Slip of the Tongue(9)

By: Jessica Hawkins

I lock the door behind him.


Nathan makes no secret of his late-night arrival home from bowling. The front door slams. The bedroom lights come on. At first, I think I’m dreaming. I sit up and rub my eyes to see the clock. The red digital numbers sear my eyeballs—it’s after two in the morning. “Nate?”

He fills the doorway, standing there as if he forgot what he came in the room for. “Yeah?”

“You woke me,” I say.


He doesn’t look or sound sorry. His tie is balled in his fist, the collar of his button-down open. He’s been wearing his hair in a smooth wave lately, like a dark chocolate truffle. Different. I like it. It’s almost survived whatever he’s been up to, except that a few stiff pieces sag over his forehead.

My husband is dark, with olive skin and brown-black hair that matches his eyes. But I don’t think of him that way. To me, he’s idyllic and warmhearted. That’s his personality. Tonight, though, there is a darkness about him.

“Where’ve you been?” I ask.

“Same place as every other Monday night.”

Still gauging his mood, I hide my disdain for his snark. “Yes, I know. I meant after.”

“No after. Just came straight home.”

“You got this wasted at a bowling alley?”

He rubs the bridge of his nose. “I’ve tried telling you, it isn’t just a place you go roll a ball. It’s—” He sighs. “Never mind. I’m not wasted. We had drinks. Is that okay with you?”

“It’s fine. When have I ever said you can’t go out drinking?” I glance at the clock. “I mean, it is late for a Monday night, but . . .”

He throws his arms up in frustration and goes to our walk-in closet. His tie and suit jacket end up on the floor before he undoes his belt and begins to undress. Nathan has always had a nice, solid ass. The first time I watched him walk away, my friend Jill called me out for staring. That was before he worked out consistently. Now, he’s in the gym four days a week, and I’m definitely not the only woman enjoying the view.

“Nathan . . .” Considering our up-until-now healthy sex life, I still have a hard time accepting the fact that we’ve slept side by side for this long without touching each other. “Come to bed.”

“I am,” he says over his shoulder.

“I mean now. Like . . . right now.” I take my bottom lip between my teeth. Our high-thread-count sheets are suddenly silkier. The hour is no longer of any importance to me. Two months is a strange amount of time to go without sex. After a week passed, I started to go a day or two without even thinking of it. But sometimes, out of nowhere, my need will burn me up from the inside out. Two months isn’t long enough that I’ve forgotten how good it is with him.

Nathan keeps his back to me, piling his clothes at his feet. “I’ll take care of this in the morning.”

Even drunk, Nate is worried about making a mess. I’ve never had to beg him to put his socks in the hamper or pick up the dry cleaning like some of my friends do with their husbands. He’s tidier than anyone I know. “I don’t care,” I say. “You have plenty of suits. Come to bed.”

“I said I will,” he says shortly.

We both go quiet. Nathan’s head is over his shoulder, but his eyes are on the floor. I slouch back against the bed. It doesn’t concern me that Nate goes drinking with friends. I encourage it. He’s social. I’m not as much. When he’s happy, I’m happy. Tonight, though, there was no text or phone call like I’d assumed there’d be. Nathan and I used to be in continuous touch—virtually and physically. He’d text me just to say hi or tell me something about his day. He’d take my elbow when we crossed the street and leave me love notes in unexpected places. He got hungry for me at unexpected times. We were always in touch.

To go from one extreme to another is jarring. Before now, when Nathan went out with his friends, it was with reluctance. He didn’t want me to be lonely. He wanted me with him, but when I’m there, he goes out of his way to make sure I’m having a good time. None of his friends do that with their wives, and that’s part of why I stay home two nights a week. He should have fun with them, not worry about me.

When it becomes clear Nathan isn’t going to apologize for his tone, I slip back under the covers and pull my pillow under my head. “Excuse me for wanting my husband to fuck me.”

He says something under his breath. My temperature rises as I try to guess his comeback. I think it’s “give me a break.” Uncalled for and unoriginal. Neither of us is good at fighting. We don’t do it often. I should be better considering my parents did it on a weekly basis when I was a kid and still do. My dad started drinking when I was a kid, and his unhappiness soon spread through the family. My mom picked up the addiction next. She was a shy drunk. During a fight, she’d run into their bedroom. It was the scrape-click of the door’s deadbolt that would send my dad over the edge. When my brother was older, my dad picked fights with him. Andrew would barge into my room and lock the door. Although Dad never came after me, Andrew’d find me under the bed or in my closet. Coloring when I was younger. Playing music or reading magazines when I was older. Escaping. He’d kiss me on the forehead before climbing out my window and speeding off on his motorcycle. Like my mom, I hid until it blew over, which it always did.

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