Christina Wood Martinez
This story begins and ends with a bang.
The first bang, the woman in this story didn’t know what it was. Something fallen to the floor in another room? A car backfiring outside? Was it more of a click than a bang? A thunk? It sounded, somehow, like it had come from inside her. Like her body had produced the noise. She touched her temples, looked at her hands. Everything felt fine. She knew that perception, in the absence of reason, is fantasy. Someone had told her that. The bang, she had only imagined it.
She liked to think about her body and everything within it. Was there a word, like gravity, for the force that held all of her together? Her feet, at the end of the bed, how was it she could describe them as being far from her when they were, in actuality, a part of her? Her likes and dislikes, her sense of right and wrong, was it true that her toenails, her lymph nodes, felt these as acutely as did her mind?
“Are you excited?” the woman’s husband asked. She opened her eyes. He was waxing his member, heel up on the edge of the bed. He was fingering the inside of his cheek. It made a pop when he pulled his finger out.
“Can I ask you something?” she said.
“Yes.” With his hands, he was smoothing the hair on his chest and stomach against the grain.
“Would you recognize my liver if I gave it to you?” she asked. “My spleen, if I poked it out like a starfish emptying its stomach?”
“Go on,” he said, substantially aroused.
“There might be sand inside it.”
This sent him over the edge. He took off his socks.
While he pushed into her, she pleasured herself by alternating between the thought that she was all he ever thought about and he never thought about her at all.
Afterward, they sat on the bed, folding laundry that was still hot.
He said, “A better question is whether you would recognize your own spleen.”
“I would,” she said. She folded his underwear into squares, as he preferred.
He had stopped folding and was putting on a clean pair of socks. He stood to leave. Back to her, he said, “People spend too much time wondering if anyone knows them. No one does. I wouldn’t recognize your spleen. But neither would anyone else.”
“What you mean to say is I can’t do any better than you.”
“Can’t,” he said, “and won’t.”
The second bang, the woman heard it and thought: my husband. His legs. His spine. He had fallen from the roof or he had fallen from the ladder on which he was perched, cleaning the rain gutters while indoors in the kitchen she spread liverwurst on bread.
She looked out the window. There was her husband, up at the top of the ladder. It was the rain gutter that had fallen—a burst of brown leaves littered the ground. Her husband, seeing her at the window, saluted.