I watch him from behind my tablet, so he won’t notice my critical eye. Oh, who am I kidding, he wouldn’t notice anyway. He’s never noticed anything without me explicitly saying, ‘Notice this,’ and even then it usually takes at least three or four times before he realizes I mean it.
He makes two pieces of toast like he always does and slathers them with a layer of butter then a layer of strawberry jam like he always does — like his mother always did — and I bite my tongue like I always do because everyone knows a husband getting fat is more tolerable than a wife trying to tell a husband how to live.
The coffee maker dings and when he turns his head toward it I watch wisps of his messy hair shake in the sunlight coming in through the window. I used to call that his ‘morning hair’ years ago, as I tousled it and whispered how cute he was. I can remember this logically, as a fact, but not emotionally. Once he hit forty, his ‘morning hair’ became ‘all-day hair’. I brought it up once and he claimed his hair had ‘changed’, that this mess was now suddenly beyond his control, that it was in no way the result of a change in habit, a lack of regular haircuts, a discontinuation of daily brushing.
He pours his coffee and then plops a chunk of butter into it. This is a new routine, part of an effort to become healthier. Something about good fats. Apparently a lot of young people are doing it, and bodybuilders. They also eat pounds of raw vegetables and exercise hours per day, but he hasn’t picked up those habits, only the butter. Oh, and supplements. He has begun taking supplements by the handful. And demanding I only buy grass-fed beef. All in all, he’s gained what I’d estimate to be another five pounds from this health effort, and spent over five hundred dollars. The only other change I’ve noticed is his hair’s growing even faster.
He sits his mug and plate down next to me on the table, then begins opening his dozens of supplement bottles. I try to pinpoint when he became abhorrent to me. The earliest I can remember is our tenth anniversary. We hadn’t had sex for four months — the longest we’d gone in the prior ten years. I rented a hotel room and brought a twelve-pack of beer and some racy lingerie. It worked; he got in the mood. Unfortunately, the drunker he became, the less turned on I felt — his breath stunk of the beer and he pawed at me roughly, misinterpreting my hesitations as playing hard to get, a planned part of the sexy night I had staged.
He swallows his first supplement of the day, complete with a vocal sound that actually sounds like the word ‘gulp’. He’s placed a second plate on the table, covered with pills. He has two mugs of butter coffee, as one mug will not provide enough liquid to wash down the pills. I wonder how much of this is my fault. Don’t other wives do things like schedule their husbands’ haircuts, remind them to groom better? Should I have said something right away, the night in the hotel? ‘Slow down,’ or ‘More foreplay, please,’ or ‘Let’s go brush our teeth.’ Am I simply being too hard on him? My hair is going gray and I don’t dye it; there are wrinkles around my eyes.
He swallows the last pill then moves his palms together, as if wiping them off, looks at me, and says the first words of our Sunday: ‘All done with that.’
JAY VERA SUMMER is a Chicagoan living in Florida. She writes fiction and creative nonfiction, and co-founded weirderary, an online literary magazine, and First Draft, a monthly live literary event in Tampa. Her writing has been published in marieclaire.com, Proximity, LimeHawk, theEEEL, and Chicago Literati.