Do or Don’t or Do

by Jennifer Murvin

You need to leave your husband, and you do. When your son goes with his dad on Sunday, he takes different pieces of you with him; at first the tearing hurt, but now you have grown important callouses like when learning to play guitar, and on Wednesdays you welcome him and also yourself home, reattaching with pleasure, as you both appreciate puzzles and music.

You need to leave your husband, and you don’t. One night, he comes home drunk. He has run into a car and he did not want to stop to leave a note, he’d had a few beers, it might have invited attention, he didn’t know what to do, he just drove home. You get up from sleep, drive in the snow in your pajamas, find the car, leave the note in Sharpie. Another drunk husband runs over you in the street and doesn’t want to invite attention, he just drives home, and your body is covered in light snow like someone has dusted you with powdered sugar.

You need to leave your husband, and you do. Your husband’s child support money is necessary to pay for your new house, and one morning you cough up a coin and you realize it is not a coin but your old wedding ring, which you then sell for more money, and then you cough up the ring again, but you realize the money is necessary so you are grateful even when you are choking.

You need to leave your husband, and you do. You take your son home to California with you for visits, and one day your son peels you like the tangerines in your parents’ yard and you step out clean and open, nutritious, and your seeds can be planted to make new tangerines.

You need to leave your husband, and you don’t. When you come home from a night out, he goes out again, for another drink without you. You fall asleep next to your son and wake up there with him. There is a fine mist where your hair used to be. He flies his little toy airplane through your mist and it tickles and you both laugh, Mayday, Mayday!

You need to leave your husband, and you don’t. He becomes a millionaire within the year, and it is fun to play with your new paper husband who is now a classy $100 bill. You fold him into an origami crane and he flaps his way into a glass of Scotch and becomes wet and unfoldable and flightless.

You need to leave your husband, and you don’t. At night you reach for him, but he is not there. You fall in love with every other man you see or meet or write or who writes you, and eventually you fall too fast and tumbling down a canyon and no one ever finds your body except the sweet little animals who live through a winter because of you.

You need to leave your husband, and you do. The child you lost in a miscarriage visits you in a dream, in the shape of a bird. Your son calls out for water and you bring him water in a pink glass and he asks you to sleep next to him and you both dream of birds and together the three of you are singing in tangerine trees.

You need to leave your husband, and you don’t. You watch movies alone at night, and one day, you find yourself in the television and you can’t get out. The plexiglass is very cool against your forehead, cheek, and palms. Your son watches you at 10 o’clock Saturday mornings and at least you are his favorite show.

You need to leave your husband, and you don’t. You sit in the nicest hotel in the world. You wear a silk nightie. He is gone and gone. You do not know where he is. When he comes back, he says, I was buying weed. You do not smoke weed. You have hung the silk nightie on a hanger and it falls there like a woman whose insides have been blown entirely out and you are the woman.

You need to leave you husband, and you don’t. On a trip, you come to understand that while you are swimming with turtles, he has been smoking weed with the captain’s girlfriend. As he speaks, smoke appears around his head in the shape of all the things he has done without you. You disappear into the turtles, become one of them. You swim to visit your sister thousands of miles away, because she shares the same ocean. Your sister does not know the turtle is you but she dreams of turtles for several nights and eventually adopts a tortoise as a pet.

You need to leave your husband, and you do. You write a poem for your son and it appears under his pillow at his dad’s, and he writes you one back and it appears under your pillow, and though you keep his door closed when he is not with you, your son comes back every time, and you are there, you are there. One morning you reattach your missing part your son has handed back to you in a funny place to make him laugh, and you understand being whole can take different shapes, and you are a living sculpture.

You need to leave your husband. And you do.

Photo credit: David Troeger