Today's story will not make you smile, or laugh. You may cry, or feel a bit lost, after reading it. Today's story is the story of Suzanne and her thoughts as she prepares for a date with her husband, David. But, shadows and painful memories block her way...as they have for many months. This is Suzanne's story-- about how she overcomes tragedy, for David.
I don’t know why I spend so much time in front of the mirror. A little more eyeliner, a dab more lipstick; what difference does it make? I never look any different. There they are, the same washed-out brown eyes, lidded in violet tonight. The same full lips with that sullen pout. The same long nose with the teeny-tiny nostrils.
And fat cheeks. Blush or no blush, I cannot get rid of these fat cheeks.
It is not only my cheeks that are fat. Every evening I stand before this hall mirror and fix my face-- to try and look nice for David, and I confront the misshapen belly that is so foreign to me now; this rounded flesh that will not go away no matter how much I beat on it.
My breasts, especially, are fat. Large breasts invite glances and winks. How can people avoid looking at them, they’re so…so—out there! It wasn’t very long ago I was wearing low-cut blouses and scoop-necked sweaters to show them off. That’s what men want, isn’t it? What David wants?
He doesn’t understand they’re only for show. He's still lost in that that day I wore the pink cashmere sweater, the one with the deep V-neck. I remember feeling frisky, prancing out of the bedroom with the smooth, white swell of my full bosom showing, then falling into his lap with a purr.
“Very sexy,” he mumbled, burying his face in my cleavage for a taste. I grabbed a fistful of that dark brown hair and pushed him away, playfully.
“I have to show them off before they melt,” I joked.
I remember still, even though that was weeks ago. As time goes by, I wait for them to melt, they have no use any longer, but they don't melt. They hang on my chest like ripe fruit, full and heavy.
My waist and hips are rounded, also. My figure is Rubenesque now. I gather glances everywhere I go. My hips sway, my breasts bounce, and behind me, I hear men sigh.
My stomach worries me. It looks flat, beneath my slacks and skirts, but it isn’t. I kept it toned and hard, in those before day. Back when I used to do two hundred and fifty stomach curls every day. I was the only one in my exercise class who could do that many without stopping. Now, when I step out of the shower, I jiggle, like Jell-o.
Dr. Curtis says not to worry about it. “Once you get back into your regular routine, your body will get hard again,” he told me.
That’s the problem. I cannot find my regular routine.
David has gone back to his regular routine. Dear David, who stands by me, still. I fear he will continue on without me. What can he do when his wife finds his cheerfulness boorish? His caresses, clumsy and uncouth? His lips on my neck, his breath in my ear, his hands around my waist; they make me cringe. I am made of brittle candle wax, and not even David’s warmth can soften me.
He tells me that brooding in front of this hall mirror night after night is no help. But, I’m trying to fix myself. I stand here and create a new face, shake my red curls out like confetti, paint a higher arch in my eyebrows, and end up looking like something out of a bad forties movie, ala Bette Davis. “What a dump!” I say. But I’m not talking about my house.
Maybe more rouge.
Ronald McDonald would envy this look!
There is a cool breeze coming from somewhere. I refuse to look for its origin. I know it’s coming from the room on my left. That empty room. The one room in the house that should be warm and cozy but only emanates emptiness in shadows that mock me.
David was the one who panicked in the beginning. I remember being calm. There we sat, alone in a room full of strangers. I held him and clucked at him to calm down, and stared hard at the red NO SMOKING sign through the smoky haze.
I wondered why no one came to make the offenders put out their cigarettes. When a security guard actually did, the air remained heavy, forming a grainy dread that circulated above our heads like a strange being from a science fiction movie. My eyes stung from the smoke, or from forgetting to blink, or something. David held my fingers so tightly I felt my knuckles crack. And still, we sat there, on those ugly plastic chairs, waiting, only waiting.
“How can this be happening?” David choked into my neck.
“Shush,” I said, “everything’s going to be fine.” After all, David and I are good people.
We’d done all the right things; read all the right books, took all the classes they told us to, posted the proper numbers by the phone. So I said it again, “Everything’s going to be fine. Just fine.”
But, it wasn’t fine. It isn’t fine.
And I don’t care that David is in the bedroom taking his time so I can get myself together. I can hear his whistle—he’s stepping into the walk-in closet. He’s making noise so I know what he’s doing. As if I need to be reminded. He’s gone to so many parties and dinners alone. When I said I would go this time, he smiled with such happiness I had to turn away.
This rouge is too dark, too dark altogether.
The door to the spare room is half-open. I don’t see it--I feel it. That’s David’s doing. I imagine the cold emanating out, but…I never go in there, so I really don’t know, do I? The truth is, I don’t even know what’s left in there. David took care of all that.
Usually I close the door. A closed door locks out the truth.
Halfway is all right, I guess. For today.
I’m wearing a new dress. David urged me to get something new. “You deserve it,” he said. I went to Camille’s in the mall, handed the saleslady my money and took the first thing she handed me. It was more expensive than I’m used to, but I thought, Why not? What else do I have to spend money on now? The dress is deep purple, and clingy. I’m very chic tonight, with high heels and pearls. Round in all the right places, face smooth, maybe a little tired, but still young. If I can fix this rouge, I will do David proud.
His boss will be at this party. “Kyle wants to meet you,” he told me. He seemed concerned. “He thinks I’ve made you up.” Why? Because David has attended all company functions alone for more than six months? A lot of men don’t bring their wives. A lone executive isn’t that unusual, is it?
David’s new secretary will be there tonight. Young, skinny, single. I remember her. Even though I only saw her once. That whole day is a blur, but I remember Brooke. She hung on David’s arm and made soothing noises at him.
That room was so stuffy, so crowded, so full of noise, I thought I would faint. I had to hold onto the back of the lectern where the white roses were and grit my teeth. Everything was so unreal, all the sounds, all the people mulling about, watching me, whispering. I tried to find David in the crowd, that’s when I noticed her.
She was whispering in David’s ear; her and her fine slim hands, with those sculptured nails painted neon pink, resting on David’s sleeve like talons.
My own nails are bitten to the quick. After I get back into my regular routine, I’m going to grow them into daggers and file them until they gleam. Then I’m going to get out my nail polish and paint them sizzling red.
David isn’t whistling anymore. He’ll be coming down the stairs any minute now.
But my mascara is smudged. And this damn rouge won’t come off! Where is my compact? What did I do with it this time?
“Are you ready, Suzanne?” He looks so handsome. A little heavier than when we first married, but strong, square of jaw, smooth of face, with bushy, jutting eyebrows. Not the CFO type at all. But, that’s what he is. A financial wizard, and I am his wife.
Why is he in such a hurry?
“Suzzie, you promised.”
Damn him for that! Promised, promised, promised! I don’t care. What good is a promise?
A pocketful of mumbles, that’s all a promise is.
“I tried, David. I tried so hard.”
“We both tried, Suz. It wasn’t our fault. Come to this party tonight. It’ll do you a world of good. Let me love you, Suzzie. Just let me love you.”
I know that look. That patient look. The gentle touch on my elbow…steering me to the door where the coats are.
How many times has he stood here in front of the hall closet holding my coat open for me with that hopeful look on his face? Five? Seven? Ten?