Topic: "Yes, and"
Keywords: dialogue, marital disharmony, hole-digging, fiction
Rating: R-rated for sexual references and a few incidences of Very Bad Language
Jimmy halted halfway down the hallway to the kitchen. The voice was coming from the parlor. It always came from the parlor.
“James, would you come in here, please?”
Maybe if I don't move she'll think I’m not here, he thought. He started to sway, caught himself against the wall. His thinking wasn’t the clearest at this particular moment.
“For God’s sake, I can smell your breath from there. Come in here.”
“Just a second," he said, working hard at overenunciating, slurring a bit on the s’s anyway. “I gotta get a sandwich.”
“Get in here, James.”
“Look, I'm sorry," he said, once he was seated on the sofa, staring at the 700-page presidential biography lying open in her lap. She was sitting erect and unmoving in her hardwood rocking chair; he tried to find a non-drunk way of sitting on the sofa. “I’m sorry, OK? I’ll go to an AA meeting tomorrow. OK? Two AA meetings. I swear, babe, I got this. I had four months sober. More or less. Just a... just a little slip, you know? Like... just a... a backset?” he said, then ran it back in his head. “Wait. That’s not it. It’s a...” Jennifer was watching him expressionlessly. “A -- a setback!” he proclaimed. “Just a little setback. Nothing to worry about.”
“Yes -- and?” she said.
“And what? What and? There’s no and.” She kept staring at him. “Nothing else.” More staring. “Nothing. Really.” Staring.
“Oh, for God's sake!" he flashed, finally. "Look. OK. Fine. I smoked some pot, OK? Like practically nothing. Like a half a joint. Which I know is the worst crime in the world. So I'm sorry. I'm sorry, okay?"
He looked up at her. She stared back.
"What do you want me to say here? I smoked some pot. Nothing else. That's all. Swear on a Bible."
She was still staring.
"What are you worried about? That I did some girl while I was out or something? I mean... what?" He tried a laugh. "OK, yeah, I get horny when I smoke pot. And, yeah, there were some girls at the bar. So what? You think I don't have any control over myself when I smoke pot? You think I just have to fall into bed with some girl every time I smoke up? I'm –- I'm offended at that, Jen. I'm offended. You ought to know me better than that."
She raised an eyebrow.
"OK!" he exploded. "Fine! One kiss, OK? One kiss." She kept staring. "A kiss on the lips," he said. “A kiss, some tongue. That's all. You really care that much about a kiss on the lips?"
She kept staring.
"What does it matter which set of lips!" he yelled. "It's still not sex. That doesn't count as sex."
The eyebrow arched another fraction of an inch.
“It doesn’t! Look, our wedding vows said I'd be faithful. I’m faithful, OK? I don’t fuck around on you. I don’t fuck anybody else.”
Same raised eyebrow. Same stare.
“Oh, what? You want to bring up Nancy now? Don't even bring up Nancy." He was on a roll now, words tumbling out and running together. “I know you know about the thing with Nancy. You can stop inviting her to your cocktail parties and shit, I know you know, all right? That was like a year ago, Jen. You want to hold a grudge from a year ago? Fine. You know what would help? What would help this situation? What would help would be if you weren’t such a lousy fuck!” Her face didn't move a muscle. “Fucking you’s like fucking a rock! If you're mad about Nancy, you got no one to blame but yourself. I mean, Christ, you don’t want me messing around with girls in bars, then try moving your hips once in awhile! But no, you’re too good for that, aren't you, Miss High-Tits Dry-Snatch? I mean, maybe I wouldn't fuck around if you weren't such a cold-cunt bitch!”
She stared at him for one last moment, then got up and turned her back to him. “Hey, look," he said as she began to walk away. “I”m -- I’m sorry, OK? Hey. I’m sorry. We're not going to throw away everything we have over this, right? Because we got a good thing.”
As she moved into the hallway, she gave him a glance back over her shoulder. “By the way," she said, “I was only looking for 'It’ll never happen again.'"
The divorce papers showed up at his hotel room three days later.