I wake in soaked sheets.
I’m dizzy and it hurts to stand, as if termites have gnawed off parts of my bones during the night.
When my wife sees me, she asks if I’m okay.
I’m wrapped inside a blanket, but already I’ve sweated through it, a fever raging, chills making my teeth chatter.
My wife says I should see a doctor.
I tell her I’m fine.
“You’re not going to work,” she says, already dressed for her job as a paralegal.
I know she’s right, even though I’ve never called in sick once.
Before she leaves, she makes me take cold medicine. At the door, when I lean in to kiss her goodbye, she puts her palm up like a stop sign. “Silly boy,” she says, “you’re sick.”
I shuffle back to bed, taking my wife’s side, the dry side, and after an hour of tousling, I finally sleep.
I wake sometime near noon, disoriented and weaker than ever. I shower, holding onto the door handle so as not to crumple.
In the closet, I rifle through drawers trying to find my underwear. It takes me several moments to realize that I’m actually rummaging through my wife’s things—camisoles, bras, panties. In the lower drawer, the lingerie still has price tags on them. Most are sheer or crotchless. There are also garters, Baby Dolls, thongs, corsets, Teddies … and love letters.
They all begin with different nicknames:
Love of my Life,…
Each describes bawdy trysts that have taken place.
I think I’m hallucinating.
Still, I search her jewelry box, finding earrings and sets of pearls I’ve never seen before. I discover a vibrator tucked behind a stack of bracelets.
I pull her shoe boxes down and hunt through them, the leather and sweat-smell making me even more lightheaded.
I inspect her boots. Why had I never before noticed how many stiletto boots she has, most strappy, knee-length numbers?
Inside a pair of blood-red calf boots, I find other notes, stuffed far into the toe points.
I’ll do it on the last day of this month. I promise.
You slip him the drugs, and I’ll take care of the rest.
He’ll be gone, we’ll be free.
You are my soul mate.
I read the line again, thinking: My God! R’s going to kill me! My wife’s lover is going to murder me!
I stagger to the bed stand where I’ve left my cell phone, sliding my thumb across the face of it, seeing today’s date: February 28th.
I can’t remember if this is a leap year. I think it is, but I can’t be positive.
There’s a print calendar in my den on the second level of the house. I have to march up steps to get there, and as I take the first stair, a shadow scars the wall-- the shape of an arm with a hand holding something that looks like a hammer, swinging toward the back of my skull.
published 28 June 2013