Marie and Dave met online and have been screwing three times a week for the last 2.75 months. Marie thinks the sex is pretty good—especially when they pretend that the world’s been taken over by zombies and they’re the last two survivors, holed up in her studio apartment and savoring the final, fleeting moments of their humanity. Marie likes Dave, would like to keep screwing Dave, but her problem is that screwing is all she and Dave ever do. On his JDate profile, Dave said he enjoyed horror movies, Afro-Pop and a good tandoori chicken. Yet, they never go anywhere—not to that Indian place around the corner or that world music fest she’s dropped so many hints about. Marie tells herself it’s OK that Dave’s never introduced her to his friends, nor asked to meet any of hers; OK that she doesn’t know his address, that he misspells Chanukkah and may not even be Jewish. Marie tells herself these things 7.3 times per day, because it dilutes the growing unease in the base of her stomach, keeps it from congealing like the beef in black bean sauce that Dave had delivered last Wednesday, but barely touched. To four different friends on three different days, Marie variously described this relationship as “low key,” “purely physical” and “something to keep her mind off work.” But in truth, Marie’s casual attitude is like a picture on a Chinese menu—not much resemblance to the real thing. Each day, her feelings for Dave get bigger and more insistent; she’s begun to give off an odor that smells a lot like love. So the question is: How long can Marie keep screwing Dave before she starts screwing herself?
Barbara Ann is cutting up her husband’s clothes. In the last hour, she has destroyed two pairs of navy blue pants, one winter coat, and five of Dave’s favorite T-shirts. If she continues at her present rate, she’ll have annihilated his entire wardrobe by dinner. Of course, this wasn’t what Barbara Ann meant to do today. She’d intended to swing by the church and drop off those canned goods the kids have been collecting, meet her mother for lunch, then pick up Hannah and the boys from school. But first—before all that running around—she’d just wanted to fix Dave’s blue pants, the ones with the unraveling hem. So she’d taken up her scissors and sewing kit and sat down on the bed, when suddenly the urge to mend drained right out of her hands. What she wanted instead—what her fingers really itched to do—was plunge those shiny blades right into the nice wool crepe. Rrrrrrrrrip. What a terrific sound! Rrrrrip, rrrip. Why had she had never done this before? Barbara Ann looked at the ribbons of navy blue wool and went back to the closet for more. She settled on Dave’s brown suede jacket, the one she gave him for their first anniversary. How different things were back then! For starters, they used to do it all the time. Dave would make himself late for work, pulling her back into bed and saying sweet, silly things, like their mattress was a sex-powered spacecraft and they had to make love or drift into a nearby sun. But not anymore. These days it’s: “Don’t hold dinner.” “Don’t wait up.” For weeks, Barbara Ann had been trying to give Dave the benefit of the doubt, but now, as she looks at the confetti of fabric on the bedroom floor, she has to ask why? Why should she keep making beds and sorting laundry and smiling, smiling, always smiling…why should she bend over backwards to keep their household—their lives—from coming apart at the seams? And if Barbara Ann keeps thinking this way, what’s the probability that Dave will even give a damn?
Dave leaves his Wacker Street office traveling at a rate of 2.6 miles per hour. At the same time, a slender redhead he’s seen before on the train emerges from Starbucks and begins walking south. She’s still a ways off when Dave spots her, that long hair lit up like an autumn afternoon. He feels a squeeze in his throat and picks up the pace; if the light at the next block stays green, he just might catch her. And then what? Ask her for the time? Or maybe directions—he could pretend that he’s lost. Which, in a manner of speaking, he is. After all, who but a lost soul chases after a third woman when he’s already got a wife who doesn’t trust him and a girlfriend that’s getting suspicious? Dave shakes his head to clear it. He’s not a bad person, not really. He loves his wife and genuinely likes Marie. He’s just gotten a little off course. And he honestly means to retrace his steps, means to figure out how his life got so turned around—it’s just, the thought won’t stay put in his head. It swirls and eddies like a scrap of newspaper in the wind until it’s finally lofted high above the light posts, far out of reach. And he’s way down here, where an illuminated figure in mid-stride is telling him to walk on, to keep going, to close the distance between him and the redhead. And surely, there’ll plenty of time later to figure out where he’s going.
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