This version of my husband moved out of his house and into me in the early 1990s. It was love at last sight. He was not the man I wanted but he was the man I got.
My name in this version of events is Geraldine. My husband’s name at this point was Rex. I have never forgiven my parents for this name and if names were objects, then this one was a punchbag which all my bullies and not-well-wishers hammered with their bony knuckles.
I was working in a bar. It was a small town with small people, and everyone’s faces looked like raked mashed potato. The men in the bar all had violently large bellies and sometimes I wondered if they were going to give birth to something, jettison some still-born clod of flesh and blood and oily hair onto the beer-sticky floor.
And then there was my husband to be, Rex. He was stick thin and dressed in rags.
“Hey,” he said. “I haven’t eaten in a year. Do you have any food?”
“We’ve run out,” I said.
“Too bad, too bad. I can do without for a little longer, I guess.”
Things moved quickly. Every man in this town was a piece of shit and a failure. I had been on several dates and the men would always dissect me like a frog. I remember being in that restaurant, Giovanni’s, and over a plate of mussels and spaghetti, my date, a piece of lard shaped like a man called Roger, cut my torso open and played my ribs like a xylophone. He also sawed the top of my skull off and wore it like a cap and poked the parts of my brain that would give him the secrets of my mind. He asked me what I liked to do in my spare time and I said masturbate and chase rats. It was true. I liked to follow rats in the streets and count them. One, two, three, four and that’d be a good day for me, counting rats. But Roger, like many men, could look past my idiosyncrasies. I could’ve been a racist or a paedophile and he still would have swallowed his pride and fucked me. He took me back to his house, then, and he swallowed me whole and spat me back out. I was covered in his goo.
But Rex was different. He took me to the opera. We watched fat ladies sing in foreign languages. We went to dinner and watched each other chew and swallow food. We put our fingers in each other’s’ mouths and inspected teeth, picked the food from the crevices. Wow, we were in love. Love happens quickly, I thought, just like a car crash. Wow. I was overwhelmed. Rex was a considerate lover and had a penis like a scimitar. I was so ashamed of my own body and believed it was filled with trash. Sex, then, was a cleaning exercise for us both.
“Rex,” I whispered, “I am filled with garbage. My mom used to tell me so. Can you get it out?”
“Yes,” he said, “oh god, yes!”
He would enter me and scoop my garbage out.
Wow, love happens quickly. Rex ended up leaving his apartment which was above a bowling alley and beneath another bowling alley and he popped the question.
“Can I move into you?”
I was, frankly, quite flattered. “Yes,” I said. “I don’t charge rent.”
Wow, I thought. I am in love.
This version of my husband has given up the name Rex. “I hate it!” he would say. He threw his name in the trash and created a new one. Theodore. This version of my husband was not tall and thin anymore, but squat and fleshy.
“You look like a Hungarian wrestler from the 1920s,” I told him. “Where has this torso come from? You’re all torso.”
I missed those long torso’d days of Rex. Theodore had moved in. We’d got married a few months earlier. The sweet hungry man of our youth had been replaced with a man who was always filled.
“Geraldine, I think I’ve got three porks stuck in me,” he said one evening.
“Oh Jesus, three porks?”
“They’re the ones you cooked the other night. They’re lying in the pit of my stomach like docked boats, baby.”
“I don’t know what to say! Or what to do? Shall I call my mom?”
“Always with your mother. Have you ever thought that you shouldn’t cook a man like me three porks in a week?”
I hadn’t thought this. Ever since he’d moved in and ever since we’d been married, he’d become crueller and more critical. In those youthful days of singledom, he would encourage me to speak my mind.
“Always fight back, Geraldine, back against the patriarchy!”
But now it was different.
“Why are you the way you are?”
“You don’t cook a man three porks in a week! Not with a torso like this!”
He said once that my mouth and my opinions were too big.
Was he right? I doubted myself in everything. I tried to do the right thing, so I reached inside his asshole and pulled the porks from his body. It totally wiped him out. He was out for weeks, in bed, pale.
This version of my husband was an intellectual. He was a little older now and his hair had greyed on the sides. His grey hair gave him an excuse to wear glasses. He enrolled in a university course on literature and gender studies. He’d also taken to wearing woollen jumpers and talking in cafes with other white men and women about intellectual things that went over my head.
