— Bukowski, Women
— Chef’s House, Raymond Carver
— The Other Side of You, Salley Vickers
Uncle Jimmy is a maker of marble. That’s his business. His private office is above a Persian rug showroom on Robertson and Pico and you know he’s in there because you hear his coughing, but can’t see him through the smoke gathered in the tiny room. He can afford a larger space, but doesn’t like change. His kitchen often smells sour, he uses his sink disposal with a lack of foresight, but I suspect he can’t smell much of anything, even Marla’s sweet jasmine and orange blossom perfume.
Uncle Jimmy tried transitioning from Uncle Jimmy to Uncle James upon meeting Marla, who once slaughtered a chicken at the behest of her shaman in order to rid her psyche of her ex-husband. Neither effort was effective.
Uncle Jimmy is fond of the phrase “the proof is in the pudding” and sometimes uses it five times in an hour. One summer afternoon, he stood with Marla at a convenience store counter, wiping his dripping forehead with one hand, the other gathering salt and vinegar potato chips, declaring, “Whooey! It’s hotter ‘n two rats fuckin’ in a wool sock!” For three days afterwards, Marla didn’t call him, saving her jasmine for someone who noticed it.
— Joan Didion, Play It as It Lays
— Colette, La Vagabonde
Making our reservation at the Divorce Hotel was surprisingly easy. I was chewing gum while I dialed. I never chewed gum during my marriage. Maybe I was shifting into someone else. People shift. That happens. And we erode, too. We’re more like the earth than we realize.
Like all of our travel plans made throughout our marriage, I was in charge of coordinating the hotel, airfare, cab, and discovering the lauded restaurants frequented by locals. For this short trip, I did not pack his bag for him, though I imagined he might be wearing henleys for the entire weekend, the top button always undone, the crewneck collar flapped open slightly.
Checking into The Divorce Hotel, we were not greeted with enthusiasm. None of the staff wished us a joyful stay. The concierge ignored us when you made me laugh loudly in the marble lobby. Obviously, they’d been informed that we were not the usual guests. We were checking in to check out. This hotel would save us thousands in lawyers’ fees. At dinner, I drank champagne, you wore a silk tie. Feeling oddly auspicious even while freedom and failure summoned us with weakening restraint, we toasted, like gleeful spendthrifts, to getaways.
— Charles Baxter, The Feast of Love
— Ian McEwan, Enduring Love
— James Tate, FREE
We both know Brenda wasn’t always this fat. If she had been, I wouldn’t be here.
Do I feel guilty for telling our friends she’s almost obese? God, no. I’m angry that I have to say anything at all. I’m horrified. She’s quite literally the elephant in the room. I’m forced to announce what everyone already can see: my wife is no longer attractive. There’s too much of her. Everyone knows it. But what can I do?
When she was fired as the tile company’s front desk secretary, that was when she started to get especially huge, threatening to file a wrongful termination suit, eating lots of glazed donuts from Gladys’, leaving sticky wax paper wadded on the coffee table.
I guess she’s looking for a new career these days, because she just started an online aromatherapy course, but she didn’t even crack a smile when I asked how she was going to smell the scents through the computer screen. I mean, that’s funny, right?
Shouldn’t she be happy? She eats whatever she wants, without one word from me. Can’t she laugh every once in a while? Shouldn’t at least one of us be smiling?
By the time I’d been married twice and Jim, my second husband, had left me, though he was the bankrupt one without a job, I’d decided to stop coloring my hair. It was a task that had, over years, accumulated hundreds of plastic bottles of permanent hair dye and map-like folded instructions in English, Spanish, and French, discarded in the bathroom trash bin. Stained with the mahogany dye, droplets splattered, gloves smeared, the bloodied packaging seemed to represent a murderous success. I considered it a testament to my inevitable aging, losing my menstrual cycle only to continue on living with a ritualistic and silly version of bloodletting.
Alone in my apartment, watching the pigeons gather at my downstairs neighbor’s offering of strewn birdseed in the driveway, feeling as though I’m surrounded by occupied strollers and ponytailed women and very shiny cars, I yearn for a home elsewhere with a 1/4 or a 1/2 in the address. I wished for an apartment with a name like Terrace Garden or Citrus Grove. But even in the fantasy of living there, I realize the smallness of the imaginary space, only a quarter of a structure. It’s just a percentage of a home.
I was married for twelve years. Married to a woman, I mean. We have a daughter and she has three kids, the youngest is Mary, a complete hellion of a child. She could not have been less appropriately named. Every generation of a family has a ‘bad seed’ and Mary is it. I was my own generation’s. Old ladies in the neighborhood still talk about me, I’m sure.
I loved both of them, men and women. I still do. But women were so much work, so much sifting through things being said and done and wondering what was truthful and real versus what a woman considered truthful and real, always subject to change. Tick-tock and ding, ding - new definition of reality. Thank Christ, there’s none of that with men. No interpretations needed, just outright expression. And, to be fair, I wanted to have sex with men, but I wanted to be intimate with women. It’s still something with which I struggle. I’ve been told I’m greedy, needing both sexes to give me fulfillment. Maybe that’s true, that I’m a greedy bastard with exquisite taste, but I won’t deny the fact that part of me still wants it all and everything.