Robert is his Name

I love my husband. I think of this as the bus rides across bumps and whispers along rain soaked streets in the orange glow of each passing streetlight. I imagine the bus is a boat, the bumps waves, floating across the water, taking me home. I think of this and I smile to myself and let the waves ease me. And I think about our times as us.

Robert is his name, my husband. He is a teacher, Robert, he teaches young children. This is something that makes him proud I think. We met at a university party where I talked about writing and he agreed with me. We made jokes about uncomfortable party conversation. We danced, though neither of us knew how to. He held my hand to take me out to my car. And in the city night, cars flashing by, the blue neon of the streets, all stopped when he looked at me. I remember closing my eyes as he touched my skin.

He kisses my cheek at home, touches my back lightly. He’s watching TV, my husband. He asks me what I’m smiling about, as if he’s missing the joke. I tell him I’m just looking at my husband. He nods, blows a kiss in my direction, that’s something we do. The TV screen flashes across his face. I tell him I’m sleeping now, but he knows what I mean. And when the phone rings he doesn’t answer.

Steven is his name, the boy who tells me. Steven is a small boy, a student of Robert, an eight-year-old, dirty knees, smiling boy. Steven has met me before, he knows me, and he sometimes lets me pick him up and swing him back and forth. He has told me before that I have nice hair. This is when I stop by the school to visit Robert. Steven says there was another lady. Steven says the other lady was here the other day but as he goes through the days of the week on his fingers, he can’t remember which. With his little smile, Steven says my husband was kissing goodbye to another lady. That he hugged her and then he kissed her for a long time. And then, Steven says, he blew her a kiss when he left. Robert waves to me across the car park, smiles. My hair blowing across my face, my heart breaking inside my chest. Steven sees his mother’s car and runs away and he says, she didn’t have prettier hair than you though.

Robert sleeps with his back towards me, the light from the moon on his body. I watch him like this, breathing. Crying, but quiet as to not wake him. I touch my finger onto his spine, feel it along his skin. Blow him a kiss.

That’s something we do.

Vanessa is her name. Vanessa has been to see Robert twice at the work, says the school secretary Jane. Jane is older, with glasses and grey hair. Jane likes me, but I think she likes everyone like this. Jane smiles when she tells me. Above me a light is humming. Outside it’s raining. Jane says that she has met Vanessa once, and that she seems nice. I imagine him whispering her name. Jane is surprised I haven’t met Vanessa. Outside, the rain sticks my hair together, hides my tears, washes away my make-up. My ankle slips off a heel and I fall down. For a moment I don’t want to get up. For a moment, my heart screams in pain. The pebbles stuck to the heels of my hands. My clothes stuck to my body. And I don’t think I want to get up out of this rain.

When I’m alone, I think of how we met, Robert and I, I think of our time as us. I think of this on the way home. I think of this at night. When I’m alone, I want to call someone and ask them what to do. I want to watch him all day, watch him, stop him doing this. Vanessa. It’s the same name as a friend of mine. I wonder if he knows this. Anymore, I wonder if he cares. And I stare at walls and trees and cars along the street at night. It’s quiet because I’m alone.

And in the house it’s not the same, with Robert. He touches me as if out of habit, he kisses my as if out of obligation. Robert talks about TV and work and I wonder if he ever thinks of us. If he ever thinks of how we met. In my mind I ask Robert about her. I tell Robert about her and that I know. I say that he better leave and be with her then, and things like bastard and how I hate him. I think these things and push my teeth together as he brushes his teeth in the next room.

It’s on Wednesday when I wait across from his school and watch, because Wednesday is when I work late and Robert wouldn’t expect me to visit. Robert waves across the car park to a woman. Her hair is not as pretty as mine. Robert blows her a kiss and she smiles. My husband hugs her, hugs the life out of her. And on the concrete footpath I feel my knees touch the ground, my head as if a storm has hit. I feel sick. I lie onto the concrete. Imagine being on a boat. Floating away.

Mike is his name. Mike is an accountant with white shirts and ties that look crisp. Mike uses hair gel that makes his hair stay just so. He stands with his hands in his pockets. Over the music, I can barely hear what Mike says but he buys me a drink and smiles and takes my hand when he leads me out to his car. Mike shows me his house, his television, his paintings. Mike touches my back.

And as I feel my underwear slide along my ankles, his hands across my breasts. His lips touching my neck. As I feel his hips push into mine, the tiny hairs on his body touch my skin, I cry. I turn my head away from him, this man, so he can’t see, and I cry onto the pillow and I think of Robert because. I look at the painting on the wall as he makes little noises. I think of dancing, though neither of us know how. I love my husband.

Robert is his name.

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