Alison didn’t remember most movies she and Sean watched, whether at the multiplex or on Netflix. Sean remembered the plot and music, all the taglines, who had starred, and who directed.
Alison remembered real life conversations. She remembered people’s names and faces after casual introductions on the street: friends of friends. She remembered not just women’s outfits, but men’s shirts, hair color and/or balding patterns. Smiles? She never forgot smiles, although she often judged them too quickly. Cold or warm, mean or kind, the result of too much dentistry or not enough.
So for years when she couldn’t remember which actresses had starred and which were “supporting,” she would joke, “Guess you better ask your other wife.”
“Why don’t we have any bourbon?” Sean swore that hot toddies cured impending colds and flu.
“You took it over to your other wife’s place last weekend.”
Alison was always asking him how many other kids he had, and how much money his other wife earned, because how was it possible that Sean and Alison never went anywhere or bought anything, but sank deeper into debt every month?
The first Wednesday night in January, however, Alison wasn’t asking Sean anything. Not why he needed to shower before coming to bed; not why for several weeks now he lavished her with sexual favors and attention as if desperate…to compensate for something.
While he toweled dry and rubbed expensive new creams into his face and hair, Alison wrapped herself naked inside the heavy top blanket. She wiggled to its edge, and keeping her hands flat by her hips, pinched the fabric. She wound the wool around herself, turning until she lay propped on her side of the bed, as tight and tapered at the ends as a home-rolled cigarette.
She breathed quietly, a body ready for disposal, though he might want some rope.
“What’s this?” He tried to tug her loose but her fingers clung to the edge. “You’re making a statement?”
“Not until you do.” Alison’s voice sounded muffled to her.
“I have to go first?”
“Now, later, whenever you want.” Even through layers of blanket, her voice reached right through him. “But yeah, Sean, you talk first.”