By Benjamin Alvarado
Quite frankly, I don’t understand why I stayed married to him for this long. He is hypnotized to the television all day and only gets off of his old recliner to pee and get another beer. He sets the beer can on his belly, breaths like a raging vacuum, and laughs hysterically at The Simpsons jokes. I work seven days a week, I cook all three meals for him in the morning, and he expects all of the house chores done. Sometimes I wish he’d get the pain in his chest and die on that dirty recliner. Sometimes I wish I could just kill him.
We never had children, thank God. I can’t imagine Roger as a role model. He reads the Bible determinedly all day and yells out adultery passages. I think God tattooed the word EXEMPT on my forehead; I am not an adulteress. We’ve been married for ten years now; the worst years of my life.
“Deuteronomy 22:22, If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die!” Roger yells again.
I can understand that he’s lonely. He has no friends. I’m all he has. His family lives two thousand miles away but they make no effort in calling each other. Besides, we can’t afford telephone service. There have been nights when we’re lying in bed, one night light on because he fears total obscurity, and he tells me about his youth. The best one is how all the girls in his neighborhood flirted with him. He says that all of the girls he dated paid for his food, gas, and entertainment. He had always insisted on paying but the girls’ father said, “No, it’s such a privilege that you’re dating my daughter. Here, it’s all on me.” I don’t believe anything he tells me anymore. I think these fantasies were a lifestyle he strongly desired. I have heard that story many times and the events are different every time. He was once charming, a bit chubby, and still I can’t recall what attracted him to me.
He insists on us going to church on Sunday mornings. I say no. Who’s going to pay the bills? I have to work. God is not going to drop money for us from the sky. He doesn’t attend either. His excuse is that he won’t go unless I accompany him. “What will the people say if I show up alone?” he says. I think to myself, “It can’t be worse than what they already think, Roger.” I think he deliberately strives to make me feel awful. I’m no heathen; I’ve just lost hope in God. Roger holds on to God through that Bible, praying for a high paying job to pour out of one of the twelve cans of beer in the refrigerator. I loved him once. That feeling today is like trying to remember being in my mother’s womb.
I’m standing at the kitchen sink, next to the red brick that fell off the kitchen wall and was suppose to get fixed by Roger three weeks ago. Roger is giving me his back and I grasp the brick. I return to my cooking. He turns the volume up so high I think the neighbors can hear it.
More often than not I go to bed before he does. Frankly, there are times I don’t know when he goes to bed. Last night I awoke to his snivels. I was lying on one side and heard him for a while. We have not been intimate for years and when I hear his whimpers I fear that if I turn around he might seek to kiss me or touch me. A touch of his hand would feel like the hand of my uncle when he touched me a long, long time ago.
He makes a groaning effort to stand but fails. “Do you love me?” he says without looking at me.
I remain silent.
He spits on the carpet. “Can I have another beer?” And he grumbles something I don’t quite understand.
I give him the beer.
“You look tired,” he says, grabbing my arm and holding me back. “How was work?” He exhibits fake concern.
“Today was payday, right?”
“Can I have another six-pack from the store?”
“There are still four beers in the refrigerator.”
“But it is early. Four beers are not enough.”
“The car needs a new alternator. We need the money. I’m tired of walking to work.”
“Walking is good. I need you to live a long time. What will I do without you?”
“Give me a few minutes and then I will go.”
My feet ache all of the time and my hands are always red and swollen from the hot water and sanitizer in the dishwashing sinks. I wash dishes at Bertha’s Breakfast and Roger has not had a job in six years. The palms of his hands are as soft as silk. He hurt his back working at my father’s construction company and is now on disability. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him. He said there was a bulge on the left side of his back but the only bulge I saw was the one growing on his stomach as he drank more and more. The doctor had no other choice but to disable him because he insisted that the pain was there. I find it nice to remember the times when he mowed the lawn and changed the oil of our car. Now he’s lazy, fat, bathes only once a week and wears the same underwear. I hate him.
“This wasn’t always here, you know,” he says, exposing his hairy belly.
“Yes, I know.”
“You need to return to school,” he says. “I need a fishing boat. I need a hobby.”
“We have no money, Roger. We need to fix the car first.”
“I should have never married you. My mother was right. She would have already given me a nice fishing boat.”
My hands start to shake.
“You have one other option,” he says. “Fix your credit. You can get me a boat on credit. You work, you can pay. It’s your fault I look like this. You never helped me pick a hobby.”
I start to cry and return to the sink.
The cook at Bertha’s Breakfast has asked me out to dinner. I’m ten years his senior. He’s hard working, handsome…perhaps my salvation. I’m confused. I don’t know what to reply. He has no idea that I’m married and I don’t aim to tell him. My sister wants to know what’s stopping me. I can’t leave Roger.
As I stand here, holding a white towel in my hand, I can hear him breathing heavily, laughing, and yelling over the high volume how long before his dinner’s ready. He dumps the ashes from the tray onto the carpet so I can vacuum them tomorrow morning and the pyramid of beer cans that he assembles night after night is in progress. His photo album is lying open on the floor near his feet, always to the same photograph of his father horseback riding him at the beach with his foot trails following miles behind them. I wish I knew the world he sees through his drunken eyes.
I turn off the kitchen lights and walk closer to Roger. He’s holding his Bible on his lap and I’m holding the white towel on my left and the red brick on my right.
God, help me.
I lift the brick over my head.
What about my life, God?
I feel tears in my eyes.
What is my family going to think of this?
“Romans 7:3, So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress! But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man!”
I’m scared. My arms and legs are shaking. A reverend on the television is blaring, “God will hate you!! God will have no mercy on your soul!!” Roger turns his head to face me; the Bible slips out of his hands and lands open on the floor. Within the television glare I meet his terrified, blue eyes. I attempt to bash his forehead with the brick but instead I strike the back of the recliner. I wait for him to get up and try to run, maybe even try to hit me. He slams his right hand over his chest and his head descends onto his shoulder. I kneel next to him and gaze into his blue eyes. The longer I watch him I recall that it was his eyes that I’ve always loved; so beautiful and honest. It has been so long since I last looked into them. I get up, place the white towel over Roger’s face, and I look out the window. In the reflection I see an aging, mysterious figure with wet cheeks and black eyes, wearing a restaurant uniform that has lost color over the years.
I remove the towel from his face. I sit on his lap, holding the Bible against my chest, and say how sorry I am to Roger’s eyes.