Home > Domestic Violets(2)

Domestic Violets(2)
Matthew Norman

I don’t want to talk about my penis, but I don’t want to blow out the candles and roll over, either. I’m vulnerable, yet simultaneously guarded. I want Anna to hold me and tell me that she loves me, but I also want to sleep in the guest room. I’m like a six-foot-tall version of my own flaccid dick, wanting yet pulling away from my only real ally in the world.

Anna’s an optimist, though, to the bitter end, and so she forges on. Like her ancestors, great, blond Swedes from Nebraska, she’ll continue plowing long-dead fields, even as the locusts converge.

“We haven’t been to the Caribbean in a while,” she says gently, smiling at me. Her face goes flush.

“Anna,” I say, but then I stop. She’s right. We haven’t.

“Maybe that’s where we should go then,” she says, and then she tucks her hair behind each ear. “You like it there, right?”

Two days after we were married, we were on our way to the Caribbean, stuck in the very back row of some medium-size plane from Washington, D.C. We’d had drinks at the airport bar and wine after takeoff. The alcohol, the altitude, and the weird joy of it all were enough to motivate my wife to go down on me as the cabin lights dimmed and a rerun of Frasier came on the little drop-down televisions.

She kisses my neck and then my chest and then my stomach, working her way downward. My heart is running and I’m nostalgic as I touch the back of her head. “Just relax,” she whispers.

I close my eyes as she goes about the little routine of swirling kisses and harmless bites.

Then she puts me in her mouth and I hold my breath and concentrate on the rush of sensations. I think of dirty, pornographic things and grit my teeth. I think of swimsuit issues and those creepy phone sex commercials that come on when you can’t sleep. A minute later, I should be as hard as that stupid, ungrateful thirteen-year-old looking down white blouses in Catholic school. But I’m not—not even close.

“Anna,” I say.

“Just relax.” She draws the word out, trying to hypnotize my penis. I’m determined to will an erection out of thin air, so I squeeze my eyes shut and concentrate some more. Aside from the lovely wetness of Anna’s mouth, though, there’s only this odd, rubbery little thing that I’ve somehow become.

I say her name again, but she doesn’t stop. It’s so small in her mouth and I feel a fresh wave of that awful humiliation that sent me scrambling to the bathroom ten minutes ago.

“Anna, please!”

Finally, she pulls away, startled, and I cover my stupid penis.

“I’m sorry. I can’t. Shit. I just . . . I’m sorry.”

She wipes her mouth and lies down again to stare at the ceiling. “Tom,” she says. But before she can say anything else, there’s a knock at our door, three small taps.

“Mommy? Daddy?”

Anna sits up and shakes out her hair. “I locked the door,” she whispers, and that somehow makes it even more embarrassing. She’s planned all of this down to the finest details. I briefly wonder if our daughter has been listening to this entire episode, and if so, how badly will she be scarred? I wish I could sink down into this mattress and disappear.

“Mommy? Daddy? Can I come in? Please! Pleeeassse!” She sounds scared.

Anna takes a breath and clears her throat—a mother again. She hops up and opens the door and Allie runs into the room, her eyes noisy and wide. “You guys,” she says.

“What’s up, Allie-Cat?” I say.

Her lower lip is shaking. “There’s a burglar downstairs.”

“A what? No, baby. You’re just dreami—”

“Nu-uhh. It’s not a dream.” She’s on my side of the bed clutching our comforter, and Anna crouches beside her, smoothing her wild bed-head. “He’s taking away all of our stuff. He’s stealing it. I can hear him. And then he’s gonna try to hurt us because robbers can’t leave witnesses. If they do then we’ll be able to pick them out in that room with the glass.”

Thank you, Law & Order reruns.

“Sweetie,” I say, but then Hank stands up, the shittiest watchdog in North America, and growls at the door. There are footsteps and then rustling, and my daughter is right. There’s somebody downstairs.

“See,” she says. Tears are about to spill from wide eyes. “I told you.”

“Shit,” I whisper.

I wonder what someone does in a situation like this—all those actors in movies. And then for a moment I do absolutely nothing, as if the situation might simply resolve itself while the three of us sit here in this bedroom breathing. Then I realize that despite what both of them must suspect about me and my abilities as a man, Anna and Allie are looking at me. They’re waiting for me to do something. Waiting for me to protect them. Even Hank is looking at me now, perfectly still, the rigid statue of an ugly little dog.

“OK,” I say, which seems like a good place to start. “You guys stay here. I’m gonna go check it out.”

God help us.

Chapter 2

I creep down the stairs holding my nine-iron, which is the best weapon I can come up with. This seems like a better option than Anna’s hair dryer or, for that matter, it’s better than leaping from our bathroom window and fleeing off into the night by myself. I’ve got some clothes on now, a T-shirt and pajama pants, and Anna is at the top of the stairs in her sexy outfit with her cell phone.

“Who is it?” she whispers. Apparently she believes that I can see through walls and ceilings.

I’m nervous, but, more than that, I’m annoyed with the cosmic order of things because there isn’t an adult here to take care of this—a real adult, instead of an impostor like me. At this moment, I’m clearly fooling no one.

At the bottom of the stairs I turn through the entryway. Our front door is standing open, but it’s unscathed, and I wonder if I’ve forgotten to lock it. After all, this pretty much has to be my fault, the violent death of my family and the theft of our meager possessions and DVD collection. The refrigerator is open and there are bottles clanking. Our house is long and narrow, and so I can see through its length all the way into the kitchen where there’s a man rummaging through drawers. Despite the drama and this idiotic golf club, I take a breath and relax. There’s the familiar shock of graying hair and the tweed blazer that should have gone to Goodwill years ago. This burglar who has frightened the women in my life and exposed my questionable status as the man of this house is Curtis Violet, my stupid father, and he’s pouring himself a glass of wine.

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