How many times have you fucked him? he said.
I won’t suffer that language.
He looked his age, but people said you would never suspect she had two grown children. This husband and wife sat across from each other at the kitchen table drinking bottled beer, no glasses. She smoked a cigarette.
What’s his name? he said.
You don’t know him.
What’s his name?
I’m not telling you his name.
Because you know I’d kill him.
Not in a fair fight. Believe you me, he’s in great shape.
Go to hell.
That’s where I’m at. That’s where you’ve put me.
Where do you think I’ve been all these years?
Is that what this is? Is that what this is all about? Getting even?
One won’t make me even.
The wall phone rang. He got to it first.
Daddy? Daddy, is that you?
Cindy, this is a bad time, honey.
Give me the phone.
I’m talking here.
Give me the damn phone.
All right. Here. Take it. Why don’t you tell her?
Mother, what on earth?
The man went to the refrigerator, got another bottle of beer and twisted the cap throwing it in the sink. He sat down at the table, took a long drink then called out, Your mother’s fucking some college boy!
He drank more of the beer. His wife finished talking to their daughter, and then she sat down at the table, lit another cigarette, exhaled smoke, crossed her arms and stared at him.
He said, That’s a filthy habit.
None of us are angels. So, what are we going to do?
Do? Do? You have some gall. I’ll give that much to you. You have some damn nerve.
I didn’t mean to hurt you.
Oh, no. Of course not.
He does have a girlfriend. He doesn’t want her to find out. He doesn’t want to see me anymore.
From where he sat, the man could see into the dining room and out the big window. Night was descending and lights were already on in the living room of the neighbors across the street. No one was in the living room. A lawn mower sat in the gravel driveway that led to an open garage. A station wagon sat in the garage and a van sat at the curb. Both vehicles were late models.
We usually went drinking after class.
I won’t tell you that, either.
And to think I was the one to suggest you go back for your MFA.
I was so proud.
My wife, the scholar.
What are we going to do?
She crushed out her cigarette in the heavy glass ashtray and lit another one.
You should’ve stayed in ballet, he said. You could’ve taught ballet.
I was sick of ballet.
You’re still built like a dancer.
I was fortunate to perform as long as I did.
You could have been a pima ballerina.
The corps de ballet was enough. You have to marry ballet and I was already married.
Well, you fixed that, didn’t you?
I guess I did.
She crushed out the cigarette and left the kitchen, the sound of her footsteps climbing the stairs.
He sat in the near darkness. He got up and clicked on the overhead light and then sat back down at the table. He had an urge to swipe the five empty beer bottles off the table. He stared down at the table.
Now in his mind he and she were young again. He saw himself walking with her through the hall to the dance studio. She was hauling the balky dance bag which hung by a long strap from her right shoulder as she walked in that toes pointed outward sway all the student ballerinas walked in. Sprawled over the hall floor in front of the closed brown twin doors, other student ballerinas in black leotards, white tights and pink toe shoes limbered up. Some of them wore pink leg warmers, too. All of them had their hair pulled back tight from their faces. Soon the studio would fill with the scent of perfume and sweat.
She would find a spot, drop the bag and kick off her clogs while pulling down her jeans to sit on the floor. He’d sit down beside her. If the pink toe shoes were new there was the repeated bending to loosen them up. She would put the flat nose shoes on her feet and tie the pink ribbons around her ankles, the end of the ribbons tucked in because they should never show. Then she’d stand up. He would stand up. There was never enough room to put many steps together. She’d go through the basic positions. She’d flex each ankle several times while lightly gripping one of his biceps for balance. Finally, she would let go of his arm and go up en pointe to walk around in a small circle taking tiny, very quick and very precise steps with her head, arms and hands held just so, the muscles of her legs working splendidly beneath the white tights…
His wife’s footsteps came down the stairs. He left the kitchen and went into the living room. In the lamplight she was taking a sweater from the closet and putting it on. A shoulder purse sat on the cocktail table. A suit case sat on the floor next to the sofa.
She said, I’ll phone.
He said, Oh, now c’mon.
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