Life with the Wife

  • 15 Oct - 21 Oct, 2022
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Fiction

The wife on Ambien knows the score. I mean this literally. Rangers 4 – 3 in overtime. Devils fall to the Flames, 3 – 1. Knicks lose again at home. In the morning, I then open the paper and none of this

check out.

The wife on Ambien calls me Bob, calls me Mom, and also calls me Mr Bluepants.

The wife on Ambien makes false starts. In approximately one week’s time, she has sketched a music hall (she is not an architect though), designed a drone (she is not an engineer though), written two scenes of a play called Haunted Masquerade (just for the knowledge, her M.F.A. is in sculpture). The handwriting is a bear, but I piece together a plot: society lady leads double life in the London of Jack the Ripper. In the morning, the wife on Ambien denies her authorship, though at lunch I hear the first line of the soliloquy leave her lips just like that.

The wife on Ambien then is on a mission to cook eggs. I take pains to hide the ingredients and the hardware. Still, she conjures omelettes from a secret stash of eggs, with a pan that I somehow miss. She singes her robe. I gain like five pounds in a month.

The wife on Ambien gets fresh. She comes to me, sits and talk about how life is, about us, how we used to love each other, we were literally inseparable. It moved me like a spin class. That was nice, I say afterward. Really nice. It reminds me of our initial wedding days. Paris! My God! We were so young! Do you remember how the stars, I say, and then stop, because she’s already snoring?

The wife on Ambien tries to order Ambien on Amazon.

The wife on Ambien makes up names of golfers.

The wife on Ambien keeps me guessing. You don’t want to know what I did in Tucson, she says, patting me on the head, like a child. I’d better not say what went down in West Hartford. Tell me, I say. She looks around for some eggs.

The wife on Ambien shifts her legs. To the left, to the right, to the left, and then to the right. She bends and extends. What are you doing? I whisper in her ear. Skiing, she says. Skiing in the Canadian Rockies with Mr Bluepants.

The wife on Ambien recites the poetry of T. S. Eliot, sings the music of her favourite movies, and calculates how much we need to save to retire. Her figures vary. The wife on Ambien also tells me it doesn’t matter, that the sun will swallow the Earth exactly eight billion years, or thirteen weeks, or twenty-four hours from now.

The wife on Ambien orders Uber after Uber. The cars stream toward us like a series of sharks. It is 4 a.m. Drivers from many countries gather on the corner, fling curses at our window, break out the booze, arrange marriages among their offspring.

The wife on Ambien hacks into my Facebook account and leaves slurs on the pages of my enemies. Get a life, you’re a joke. She then joins political causes directly opposed to her own. I spend an hour every morning cleaning up the digital trail that was all messed up because of her.

The wife on Ambien shouts, Atlantis! Just that. Atlantis!

The wife on Ambien drinks an entire quart of milk. She washes out the slim jug and stands it up in the recycling bin like a soldier.

The wife on Ambien forgets about our children, Danica, eleven, and Morris, five. We named them after a race-car driver and a cat. It was her idea. She had it on Ambien. I get home from work after nine and see the kids attacking each other with belts while she sleeps, all the cushions and pillows piled in the center of the living room. Don’t wreck our fort, Daddy, Morris says. That’s more like a tower, I say. Then don’t wreck our tower, Danica says.

Okay, but what about your homework? I ask my daughter. Homework’s for losers, she says. Losers like you, Morris says. Honey, I call, but the wife on Ambien is sawing logs.

The wife on Ambien takes her vitamins, and then stood up to organise the spice rack. She alphabetises the shelves in the hallway and polishes my shoes afterwards. She wanders a while, adjusting picture frames that are out of true. Everything looks cleaner in the morning. But other nights she’s knocking tchotchkes off tables, surrounding the wastebasket with coffee grounds in ritual fashion.

The wife on Ambien – just how can I describe her? The way she tilts her head reminds me of pictures of her grandmother as a youth. The way she does a Bronx cheer reminds me of my first boss, who was in the Merchant Marine.

The wife on Ambien scrolls through her phone, swipes with her eyes shut. I can’t wrench it from her iron grip. In the morning, she asks, did you change the time zone to Dubai?

I sense a light. It’s 3:15 a.m., and the wife on Ambien is playing online poker. Around the virtual table are Joker17, AceInHole, and Mr Bluepants. I would force her to stop, but she’s winning by a lot. Someone has to bring home the chicken while my startup starts up. That’s how I figure it. That’s how I figure things.

I’m seeking funding for a virtual-reality venture that will let you live in the home you grew up in.

The wife on Ambien can list the Presidents in order. The wife in real life can’t.

The wife on Ambien tries her hand at painting. The tubes are open, the brushes stand in a coffee can of gray water, there’s a becoming beige smudge on her brow, but where are the canvasses, whither the tableaux? Many years later, when we move out of the city, I find her art under a box of books in a basement storage locker. These are all pictures of toast, I say.

The wife on Ambien solves Danica’s Rubik’s Cube.

He in his dreams dragged the absurdly-clad body into the trees and took the long way home, rather than let the bus driver get a look at her to be questioned when the time traveller was found. Assuming he wouldn't just evaporate or something. She didn't know how his sort of time travel worked.

The wife on Ambien insists she doesn’t snore. One night, I set up my phone to record her, balancing it on an eyeglasses case between our pillows, wondering if that’s legal. In the morning, the device tells a different tale. It’s just me, calling out her name, my voice thinning to a whine, like a dog that’s strayed too far from its master. A voice that would keep the best of us up at night. - Anonymous