When the glare from a late night infomercial becomes a spotlight in your living room, your mind will wander to the days before he left.
You’ll lay them out in your mind like scenes in a play. He enters smelling of peppermint. You, positioned against the counter, say nothing of his candy-cane stench. When he asks about your day, you blink twice to indicate: I could say an elephant sauntered into the house and fucked me silly and you wouldn’t flinch, or I know you don’t care, you son of a bitch and then without moving your lips, Oh fine, just fine.
He exits stage left, just as quickly as he’d arrived and pretends it’s an ordinary occurrence to run to the market at eleven. Do you need anything? His voice, perhaps a voice over, calls from halfway through the door. Actually. You emerge, hair disheveled, wanting to meet him at the eyes, Cantaloupe and molasses. Cantaloupe and molasses, he says back. Yes, you say. Yes, he says. Well, I’ll try, he says. Who knows if they’ll have it, he says. If you’re gone awhile, I’ll know you went to several places, you blink once, You sweetheart of mine.
In hindsight you’re sure this is what did it: this calling him out on the market, this slip. You could have, should have said: No thank you, I’m fine. If you had, maybe he would still be here and you would still send Christmas cards and it would be your daughter crying over a math test and not you crying over infomercials, over holiday specials, over biopics on female convicts. Instead it is you sleeping on the sofa, you unable to face the bedroom: the wedding sheets laughing at you, the cheery pillow cases with their magenta hearts, your plastered smiles stuck in metal frames on the mantel. He hadn’t bothered to bring any pictures with him. You remember another time, a bit fuzzier, when you two were alone in the daylight, the rarity of it; you watched with your eyes bursting as both your shadows draped across the sofa, then you babbled desperately, saying anything, really saying nothing, like a child who has just been given a dish of ice cream.
Upon thinking this, you promptly reenter stage right, wake your daughter from her slumber and set her at the head of the dining room table with a dish of Rocky Road. The spoon moves before the hand; heaps of melting cream with chunks of chocolate. You can’t blame her; it is melting, it is goopy, the child is trying to use her fingers as a bowl. She doesn’t want it to disappear. She may still be dreaming. You turn your back to the bedroom, away from the audience; run your hands through the faucet. Your daughter licks the tabletop. There is laughing. You, hands in the sink, are gulping, spooning the man who is melting, disappearing. Fading from you faster than the cream, your fingers are sticky. Your daughter is sucking the last dollop of cream off her thumb. That’s right, you want to say to the child, Nothing lasts forever; but instead you turn to your daughter sitting at the head of the table like a tiny queen. You can feel her heart jumping, summersaulting. The world for her exists only within the rims of the bowl. You walk to the edge of the curtain. Your hands wrap vigorously around the carton. She is still licking. She is trying to engulf it. You tiptoe behind her polka-dot pajamas. Set the whole quart before her. Here, we have more.