This is how it starts. With a touch.

Too many years of marriage have taught you what it means. In fact, youíve known for days

Edvard Munch, The Kiss
(even before he did) and yet still you arenít prepared for the sickening feeling. You force yourself not to move when his hand caresses your inner thigh, making donuts, swirls, a bulls-eye.

         He is watching television. A game show. You pretend to watch it too. He blurts out answers as if he knows them. He doesnít. You know them but donít say anything because he doesnít like it when you know more than he does. You donít like it either.

         You remind yourself, the way you always must now, that it wasnít always this way. Long ago, when he was Adam and you were Eve, it was about pleasure. Or so your books say. The expensive ones even mention happiness. They proclaim there were other things beyond control and power. Things called love, passion. There were also babies. Lots and lots of babies.

         Your eyes wander to his hand resting on your thigh. It has stopped. Maybe heís too tired. Maybe that extra cheesecake you had will be just enough to make him only touch and then stop. He points out regularly where he sees another stretch mark, another strip of skin. Undiscovered country, he calls it. He says he tells you because he loves you. He invites you to tell him too. But you donít. There is nothing undiscovered about him.

         His fingers begin to dance again. He doesnít seem to notice how youíve become stiff like a corpse. You forgive him because you think it must be horrible to be married to a corpse. You want to forgive him for what heís about to do to you because you know who he is: a predator, an animal, a creation of someoneís God. You know he has been born and bred through tens of thousands of years of inescapable evolution, that this is merely a by-product. You wonder if his mother ever felt this way too.

         You make a bargain with yourself. This is the price you pay for your heaven, for every day where he doesnít belittle or yell or make your child cry with impossible expectations. For the things he lets you buy. The places he takes you. Nothing is free. Everything has a price. Despite knowing this, it is still much more difficult for you to forgive yourself.

         You close your eyes and pretend to sleep. You are almost asleep when you hear it. His words filleting the universe, gutting it open wide.

         ďIf I didnít love you, I would rape you.Ē

         You open your eyes. He is still watching the television only now his hand is further up your thigh, at the edge of your panties. You think you may wonder for the rest of your life if you imagined them, his words; if they are a mutation, or if somehow youíve actually created them.

         This is the only moment in which choice still exists. You could stop him. Endure or perish. The unspoken words pulse down from his racing heart, through his fingers and into your flesh. You feel them, tiny paddles of a defibrillator wanting to bring you back to life. This is how we endure, it shocks you once. This is how our marriage endures, it shocks you twice. This is how the human species endures, it shocks you three times. The line is flat. This is how we will perish.

         You think of monkeys, then. Naked, hairy monkeys. This is how they do it. Youíve watched them at the zoo. You are horrified to recognize how similar it is. How, really, thereís no difference between you and the monkeys. The only thing that separates you is a thin layer of clothing and an even thinner layer of words. You wonder what monkeys would say if they could talk, or if they would choose silence too.

         All of this has been pre-determined. The monkeys. You. Him. You remember this clearly from Sunday school. If thereís nothing else you believe about God, you believe this: that if He were more of a man and less of a ghost, He would be doing this to you too.

         You remember once upon a time you used to love his long fingers. If you loved his fingers, you must have loved him, right? This is what your girlfriend tells you over drinks at a bar when she borrows your wedding ring. She is stupid enough to think a ring will repel them. Take it, you say fiercely to her. You want to throw it. Once itís gone, the men come to you in waves. You like it when they hit on you. It makes you feel like you still have a choice. You practice saying no to them, one at a time.

         He is no longer watching television. He removes both your clothes and his with remarkable speed. He smiles at you, a little boy in an old manís body. Heís had this look nearly every day of his life for somethingóa candy bar, a toy, a good meal, a scotch, a pornographic film, a cigar. He picks you up and puts you on top of him like you are a rag doll. Both you and he have designated spots in the room where you stare, where your eyes drift and lock anchoring to the objects you each own.

         His lips try to devour yours. You suffocate. You can feel that sex is not really what he wants, but it is the only thing he knows he can have. Youíve long since ceased to make love. What does that even mean? you think. How does one make love? It either exists or it doesnít.

         He pushes you off. You look up. He is bent over, hands between his own legs, a look of timeless frustration swelling his face. Youíve seen this look before. It hangs limp and lifeless in his hands. He tries to resurrect the moment, his manhood. It doesnít happen every time but enough. More and more as the years tick by and his body tells him the same thing as yours. If only he would accept it the way you have.

         Then thereís that moment of pity. A moment when you know you can fix this, you can still make him happy. You feel nauseous considering it. You donít want to think anymore. You donít want to know what it would mean if you stopped, if you told him to stop and considered carefully what you are about to do, what you are both sacrificing every time you force yourself to come together when it will never bring back what youíve lost. Stuck in the mire of time, here, halfway between cavemen and spacemen, forgotten, you are no longer primates, nor are you the Gods and Goddesses you expected to be. You are just this: naked and near death.

         You reposition yourself, opening your mouth wide, taking the head in first and then the shaft. Up and down, up and down. You are no longer woman or wife or mother or whore. Now you are a miner. An oil drill. Up and down, you can feel it growing, becoming stiffer, longer, filling your mouth, your throat. Tears brim but you donít stop. You are not a quitter. You feel him shudder and then the gusher, the landslide of life. It withers in an instant and he lies there so still, you wonder if heís dead.

         But then he moves, stirring to life, smiling again. He leaves you to clean up the sticky spot on the couch where he once was. Only the spot is not a spot, itís black. You put your finger in it, through it: now a hole. You watch it grow bigger and bigger. Hundreds of spermatozoa, the unborn children you once craved, dance on the edges before diving inside, swirling, suicidal.

         You can hear him in the bathroom dressing. You walk up to him, still naked. The cold wind of the black hole tugs at you, an icy hand stroking your spine. You can feel the edge touching you now, the event horizon.

         ďIf I didnít love you, I would leave you,Ē you say to him. He pretends he doesnít hear, but you know youíve said it. He does too. You can see it in his eyes, the way theyíve collapsed.

         Itís in that momentówhen you leap into it, cresting on the event horizon, stretching out, flattening, becoming two-dimensional, and then being torn apart, limb by limb, until you are a scattering of molecules, one-dimensionalóthat you are certain, absolutely positively certain that he did say it.

         If I didnít love youÖ

         The possibilities are endless. His voice, your voice, inside the singularity the language folds in on itself again and again, until it disappears, insignificant. Like you. Like him.

         This is how it ends. With silence.

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