“She doesn’t get it,” he said to everybody at the table. I blushed, naturally. I knew what he was talking about, but words wouldn’t come out of my mouth when I went to engage. I was paralysed because of all their big words and fierce white faces and conviction.
“White people have lots of conviction,” I said.
They went quiet and chuckled slightly.
He started wearing corduroy trousers. I started to become sick of the sight of him. His white flesh was annoying and filled with politics. When I slept next to him at night, I’d press my face into his back fat and submerge myself in his new white intellectualism. Wow, I thought, it’s fat. It’s so annoying and fat. Even intellectuals wanted hand jobs, too, it seemed, and in the middle of the night he would silently and expectantly guide my hand over to his penis like a JCB grab claw and he’d help clasp my fingers around his cock. But I was frozen. My hand held his cock like it was something dead. It was just a white root coming out of his body. I wanted to wrench it out of him, like uprooting a vegetable.
I found him repulsive. I found my husband, the intellectual, so sickening that I’d often have to go to the toilet and vomit him away. All my inner body goo and chunks of breakfast, lunch and dinner poured out of me. Am I the only person who thinks of cooking my vomit back as an omelette? Okay. But still, there I was, purging. I was purging hard. I purged so hard that I began to lose weight. I lost some weight on my thighs first, then mid-section and then my face. I was gaunt.
This intellectual version of my husband did not last. He was having an affair with a fellow student, a girl ten years younger than I, and she eventually tired of him. I knew it was happening, but I still accepted him back. He kissed my hand one evening and said “I can change.”
If there’s one thing men can do, it is change, I thought.
This version of my husband is different types of furniture. Firstly, he is a footrest. I rest my feet upon his arched back and watch TV. Secondly, he is a chair and I sit in him and wiggle my ass around to get comfortable. Thirdly, he is a dinner table and I invite some female friends to my house to dine off his stomach and chest.
But even though my husband wasn’t furniture for long, he was a good man. We created a child together. When you break it down, a child is the marriage of sperm and egg and pure chance and for this I am thankful. The child grew in me and made me fat. My feet got bigger. When the child came out, we both decided to love it unconditionally.
This didn’t happen.
My husband will not admit this readily, but he treated the child badly. Our boy grew up crooked. His bones were bent and he walked funny. But more importantly, his brain was crooked too. He couldn’t talk straight. A stutterer. He twitched and would randomly become filled with anger. We didn’t know where it came from, but something told me it was my husband. My little boy would quiver when he saw my husband.
We weathered parenthood. Time passed. Our love wavered. One day I loved my husband, but for what reasons? I didn’t know. Maybe it was for old times’ sake. A lot of people love others because of past events. But actually, maybe it wasn’t love. I tolerated and stuck with my husband. He went grey. He put on weight. He said stupid things and irritated me. But I didn’t want to die alone. I won’t go through that alone, I sung to my child, in the form of a lullaby.
This version of my husband puts pots on his head, and bangs them. His name here is Blini Thompson and he’s covered in warts and has a horizontal tooth, if you can believe it.
“Ha ha, bang bang, I have a pot on my head, bang bang!”
He has become afflicted with some sort of disease. We don’t know which. We don’t see doctors, or at least try our best not to.
Our child, Thomas, is in his twenties and will have nothing to do with us. We’re sorry for what we did, Thomas! This is what I want to tell him but we haven’t just yet.
And so I was alone with this version of my husband. Blini Thompson would go into the kitchen and put a pot on his head and bang it with a garlic crusher until my head throbbed. I could feel the veins in my head spiderwebbing over my skull. I was at my wits end, but I had to remember: he is ill. He is sick. My darling husband is sick.
Also, it was too late to leave him, I thought. You should’ve done it years ago. But now? No. We were rooted in our misery. The misery was sometimes comfortable, like a plump bed, but other times it was a brick floor with rats picking at you.
“Bang bang, ha ha! Pots!”
I eventually got a doctor who said Blini Thompson had lost his mind.
“Well, where is it doctor?”
“We can try and look for it, but if you want my advice? He’s lost, lost to all time.”
I broke down into what I thought were tears, but no. We had to rememeber the good times. I made a timeline in our living room of all the event that had happened in our lives, all the love and all the loss, the creation of a child, the places we had been, the places we thought we would go to, the different versions of my husband.
When the timeline was complete, I saw it all now: our love was as long as a living room, as wide as a table and there I was, next to it, exactly the same as they had always expected me to be.