All the pending requests. Respond respond respond. I’ve DDoSed myself, that’s all. Overloaded the circuit board. Too many decisions that could be made, I too porous. For example a box of notes, papers, small items on top of my dresser, a collection from the first time I left home to write, sitting there atop the dresser for sixteen months. It could be a toddler, teething, nap-resistant, learning to run. Or a conception and an entire pregnancy and a baby doing whatever babies do at seven months. At seven months we went to Corpus Christi and sat my baby son on the beach in a diaper and a tiny white T-shirt. Nineteen years ago. We thought he was above the water line but then a wave breached the line and washed him away. His father my first husband leapt like a bounding deer. That is sort of cliché but that’s what it looked like. As if the wave were somehow connected to my son’s father’s torso and when the wave went out with our baby son it yanked the man up in an arc through the air. I suppose the man was connected to the baby, not the wave. The point is I observed this. I was not launched, I did not bound. Surely I would have, if no one else had been there. But I was the mother. I am the mother. Shouldn’t I bound? So this is about decisions again. I didn’t mean for it to go back to the box on the dresser and the pending requests but it does because everything is recursive. For example how another wooden dresser appeared in my bedroom next to the existing wooden dresser and eventually another box from another residency appeared on top of that dresser. I need to open the box and make decisions about its contents, how to dispose of each note, each piece of paper, each small item. By dispose I don’t mean discard. I mean I need to assign fates. I need to decide how to keep everything. How to catalogue, how to store, I am the daughter of a librarian. I want to keep what can be kept so I can use it in the future. For reference, for memory, for ideas, for making. To be clear I abhor clutter, which is the disorganized gathering of things, the waiting of objects, the opposite of intentional keeping. I need a system for keeping everything. I need a system for the disposition and a system for the catalogue and a system for the retrieval and I have to make all these decisions about the systems before I can make a decision about anything in the box. Or anything in the other box on the other dresser.

 

*

 

When is a good time to ask your second husband if you can go to New Mexico to see about a different man? You can’t ask if you’ve just been talking about money or anything unsexy. But you also can’t ask right after you’ve had sex even though that might seem like the best time. The time he would feel the safest. You can’t ask in the late afternoon when he’s said something about bending you over, watching you clean out the guinea pig cage in your yoga outfit. You can’t ask then even though you’re always thinking about asking. You’re thinking about saying precisely No I don’t want to have sex right now, with you, but how would you feel if I went to New Mexico in a few weeks to have sex with someone else?

You’re not really thinking of speaking those words. Often you think about what the most wrong thing to say or do would be, in any given situation. This probably comes of growing up in a church pew. The parents ministering and singing in the choir, you and your brother model church children, trusted to sit alone in the front row. Trusted to behave. But behavior is just a shell around everything resisting it. Once you learn to seal the shell, to make it watertight, you can let anything roil around in there. You know it won’t get out. No one will know.

Anyway you wish you could bend over for your husband who wants you in the afternoon, but you don’t get wet on your own without a lot of slow effort and drugs and alcohol, and none of those are part of being bent over in the afternoon. So it would have to involve some lube which makes you feel like a machine but shouldn’t you at least give that to your husband whom you love if you’re wanting to ask if you can go sleep with someone else? That’s the behavior. Swallow it. Wrap it around the roiling other thing. Suck him off every morning and let him bend you over and be fucking enthusiastic about it and after a week or so of that you can ask for anything. Right?

You can’t ask when you’re doing housework together or separately because he feels emasculated and you feel exploited. You can’t ask when something good has happened for you, big or small, when some writer or editor has complimented you or you’ve received a check for fifty dollars because he might feel like you want everything, this expansive life with art and fucking, and you want to just go live it while he is stuck being ordinary, funding your expansiveness.

Anyway why do you want this?

Because of the mystery. Because it isn’t known. Because it’s outside. Because it’s performance. Because of desire. Because you want to be called up for fucking by an impressive man.

The perfect time to ask might be when your husband returns to your bed after having slept with his other woman. He might be tired, grateful, post-orgasmically generous. But the timing would be so obvious, which might make him wonder how long you’d been waiting to ask, holding that lozenge under your tongue. Which might cause a reaction of distaste or sadness, even though he would say yes.

Unfortunately he doesn’t have an other woman, at present.

Maybe you could ask right after you scored a full tank of gas for fifty-two cents per gallon, because your husband texts Damn girl! Bada$$ at this couponing domestic magic. But maybe that’s not the best time. How are you supposed to know? So you sit there in your Sunday dress, reading genealogies, thinking about everything else in the world. Which means sex. Begat begat begat.

 

*

 

Instead of asking you write about thinking about asking, and eventually what you actually ask your second husband is if he wants to read what you wrote about thinking about asking because a magazine wants to publish it. Your second husband says he feels like he doesn’t know what you’re thinking until he reads it in print. A riptide of jealousy breaches the water line where your young marriage sits on the shore, far too helpless to be left like that so close to an ocean, tethered to no rescuer. What were you thinking? You were lost as usual in a caesura between moments, trying to make a decision. So what happens if you don’t make a decision is the system crashes. The beach ball spins and your second husband becomes your second ex-husband and the disposition of the dressers is: one with him to his shitty divorce apartment and one with you to California.

 

*

 

But when the baby washed away the father moved and retrieved him and slapped his back. The baby coughed and cried, terrified. The mother watched. The mother took a picture, which turned out so well they (she) enlarged it and framed it. In the top left corner of the picture is the edge of an umbrella, the umbrella of observation, the sunshade the mother was looking out from under when she took the picture. The mother is looking up at the father and baby and there is nothing behind them but blue. No clouds. Just hot blue sky. The mother is pregnant again but you can’t see that in the picture. This is just something the mother knows, later, any time she looks at the picture, even though the mother who took the picture didn’t know it yet, the way the mother who writes this observes herself thinking about what she didn’t know in that picture and what she didn’t know when she wrote about it and what she must not know about herself at this exact moment, disappearing continuously forward and backward, a recursion glitch in the shape of a person, a replication virus in place of a vectored will, respond respond respond. Begat begat. Now? Now? Now? The father is holding the wet baby, the father is looking at him with great concern and the baby’s lower lip is pooched out because he has just gotten control of himself. Almost. But he might cry again. He’s trying to decide.

 

 

Photograph courtesy of the author 

A Season on Earth
The Sole Purveyor of Madame Bovary in Beijing circa 1989