names; pee in the shower; meet your sister for lunch (I was careful to not order a drink); drive all night; spend a day being left handed; duplicate your taco salad; adopt a cat; listen to Tom Waits and Billie Holiday; and rid my house of strands of your hair.
Another man might have handled it differently, but your sister is a woman who really likes my chest hair. Something else you don’t want to know: your sister gets horny after eating a Skor bar.
Since I’ve stopped seeing you and other women, I’ve had to: pay a fine for being drunk and disorderly; guard against optimism; accept a transfer that will take me east; begin masturbating again (okay, I never stopped); face 57 shots in a 14 to 3 shellacking; be wary of infection; trade in the Valiant; admit I’m an atheist; let your sister down softly; clean my oven; say “no” three times; learn the difference between infer and imply; stop myself from stopping; buy a new blender; be tested for HIV; think about actions and consequences; go to garage sales with my mother; remember what happened between the ages of six and eleven; accept the size of the scar; figure out how to apologize (it’s about being specific); submit to a paternity test; learn to be alone; and find the perfect place for a litter box.
Another woman would have handled it differently, but you can’t be blamed for just grabbing what was handy.
These are the scars you know: the half-moon below my left eye, the slim and straight ridge on the inside of my left forearm, the entrance wound of the BB pellet lodged in my back, and the bite mark on my right calf from Sally the cocker spaniel.
Since I’ve stopped sleeping with you, it will be some other woman who will come to know the hairless landscape of the scar you’ve given me. Another woman will trace its ridges and valleys with her fingers and lips. It will be another woman asking “How?” It will be another woman asking “Why?”
This story first appeared in Contemporary Verse 2 Vol. 20 No. 4
Copyright © Todd Besant. All rights reserved.
Reprint and reproduction rights for this story are available for purchase. Contact me for more information on Anthologies, Course Packs, Reading Comprehension Exams, Translations, and Dramatic Adaptations
Best paired with Forty Creek Copper Pot Reserve Whisky, straight-up in a Norlan Whisky Glass