I was standing in my shed one day (this was years ago now) and thinking how different it was to other men’s sheds. No well organised pursuits of the masculine type here; just junk and memories and boxes for both. I was disappointed in myself like my wife had become disappointed in me. This is an emotion more killing than hate. But that is another story.
So anyway, my wife comes out and I hear her calling to the cat. “Here, Beautiful. Come to mummy.” I hated her doing that, talking to the cat like it was a child. Or the child we had decided not to have. Maybe it was guilt. Even though we had both decided not to have children, more and more often I felt I was depriving her of something. Now that something was mutating into a grotesque imitation of motherhood with the cat as its object.
The cat comes half way across the yard then stops, looks at her, sits and licks its tail like it will not play this game. My wife notices me in the doorway and says. “In your shed, eh?” I feel like the cat; I don’t comment.
“Better watch where you walk today,” I say. “I think I saw a snake in the grass by the fence.” She doesn’t even look in that direction but bends to straighten a pot plant. “Well, did you actually see one or did you just think you saw one?”
Suddenly I’m not sure. I wish I hadn’t said anything. And I know there will be a supplementary question just to confirm my unreliability. Sure enough, she adds quickly, “I mean, what colour was it? How long?”
“I don’t know,” I answer, “ I just got a glimpse.” I sound stupid even to myself. She has already moved on though. “Did you remember Roger and Jan are coming over for a drink tonight?”
“Yep,” I lie. I have already stopped listening to her plans; it is my quiet revolt against my lack of involvement in them. But I am glad that people are coming over, and not even worried that I am happy that it will give me a chance to get drunk.
Roger and Jan arrive at around six. I worked with him ten years before up North but I don’t know her so well. It doesn’t matter; it’s easy company and there is plenty of wine. We sit in the back yard and their two kids watch a video inside.
About ten o’clock we are all drunk and Jan says, “How come you guys didn’t have kids?” Roger groans, “Shit, Jan, none of your business.”
My wife looks at me and for a fraction of a second I see panic in her eyes. “We decided to be happy instead, didn’t we, Kid?” I laugh. I put my hand on her knee. “Oh yeah,” she says, “You know, travel, stay in expensive hotels, wipe our own bums.”
Roger sits hunched over in his seat stroking the cat. He snorts. “Sounds like a good plan to me.” The conversation moves on and the kids come out and say they have nothing to do. They start to explore the barely lit edges of the lawn and garden. My wife says, “Tell them to be careful, we saw a snake in the grass today, didn’t we, Hon.” I nod and Jan calls the kids back.
And that’s when it hits me that I love my wife. Later, while she is saying goodbye to Roger and Jan, I have one more glass of wine and a cigarette. I watch moths banging at the yellow light bulb.