Scene from a Marriage
Rumaan Alam

My wife is beautiful, though she's not known as a beauty. People only allow you to be known for one thing.

You're lovely, dear, I tell her.

She snorts. Go on dreaming about your boy.

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.

My beauty, I say.

What the fuck, says the boy.

That's the idea, I say.

Where did you come from, the boy wants to know.

I'll show you.

Do you know this guy, the other boy asks.


The journey isn't long but the time drags. Anticipation can do that, though it is also the best part.

Home sweet home, I tell the boy.

Shit. The boy's blue eyes are astonished. He draws a wrist across his forehead. It's hot.

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 terrific.

My wife appears. She is in the habit of just appearing.
Who's 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 in hair.

This wine is fantastic, the boy says, slurring.

You're fantastic, I tell him, fantastic in the truest sense of the word, fantasy come to life, those powerful legs with their downy hair.

This chair isn't very comfortable, the boy says.


On Earth, the other boy tosses stones into the sea, and frowns at the waves.

Who was that guy? he asks a gull. The bird looks at him blankly.

That guy is my husband, a voice says, and it's her, she's appeared, as is her habit.

What has he done with my friend? he asks her.

You've been cockblocked by Zeus, stupid boy, she says. Let's make out.

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.

I'm 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 there's nothing.

They 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.

There 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.

Here 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.

Get 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.

I made you a drink, she tells him.

He is cheered by the clatter of ice in the glass. He takes it from her, sips it carefully. It's very cold.

At the end of the day, yours is the face I want to see, he tells her, a bit of poetry.

Come 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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