Letter to the Man of the House
(inspired by Richard Bausch)
by Rone Shavers
It’s the strange hour, that odd space between evening and dawn when it’s both late and early. You’re sleeping of course, but I’m alert as ever and again at risk of disturbing you. I know you’ve grown to hate how I sometimes only feign to sleep at night, and well, since things haven’t been that great between us lately, I decided that tonight I’d just do something as simple as get up and leave you this small surprise. In just a few hours, when we trade places and I’m the one sleeping in, ignoring the sounds of your morning routine, you’ll find this waiting for you.
I’ve been thinking: Why is it that we’ve both grown so quiet and sullen lately? While I’d love to blame it on winter doldrums, I worry that it may point to something more serious. Take last Sunday, for instance. I was already in a bad mood and you made it worse by constantly making fun of my appetite, so I snapped at you. I wanted a respite from all those passive-aggressive quips of yours, but that doesn’t excuse my own hisses and swipes. Looking back on it, I know you didn’t mean what you said—any of it—and so, again, I apologize.
Do you think that maybe we fight because we’ve both gotten too comfortable with each other, too settled in our ways? I mean, I’ve watched you fill out and grow chubby, corpulent like a stuffed duck, and you’ve seen me get more stressed out and grey. And what, with my always not sleeping through the night and you always being away from home for hours on end, there’s no way we’d ever be considered a perfect couple—we intentionally spend too much time in separate rooms of the house for that to happen—so no, we’re not perfect. You’re not perfect, and I’m not perfect, but just like us, love isn’t perfect. It never is. It’s not supposed to be.
And yet now that we’re a bit longer in the tooth, I sometimes wonder what life has in store for us. Do you remember New Year’s Eve, I think it was two winters’ ago? It was so loud and chaotic outside that I wanted to change plans and stay indoors. You, of course, you wanted to go out, and when I refused to budge you went on ahead without me. I never told you this, but while you were gone I spent the entire time thinking about those trashy kids a few houses down, the ones who clearly hate us, and how if there was ever a time for them to commit one of their violent, spastic acts, this was it. Knowing what was out there, I really worried for your safety, and when the magic hour came and went and your keys still hadn’t jingled in the door, I almost went into a panic. When you finally came back home, sweaty and in a stupor, but yes, all in one piece, I was so relieved that all I could do was sigh my gratitude and let you sleep it off. After all, anything I would have said or done, you would have forgotten anyway.
It’s because you think you cry more than me. You think that just because I tend to wear my frustrations on my sleeve, I’m the one who causes all the pain and strife between us. But you’re wrong. You’ve hurt me too, by acting in ways that you know will upset me, by acting like I cease to exist when you’re not around. Still, no matter how disturbingly, predictably selfish you sometimes get or how unbearably awkward you often are, I care about you.
What I mean is that familiarity breeds comfort, and the comfort of seeing someone everyday breeds false assumptions, the potential for expectations that often go unsaid, and actions that either go unnoticed or unreciprocated. You are familiar to me. I know what you sometimes want and need without your even saying it. You understand me just like I understand you, so let’s not lose sight of that. Let’s be totally honest with each other, and not give in to fear.
Which brings me to the point I’ve wanted to make this entire time. You know I care for you, but I’m not sure if you know exactly how much. Now that we’re both aware that our youth is behind us, although it’s more than a little hard to say, there is something you should know: Should you die, should something awful happen, like one day you have a stroke and I walk in to discover you lifeless on the kitchen floor, I would be devastated and heartbroken. Depression does not even begin to summarize what I would feel, but eventually, after a suitable amount of time, like, say, a day or so, I’d get hungry and I’d have to eat you. Make no mistake, Richard. When you die, if I have the opportunity or if the opportunity presents itself, I will eat you. And there’s no need to thank me, either. I know that my feasting on your corpse is precisely what you’d want me to do. After I’ve tapped your cheek several times to make sure you’re wholly dead, you’d want me to live on, well fed and happy. I’m sure of it, so sure that I see no need to ever speak of it again, and neither should you. Let it be our little secret instead, a sign and seal of our bond and eternal affection.
I could go on, but you’ll be getting up soon so I think it’s probably best if I just leave things here, along with this mouse tail that no longer interests me. Here it is, then, my way of saying good night and good morning and always sleep well, and know that when I wake in the night, I often watch you just lying there, breathing, ever so slightly.
Photo: Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Rone Shavers is a writer who publishes in multiple genres. His fiction has appeared in literary journals such as Another Chicago Magazine, , Longform.org, Pank magazine, Thought Catalog, and Warpland: A Journal of Black Literature and Ideas, to name only several venues, while his non-fiction essays and essay-length reviews have appeared in American Book Review, BOMB Magazine, EBR: Electronic Book Review, Fiction Writers Review, and The Quarterly Conversation. Shavers currently teaches courses in fiction and contemporary literature at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.