"Well, you could spend a little more time at the gym," he said, looking up from his wrinkled copy of Sports Illustrated.
She stood there, the wet dish in her hand dripping soap suds onto the linoleum.
"Well you asked," he said to the frozen her, now getting pissed it was going to become an argument. She always had to do it, ask the question to which there was no right answer. If he told her she didn't look fat she called him a liar. If he agreed with her she cried, which she was starting.
"Goddamn," he mumbled and slammed down his magazine. "Here we go again."
In truth, he couldn't bear to see her cry. Sometimes she used that as a weapon.
He walked to the TV, switched it on and shouted over a commercial for oil filters. "This is not like Randy and Margaret. Why does it always have to be Randy and Margaret? I am not goddamned Randy Miller--okay? Randy was--Randy is a total jerk. But your friend Margaret wasn't any prize either."
She stared at the wall with glassy eyes. It just made him more angry.
"You know I agree with him, right? Oh go ahead and cry. He's a marathon runner. Just because he's a compatible blood type doesn't mean he automatically gives her a kidney. It's her disease, not his. He's supposed to give up his whole life because she got that hepatitis whatever, C, from the blood transfusion? What if he got it, too? From her. So who's going to give him a kidney when he needs one?"
Standing over the sink full of dishes she touched the back of her hand to her forehead and turned away from him. He knew she was doing it so he couldn't see her lip quiver and her eyes tearing.
It didn't matter. He knew her well enough.
"Oh fuck this," he said, knowing he'd never win. "What the hell am I supposed to say to you? How the hell do I get out of these ridiculous situations you set up? It's like, all I want is some peace and quiet when I get home from work and you're not happy unless there's an argument."
Next to his shoulder on a shelf was a Hummel figurine he'd bought her for their anniversary. He didn't know why he threw it until after it shattered against the wall leaving a small hole he knew he'd have to fix. He felt no better. Something sharp and hot tore its way through him and he couldn't make it stop. Ever. His whole life hurt. It never stopped. Sometimes he could forget about it for a while. But it never went away completely. It left him helpless and hating the life that surrounded him. All he could think to do was flail.
She flinched at the sound of her breaking gift. It made him hurt more.
He walked up behind her and fought the impulse to take a handful of her hair in his fist. He wasn't going to be a wife beater like that asshole Randy Miller she always brought up. This whole thing was leading to it and he knew it. She did nothing but conjure worst-case scenarios and then accuse him of things that hadn't happened yet. Anyway, she probably wanted him to smack her so she could have something else to cry about.
It was all about control. She was turning into his goddamned shrew of a mother-in-law and he was not going to be a mindless lump like her father. He'd show her.
"I know where this is heading," he said. "And I am NOT getting a vasectomy. You're in charge of having the babies around here, not me. I don't have the plumbing, comprende? You're the one who's going to be in trouble if she gets pregnant. Not me. You handle this and leave me out of it."
When she gasped as if his words were punches he knocked over the kitchenette table and she held her hands over her mouth.
He knew he would have to hit her if he stayed so he grabbed his car keys off the counter. Why the hell had he gotten married in the first place? It was the "buy the cow" scenario his best friend told him about that got him in to this mess. Now he was attached to someone who would never understand what he wanted in life and couldn't help him get it.
It was a mistake. He'd fix it. There were people who understood him. They sat under the orange lights at the tavern. They knew his name there.
She hated when he went there because he felt good there. She didn't want him to do anything that made him happy.
He told her not to wait up for him. He told her she looked like a fucking scullery maid kneeling on the floor and crying, and what the hell did she think she was, Cinderella? And he was proud of himself for thinking of the analogy. At least one of the guys would find a way to laugh at that.
When he slammed the door and her sobbing faded behind the metal and wood what pissed him off most is he was sure she had no idea what a huge favor he was doing her by leaving.