Look the lie
Every night, I watch Joe when I’m supposed to be doing the crossword. He manages the money. He knows. He checks our bank accounts and does the math. He knows I’m rarely home during the day, and we both know what it means for our future.
Yesterday, he looked up from the computer and said, “Tell me about him, Christie.”
He wasn’t accusing; he wasn’t demanding. His voice was tinged with sorrow, as if discussing a death.
“Well, you know. He’s young,” I began. I knew the conversation was coming when I took three hundred dollars out of the ATM machine day before yesterday. I braced myself, rehearsed my lines. But I expected Joe to be furious. I thought I could match him anger for anger and lash back saying see what you’ve driven me to? The sorrow though, dried my voice in my throat.
“Is he good in bed?”
“He’s alright. Not as good as you. Just, you know, different.”
“Different,” Joe said. And I thought he might ask Different how? But he didn’t say anything else, just went back to the computer, back to the accounts. Later, he drew me into his arms and said, “I’m glad he isn’t as good as me,” which made it that much worse.
Of course, there is no other man, and Joe knows that. He knew it last night when he asked, and he knew it when I lied. Maybe he thought he could leave me, as long as there was somebody else. Maybe I thought it, too.
At the tables, they call me Mrs. Stone, scoot in my chair, offer me drinks. At the end of the day, they bring my car from the garage. I tip well. I’m not their highest roller, but when I’m there, it’s like the world narrows down to the money and me, to the slots or the chips on the table. My heart throbs and my breath comes fast and heavy. I can feel my own flesh more closely, pressing down in my seat or stool and at the same time floating away with the numbers. I’ll blow my wad for the pleasure of losing it, then come back and do it again, sometimes the same afternoon. It’s nothing at all like making love, and that much at least is true. It isn’t as good as Joe, just different.
Now, I’m watching him at the computer again, knowing that he is watching me as well. He whistles low; I’ve withdrawn some nine hundred dollars from my savings, and not from ATMs, either. There’s a limit to how much one of those will give me. But if I walk up to the counter with the passbook and my ID, the teller would close out the account if I asked.
I want Joe to confront me; I want it out in the open, not tied up in lies and anticipation. But he doesn’t say anything at all. He just goes on with the computer, and I go on with my crossword, as if the biggest lie of our marriage isn’t sitting beside me in my open purse.
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Steffani challenged me with “Write about the biggest lie you’ve ever told. (Can be fiction or non-fiction)” and I challenged Tara Roberts with “You have less than two dollars and no access to more money. Begging is illegal and the police are vigilant. How do you get food?”