The Chimera Factor

by L.S. Johnson

I moved out on Thursday.  There is no worse feeling, or at least I had never felt so bad before.  Parceling our life out into U-Haul boxes, trying to decide who should get this book, that photograph.  Dismantling our future one newspaper-wrapped glass at a time.

Of course, I didn’t take the bed with me, though it’s not like he’ll use it anymore. But I couldn’t sleep in it again, not with that smell.  And the memories, yes, we did have some fun in that bed, good ol’ garden-variety lovemaking, just like everyone else.

At least I think it was good.  It’s hard to remember now.  That’s something I’ve learned in all this: you can have moments in a relationship that are like lines in the dirt, when everything before that moment becomes a little fuzzy, a little less real.

When Hank introduced biting into our sex life, that was one such line.

No.  Teething.  That was his word for it.  When he started teething.

Nothing ever goes as planned, does it? Things never turn out the way you imagined—I figured that out at a pretty early age.  Even as a kid I would spend my time visualizing all the different ways things could go bad.  Preventative imagining, bettering my odds.  If I started to think about something good, I would cut myself off right away, because the more detailed I plugged into it, the less likely it was to happen.

This, though? I’m not clever enough to have imagined this.  Or maybe I just ran through all the run-of-the-mill bad stuff, what if my marriage ended up like “blank.” Crossing out all the options until only this was left.

Not that it matters anymore.

I left the bed, the sofa, all the upholstered furniture.  I never could get the fleas out of the armchair anyway, what with him sitting on it every time he came home, the better to have that good scratch before hitting the showers.  We figured it was fair enough that I should take the meat instead.  He just watched, snuffling a little, as I took the packets out of the freezers and stuffed them into cooler after cooler.  It had been one of my last attempts at trying to make this normal, make some sense out of it all: if my husband had to eat raw meat, then he should be eating the best we could buy.  Nothing but free-range, grass-fed, hormone-free flesh in his trough, as close to fresh-killed as possible.

Twelve bucks a pound and he still thought it tasted stale.

Raw meat in a trough, sashimi our only option for date night, wearing long sleeves and turtlenecks in midsummer to hide the teeth marks—really, it’s a wonder I stayed as long as I did.

Don’t get me wrong.  There was passion in those marks, real passion and love, maybe more than I’ll ever know.  Hank’s only screwup was that he couldn’t bring himself to tell me.  Everything else was my fault.

I had always believed myself able to accept anything. In school I was the one who hung out with all the weirdos, the druggies and the punks and the lonely kids who smelled funny. I even listened to the psycho ones and, man, some of their ideas would curl your hair.  But I thought I couldn’t be fazed, not by anything, and then even when I admitted to myself I was freaked out about Hank, I couldn’t deal with that—knowing I was just like everyone else.  I thought I was cool, but I was just another June Cleaver in the end.  Just like everyone else.

The dogs, of course, chose to stay behind.  They always did like Hank better.  Heck, they had probably twigged right from the start, back when I was still wondering where all the hairs in the shower were coming from.

Anyway.

I moved out on Thursday.  Packed it all up in the little trailer, walked through the half-empty house like it was a motel room, looking for any bits of me that I might have missed.  I thought I had finished crying, and then I found that last cooler, full of the sausages he hadn’t been sure about; would he really eat them, or would he just end up giving them to the dogs? There was something about that little plastic box, its red base all dirty and scuffed.  I put it in the car and started weeping yet again.  The empty freezers were just so final, and what would he do now, especially since the town had banned raising chickens?

“Please don’t do this,” Hank said.  “We can figure something out.”

At least I think that’s what he said.  The past few weeks it had become hard to understand him with all those teeth getting in the way.

He tried to reach for me, but I pushed him away, crying harder at the feel of his hair under my hands.  It had grown so thick these last months.  Thick, dark hair, but silky, not coarse at all.  I had loved running my fingers through it, I really had.  I would never stroke it again.

“Hank,” I finally managed to say.  “Hank, I will always love you.  And I know it was for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.  But you didn’t tell me everything, and Hank, baby? Evolving into another species? That’s a god-damn deal-breaker.”

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L.S. Johnson lives in Northern California, where cleverness is viewed with suspicion. She is currently working on a novel set in ancien régime France, where cleverness was an art form.
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