by Jeremy Hawkins
Spear my thumb-tips through your eyeballs, his wife thought. Spread them on toast like preserves.
Richard glanced at his wife. She was playing Sudoku. The twins drew airplanes.
And my children are weird, she thought, glancing at them and smiling innocently. Twins and a psycho. I hate all three of you.
You should know that Richard could hear his wife’s thoughts. Her inner-monologue was constantly known to him, deep inside his skull, somewhere behind the offending eyeballs. He had always possessed this clairvoyance; she was the only person he could read. A one-way connection. Fifteen years ago: On the mall promenade he walked past a tall girl, nineteen years old, drinking a strawberry milkshake and sing-thinking, Carbohydrates, carbohydrates, carbohydrates and fat. He could hear her mind! Amazed at his good fortune, Richard hurriedly purchased a donut, sat next to her, and made an off-hand remark about starch. She beamed, her green eyes winkling under the mall fluorescents. They made love that afternoon, and soon they married.
Now you’ll follow me into the bedroom, smiling like a moron.
But after all these years, why had she come to hate him? Why did she treat him with perpetual politeness while abusing him mentally? Richard couldn’t imagine leaving her. He adored her. The twins. The house. The intertwined finances. And the connection! Endlessly fascinating, the architecture of another humanoid’s psyche. The not-so-random jerks of thought. How could he abandon the great fortune of his life? He was addicted to her mind.
Still, that morning, he couldn’t leave the house fast enough—to escape her raging thoughts. My blubbery ass. No wonder I haven’t been screwed in a month. Stop looking at me, psycho. She had had an affair last year, Richard knew, with a young tree scraper. (She had only thought of the guy in those terms, but what the hell is a “tree scraper”?) She’d banged the tree scraper everywhere in the house, even in the bathroom and on the back porch. She’d given the sinewy prick the ride of his life, then fantasized about him while pressing sausage and bread into a turkey’s chest cavity. While playing The Game of Life with the twins.
Obviously Richard had never revealed his clairvoyance to her. Never considered it. That would be the end of everything. Instead he’d become a master of deception. She’d think the most god-awful things, and his face wouldn’t twitch. They’d carry on mundane conversations about tax filings or the latest news on NPR, while she imagined clubbing Richard with a weighty novel, or daydreamed about two obese pastry chefs balling her at every end, the whole neighborhood watching.
Her fantasies were sick. But no sicker than Richard’s. And no sicker, he imagined, than anyone else’s.
But she was depressed (though she never showed it). She both loved and hated the twins. She wanted out of the marriage. She had tried seducing the mailman but had been shot down. She never fantasized about Richard unless it was to cause him bodily harm.
At the front door that morning, he turned to call goodbye, but before speaking he heard: Slit his wrists. Write a suicide note on his laptop. Easy.
He bolted from the house, drove away. Was she planning it? His own wife, whom he always gave whatever she secretly wanted for Christmas and birthdays. Always cleaned the house exactly how she liked. Never criticized her weight, over which she silently obsessed. Not to mention that, for years, she had enjoyed bi-weekly climax because he could hear all her urgent, unspeakable commands.
Maybe he’d done too much. No one is supposed to receive everything they want. A life without disappointment is a disappointing life—is that possibly true? Or was she simply bored? Craving novelty? If she wanted yet another vacation, why didn’t she just think so? How was he supposed to know?
He didn’t even know if she was a good person, because he didn’t have access to anyone else’s thoughts, except his own, for comparison.
At home that afternoon he found her watching the Weather Channel. He sat beside her on the couch. He touched her thigh. She looked at him and smiled. “I want you,” he said. She kissed his cheek, declined with a polite head-shake, then looked back at the television. Asshole, she thought.
“Don’t think,” he told her.
Fuck you, she thought.
“Just be with me. Don’t think. Don’t think. Please.”
As they made love, she fantasized about the tree scraper.
Afterwards they sat naked on the couch. The Weather Channel reported that the Santa Ana winds were churning in California, and that a drought in the Southeast was spreading northward.
I hate the sight of you, she thought. Why don’t you just die?
“Is something wrong?” he asked.
“No, honey. Why?”
“Did you enjoy making love?”
To him, yes. “You were wonderful.”
“I love you. I always try to make you feel good.”
“You always do,” she said sweetly.
“I hope so.”
She kissed him. Then she turned and mounted him, hip on hip, facing him. She kissed his ears, nibbled his neck. She pressed her breasts into him.
I’m going to kill you, she thought.
“Have I been a good husband?” he asked.
“You’re amazing, honey. Amazing.”
“Have I been… perfect?”
“In every way,” she said. “Totally perfect.”
“Don’t I always give you what you want?”
“Yes,” she said.
“I love you.”
“I love you, too,” she said. “For as long as you and the twins are alive, I’ll love you.”