by Kristen McNair
I knew I messed up when I said to my husband, Turner, “I could’ve did better. But you was the only one who treated me good,” on the night we drove to the gas station for some King Cobra beer to celebrate his promotion at the post office to head mailman. He got real quiet and I laughed it off—though I was being honest—and I looked over and saw his jaw grit, then harden, and he didn’t say nothing.
I knew I messed up when I over-did it with the screams while we made love. I don’t know. I think the “…oh, yeeaahhs!” didn’t mix good with the “yeaaahh, boy!” I copied from Flavor Flav. But he kept going until he finished, falling over into the space beside me, without mentioning an “I love you” or even a “Girl…you wore Mr. Willie out.” Nothing.
I just knew I messed up when I whispered, “How them titties look? You staring hard enough,” when we went to Ain’t Nobody God But God Baptist Church for night service, after he gave a hug to some woman and held on a bit too long. Once we got home, Turner went into the bedroom and shut the door. I could usually expect the sound of his X-Box or even Sportscenter, but he decided to hush until I bandaged his boo-boo by telling him I was sorry—again…—for not understanding that he only thought the leopard-print blouse she wore was cute, even though her water balloons were pushed up to her collar bone.
“That’s all it was,” he said, “All it was.”
Then, there was that time I really messed up, putting a handful of extra-large Magnum and regular Lifestyle condoms from my annual at the clinic in my purse, a parting gift like lollipops at the dentist’s office, and when I sent Turner to get my mascara, he found them. After he asked about it, I snatched them away, then smiled and said, “Now you know what a Magnum condom look like.”
Like a nappy hair strand of lightning that sprouts from the earth up unexpectedly, so did I meet Turner’s strike and made a backwards tumble onto the carpet, booty first, wind second. Nothing was going except the ceiling fan and the Love Jones Quiet Storm on the radio and I could hear him over it all, letting out sissy-yells about nothing and everything and my head was whirling, while he reminded me of my mess-ups: like how I cheated on him with Farrah back in 2005 (even though he asked to watch), that I never get my hair done no more, how I had gained forty pounds since we first met, that my mother never liked him and it’s my fault, and that I smack and fart and snore and make dumb jokes like the last one I told.
And then he said I cried ugly. I pushed myself off the floor as Turner walked into our bedroom and closed the door. The slow jams went off, the sound of his X-box turned on, and I sat on the couch, touching with my fingertips the throbbing circle he left on my jaw, wondering what would be if I hadn’t messed nothing up, if I could be cemented, one, like when I made love without faking to the man who tasted like a warm King Cobra.
Kristen McNair is a Miami-native. She is studying at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida where she will receive her MFA in Creative Writing.
This story originally appeared in issue 2.