At the Marriage Counselor’s
Our marriage counselor’s own marriage is untroubled, her family life is unspeakably serene. This lady has never even broken a nail. I know all this from the next door neighbor. She, my neighbor, hates me and thinks my husband would be far better off without me, but she is an incorrigible gossip and couldn’t help telling me everything she knows.
We are here because of my inescapable sadness, my unending dissatisfaction, my extramarital lover. My husband is content with his life, he doesn’t know why I cry so much, why I’ve taken to adultery. He has done so much to make me happy, he can do no more. He makes no demands, he asks for nothing. I never would have married a demanding man.
He is speechless most of the day now. This involves no noticeable change. But what does he know of melancholy? He has never spent the day in bed unless ill. We both thought a few little pills would take care of all that. My psychiatrist was kind, but did not exonerate my husband the way he meant to be exonerated. So, here we are. This morning, he put his hands on the refrigerator, the microwave, the fireplace tools, anywhere but me.
The good doctor has told me there used to be many kinds of marriages, in the Middle Ages. There was one kind that was to last until the birth of a child. That is the kind my husband and I have, I am sure of it. He saw something in me, something genetic, he liked the color of my hair, he liked the way I spoke, he liked the fact I could become presentable at a moment’s notice. He saw me in my sheer cotton nightgown and called me an angel.
I misunderstood, took it all wrong. He never touched me except for sex, which I didn’t want as often as him. I never came, it wasn’t his fault: it was me, something cold and unreachable and impervious to all male charm. I didn’t want to lose control.
What did it take to lose control the first time? Something completely different, something dark and dangerous and inappropriate. A man who smoked, a man with blunt, hard hands. Not the selfish touch, but the delicate touch burdened with the yearning of a lifetime. I wanted someone who had suffered. Someone who had been hit with coffee cups in the cheek. Someone who would understand my thoughts. I was tired of being alone.
The marriage counselor has prominent cheekbones, a perfect chin, and a kind, melodious voice. Her pale, perfectly manicured hands flutter around her bosom like white doves. She tells me I must give up my lover if I want to work on my marriage. I don’t know why that is necessary, my husband isn’t giving up his bad habits for me. It is I who must change, it’s always that way….
“She can’t help you,” the marriage counselor tells my husband. “She’s not willing to give up her outside relationship.”
“I just want some time off,” I say, “like a vacation from the marriage.”
“You run the risk of alienating Phil forever,” she says. Phil clutches a sofa pillow to his midsection, as if steeling himself for a blow.
“Some time off,” I say. “I’m not ready to do what he wants.” Phil starts to cry. I want to throw up. He looks so undignified crying, so sloppy, so babyish. I wonder if that’s how I look to him when I cry. I put this thought out of my mind immediately.