Love Letter

By on May 30, 2011 in Contest Winners

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Ferris wheel with superimposed fractal

“When do we talk about this?” Your cousins all sat in the living room of your aunt’s house looking, while trying not to look like they were looking at us.  You want to go to Saint Louis.  They want to drive to Saint Louis.  We’re nineteen.  I have $20.  You have $35.  They’ll pay for gas.  We’ll split the motel.  My heart is pounding.  I’ve never been out the city.  I don’t know these people.  I strain a smile at them.  I look at you, and your eyes are big and brown and smile at me through burgundy lipstick.  “When ya’ll want to leave?” I ask.

She appeared like a ghost, out of nowhere and scaring the shit out of everybody.  She had short hair and an immaculate face.  She wore a business suit that showed just enough thigh to excite me and piss you off.  My first day on the job, the first time I saw her that day, I knew she’d be trouble. 

So, I walk to the car after work and you’re sitting there beaming ear to ear.  You love me happy.  I get in; kiss you on the lips, slow, careful to not let on that I’ve had to make myself avoid Ms. ___________ all day.  The kiss feels good like it always does.  I turn in my seat to face forward, smiling.  Ms. ____________ crosses the drive in front of us.  Three steps, three glimpses of perfectly shaped, gently used thighs.  Hips swaying.  Instinctively, like an idiot, I make eye contact, smile, wave.  Be pleasant, keep you in the corner of my eye.  You’re a doll.  You smile and wave, too.  “Who’s that?” once she passes. 

“That’s the business teacher.”  I act like I don’t remember her name.  “Ms. Uhmm…Prescott, Presley…Preston.” 

“She’s a teacher?  Oh.”  You roll your eyes at me and put the car in gear.  I slump a little in my seat and pretend to go to sleep.

We get home twenty minutes later, and you still haven’t followed up “Oh.”  I ask what you’re thinking.  You say you don’t want to go through that shit again.  I say you won’t.  You go start bath water.  I yell that was a long time ago.  You say not long enough.  You bring up my wandering eyes, and I can’t argue.  I go quiet.  Sex isn’t worth this.  Wild oats aren’t worth this.  I finally follow you into the bathroom.  I wrap my arms around your neck and look at you in the medicine cabinet mirror.  Another job, another desperate woman.  This scrolls across your face.  The first time we got married, and it fixed stuff.  Now, we’re already married.  So, what if I screw up again?  You try to smile.  I smile big for the both of us.  You say you trust me and look away.  I blink away a tear before your eyes return to the mirror and I say thank you.         

The funny thing is that I don’t remember the first time you got sick.  I remember the time you threw up on the front passenger side floor of the Escort.  I remember the time you got that strange tooth infection.  It hurt you so bad that you wanted to take a butcher knife to it yourself.  I remember you sitting on the toilet talking to me one minute and the next you falling off of it with your eyes rolled back in your head.  This is it.  I can’t point to one thing and say, “Hey, look what I’ve had to deal with.”  The truth is that I don’t care.  I don’t care.  We live life in such a way that the stars have aligned just right.  I’ve laughed more than I’ve cried and I hope you have, too.  Of all these separate incidents, none of them feels like the first time.  I can’t point to any of them and say That feels like the first time she got sick in front of me. 

You used to say that I would get tired of you one day and want to leave.  When we were nineteen, I used to think that, too, but, not because you got sick.  It was because I was scared, you were just too heavy for me.  The first time I saw you break down and cry at the thought of your dead brother I thought What the fuck have I gotten into?  I knew he had been dead two years.  How long does it take to grieve?  I didn’t know.  The thought that you were still grieving two years later scared the shit out of me.  I didn’t and still don’t know how to comfort you.  But, now I know that grieving takes more than two years. 

You used to say I’d get sick of you.  I think you’ll eventually get sick of me.  When it comes to being a good husband… let’s just say I’m still growing into the part of a good boyfriend.  I think a lot about us and our future.  I think a lot about going to work every day, even though I don’t want to.  I think a lot about lust and love and what it means to have your cake and eat it, too.  I think about being twenty and punching a hole in the wall of your apartment because we got into a fight and I didn’t know how to say, “Give me a minute.”  In fact, the more I think, the more I am convinced that you will eventually leave me… or I you.  It seems to be my destiny.  My absentee father took a permanent leave of absence when my mother told him to make a decision between her and his twelve-years-his-junior girlfriend.  He chose the girlfriend.  My Uncle Ike, who wasn’t really my uncle, got caught necking with his girlfriend in the driveway of the house he shared with his wife.  I guess I liken myself to Uncle Ike more than anyone.  He always had a beard with gray in it.  He always talked about ass and thighs.  And he never had a problem discussing the virtues of an un-virtuous woman with a ten-year-old.  He made me laugh when I was a kid.  But, Uncle Ike was divorced twice, had stacks of porn, and never stayed in one house for more than a year at a time.  I’m working on year eight in this house with you. 

So, you thinking that I’d be anything but madly in love with you makes me laugh like Uncle Ike used to.  To say you’ve ruined me for other women is an understatement.  I wouldn’t and don’t want to hold back anyone else’s hair when they puke.  I don’t want anyone else telling me how to dress or where to go on Thanksgiving.  I just want you in all your splendor: laughing, playing, eating, running, flipping, loving, crying, sighing…  and when one of us reaches the end, the other has to promise to keep doing all the same stuff or this was all in vain.


This piece was the third-place winner in the 2009 Wild Violet Fiction Contest.

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Michael Turner is a married father of one and a high-school English teacher in Kansas City, Missouri. He has not previously been published.