April 21, 2011 by jamiesughroue
The pungent, stinging stench of tea tree oil diffuses rapidly in the stale air of the cramped apartment. I study the little bits of stray matter highlighted by the ray of sun beaming through the window, imagining them choking and coughing on scent. Is it possible to die from a smell? It’s supposed to kill lice with its antibacterial properties; does that go for all insects? I’m going to have to Google that. The steady hiss of the shower abruptly shuts off. I hear whistling and the vinyl snap of the shower curtain being flung open, and then the slap of wet feet hitting the linoleum floor. He must have shoved the bathmat against the door again.
I shove the comforter off and roll out of the bed. The dog shifts, curls up in the place I just abandoned, capturing my residual body heat with her own pudgy body. I scratch the little indent in between her closed eyes, a place she can never reach on her own. She depends on me to scratch that particular itch; I depend on him to to reach that spot right under my shoulder blade where my bra clasp always rubs. With a huffed grunt and a wayward lick on my hand as I pull it away, the dog resumes her slumber.
I stand, naked, in the closet, pulling together some semblance of an outfit for the day. When you have two choices for a top and a bottom, what does it matter? Red shirt, khaki pants. Limited potential for individuality. I step back out of the closet, and head to the bathroom — my turn in the shower. He’s toweling off, singing some song I don’t recognize. I get a slap on the ass and an air kiss as I side-step him in the cramped room. I turn the faucets back on, turning the hot water knob repeatedly — hotter, hotter, hotter. I stand under the shower head, and wonder if a person can drown standing up.
That fucking tea tree shit is overwhelmingly saturating the sweltering, cloistered air in the tiny shower. I can’t breathe. I slather my hair with cherry blossom conditioner, but its delicate scent is no match. I peek through the flower petals adorning the translucent curtain — he’s gone. I gulp in some fresh air, and can just hear him babbling to the dog in the living room, nonsensical baby-talk. We don’t have kids. He fastens her leash to her collar; I can hear him leading her out the door. His key in the lock, click. They’re gone.
My skin turns a rosy red hue, its defense against the pelting drops of water. I plop down in the tub, sprawl out. I don’t want to leave the recesses of my sanctuary yet. We fight, or we’re silent. There’s rarely an in between anymore with us. We used to have an easy, comfortable amiability; I would recline on the couch with my latest find from the library, feet in his lap on the other end as he watched Man vs. Food. Did I change? Has he? Is this just life? Is marriage some far-fetched farce that Christianity concocted to trap each other, with no way out? Our vows were “as long as love shall last.” I don’t agree with that until death do us part bullshit. But I struggle with that as well — is it because I’ve always had these lingering doubts that we probably won’t make it to our fourth year of marriage?
I recently heard a statistic that the majority of partners in a relationship didn’t see the end coming when the other announced they wanted out. How is this possible? I’ve made it abundantly clear, at times probably too clear, that if we aren’t able to communicate better, if he does’t start pulling his own weight, that I’m out. Finished. Even as I think this, write, I know I’m full of shit. I hate being a failure, I love my new family, and so many other things that race through my head I can’t keep up. How can I fathom dealing with the fallout?
I hear the apartment door slam shut, and the tinkle of the dog’s tags as she jauntily prances to her water bowl and laps up her fill. I stand, shut the water off, and grab a towel. I run my finger across the foggy mirror, drawing a circle and a line through my blurry reflected image. I feel light-headed. A sure sign that I shouldn’t have had the water so hot — my (alleged) MS symptoms are more pronounced when my body temperature elevates. Anxiety and adrenaline course through me, my stomach clenches in response. I physically can’t take much more of this.