You ask about her once. With your head on his chest so he cannot see the way you squeeze your eyes shut in a kind of terror as you wait for his reply.
You feel a twitch in his muscle as you extend this invitation. She has not yet entered this other world. This other woman. He has not traded pieces of her for your favour. He has never once tried to use her as an elucidation (though her presence has knocked in the we of his day, the night invariably colludes with you and I).
Still, she is a gossamer strand wrapped around his finger, she glances off the gold band when he touches your face, and the knock turns in to a hammering in your chest when you ask –
What is she like, your wife?
(You have read that the source of the word ‘wife’ is veil. Here now you lift the fabric with trembling fingers)
It is not until you turn to face him that he answers.
Well (a pause) … she is a really, really messy cook.
As he elaborates there is knowing, an easy affection for this agreeable flaw. And it splinters your heart because love is in the detail isn’t it – in the ordinary, the commonplace. You don’t know what you expected from a revelation – but you never considered this.
He will tell you other things in this concession. But you think only of a kitchen in another city, of homemade sauce licked from fingers, of frustration ebbed in the taste and the smile. Of a sink cluttered with the dishes of everyday.
And now when you stand at your own sink you sense some deficiency in the even florets and the wiped-down bench. The running tap as you clean what you use and how you put each utensil away.
In the order and the precision of your empty sink you are suddenly found wanting.
Because somewhere she is splattering the oil and spilling the wine. In a kitchen over-flowing.
When you are supposed to be the beautiful mess.
But you are essentially – the other.