Do you ever think of the tiny ‘what-ifs’ drifting around you? When you’re driving, do you wonder what might happen if you turn the steering wheel slightly to the right, toward that formidable live oak? Would you even jar the spanish moss from its branches as your Buick slammed into the tree’s solid trunk at forty miles an hour? (Pauses to look over the audience.)
I’d be fortunate to have been his wife before the car wreck. I don’t care how brief my fate. I notice how his wife’s memory rests deeply in the crow’s feet at the corners of Sumner’s eyes. I know it’s her in the tightness of his jaw. I’d gladly spend my days as a memory, evocative and ever-haunting.
When I was small, I used to imagine a yellow house with a garden and a husband, some chickens and a dog. The shutters are red, and the name of our first daughter is Lillian, after my grandmother. Somehow I found the husband, who comes with all the amenities, including this cruel joke for a daughter. Each kiss Sumner wastes on his dim girl is a slab of my heart, smoking like cured bacon on a hook in Willis’ dark shed. What if she wasn’t around? I know my kind of love consumes, but it’s all I have to offer.
I thoroughly enjoy shoving vegetables down the garbage disposal he installed last month. Onion tops and cucumber peelings plunge into the black, gnashing hole ‘til the tips of my fingers are at its edge. The power behind those teeth is immense as the disposal rips and grinds lemon peels into a fine pulp. What if those were your wretched fingers, flesh tearing neatly from grated bone? I can see the minced, bloodied stump of a hand I extract from its jaws. (Holds up her balled hand, as if it were a nub.)
What if, between a perfect pain and the bright scent of lemons, you discovered everything and nothing? What if you call this the existence of beauty? What if I call it love?