Scene from a Marriage
My wife is beautiful, though she's not known as a beauty. People only
allow you to be known for one thing.
lovely, dear, I tell her.
She snorts. Go on dreaming about your
We have an understanding.
I've heard people say it's against nature.
But, imagine two stones, perfectly the same, the beautiful symmetry of
the one atop the other. I love the way two boys can fit together.
I toss and turn. Why is all our furniture
marble, I say. Can't a guy get a pillow?
The boys live in a place called—well, it doesn't matter. The
one has eyes the blue of certain gems, an asshole that puckers prettily
as a fruit, and lips so full they quiver no matter what he's doing.
Their skin drinks in the sun, and fits tightly around their bodies,
muscles rolling around underneath like an egg in a snake's stomach.
They kiss and laugh at private jokes, their breath heavy and fragrant
with one another's sweat. The one lies atop the other, hip bones
against the other's hip bones, reminding me of a trick Prometheus
showed me once: rub one stick against another and you can make a flame.
I borrow a body, the body of a man (a body is just an idea) and set out
for Earth, to the place the boys live, near the sea.
beauty, I say.
the fuck, says the boy.
the idea, I say.
did you come from, the boy
wants to know.
you know this guy, the other
The journey isn't long but the time drags. Anticipation can do that,
though it is also the best part.
sweet home, I tell the boy.
The boy's blue eyes are astonished. He draws a wrist across his
I admire the muscles in his arms as they do their work, revealing the
thatch of wiry hair under his arm that looks like it probably smells
My wife appears. She is in the habit of just appearing.
she? The boy sounds sleepy,
maybe he's a little stupid, but never mind; for calves that tense up so
prettily, hair that musses so sweetly, so much can be forgiven.
She laughs and laughs and laughs.
I serve the boy: wine, olives in oil, cupping my palm to take the slimy
pits from his mouth, the way owls regurgitate pellets of bone wrapped
wine is fantastic, the boy
fantastic, I tell him,
fantastic in the truest sense of the word, fantasy come to life, those
powerful legs with their downy hair.
chair isn't very comfortable,
the boy says.
On Earth, the other boy tosses stones into the sea, and frowns at the
was that guy? he asks a gull.
The bird looks at him blankly.
guy is my husband, a voice
says, and it's her, she's appeared, as is her habit.
has he done with my friend?
he asks her.
been cockblocked by Zeus, stupid boy,
she says. Let's
He makes love to her, his first time with a woman, but she's not really
a woman—is a woman, then a man, then his exact double, then a
peacock, feathers alluringly erect. They tangle on the beach, sand
everywhere, and fall asleep for an hour, two, the sun red and sliding
low into the sea.
He stirs, so thirsty, and she's herself again. She takes him by the
hand and they ascend.
No one's home. Footfalls on marble floors echoing.
sure they're here somewhere,
she says. She's shaking a martini. Look around.
The rooms are vast, and empty. The floors are warm from the sun. He
feels ashamed of his shabby clothes. He opens door after door, but
must be out back, she calls
to him. Keep
going, fourth door on the right, I'm going to just chill out here.
He follows her instructions, is in a long hallway, counting doors, one,
two, three, there it is. There are steps and then the backyard: craggy,
barren, but for a swimming pool, his friend within, naked, bobbing
about on an inflatable toy.
you are, he cries, taking in
the sight of him, the perfect arc of his ass, the canyon of his back.
He strips out of his clothes, plunges into the pool, the water so warm
it's like a bathtub.
I am, his friend says.
They kiss, tongues like waves, one lapping into another.
Zeus takes this in, sighs, dips a finger into the water: too warm. The
beauty of them is too much for him: thunder cracks, and a thousand owls
descend on the Earth below, conjured out of nothing. He sighs heavily,
exhausted. He is bored, spent, the sight of the watery limbs thrashing
no longer exciting.
your things and go, he says.
The boys, chastened, climb out of the pool, hands covering their
nakedness. They gather their shabby clothes from the dusty ground and
slink back into the house.
He lies on his back, considers the stars.
made you a drink, she tells
He is cheered by the clatter of ice in the glass. He takes it from her,
sips it carefully. It's very cold.
the end of the day, yours is the face I want to see,
he tells her, a bit of poetry.
on, she says. Let's make dinner.
Rumaan Alam. He has stories in or coming from American Short Fiction, Gettysburg Review,
The Literarian, Crazyhorse and others.
Read more of his work in the archive.
Detail of painting on main page: "Jupiter et Junon," by Annibale Carracchi (1560-1609).
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