Next time I have my period, I am not touching a single dirty dish
I am not cooking food for anyone, and boy, you’d better leave me the fuck alone
because that’s what God wants. And instead of me sleeping out in the garage,
you can take your fucking tent out back and I’ll have the house until I’m clean
because I’m already slept in our bed once while I had my period
so God says its mine until I’m safe again.
Since I’m not going to not touch things in the house while I’m on the rag, be prepared
to do a thorough housecleaning when you come back into the house.
You probably want to go grocery shopping and get some clean food
because I was definitely rummaging around the fridge while I had my period
and probably spread all sorts of magical vagina cooties all over the produce.
I’m just trying to accommodate any special beliefs you might have regarding
the mysteries of womanhood, and I appreciate you letting me know
how filthy my body is and how my time of the month ruins everything.
There’s a sad lady at work and I tell her she should cheer up
no one wants to hear a sad voice on the phone when they call up
no one wants to walk by her cubicle and see a sad face. I tell her
there’s a fresh pot of coffee in the break room, she should have a cup
it’ll perk her right up.
She starts to tell me about how she misses her baby at home
she just had him a few weeks ago, but because she’s just a temp
she can’t take the time off to stay at home with him
her boyfriend’s at home watching her baby, she hopes
everything’s okay, I ask her
if she wants me to bring her a cup of coffee because I’m going back there
When I bring her her coffee back she’s still sad looking, and I give her the cup
and she says “thank you” but she doesn’t mean it, there’s no smile.
I want to tell her that it’s much easier to keep a man when you look happy
and if this is how she looks when she goes home, there’s a chance
she might come home one day to find a note and an empty house
but I stop myself because these thoughts are for me only.
All day long, I sneak peeks at her to see
if I can catch her looking cheerful, listen to her voice when she talks on the phone
and she says the words right but her voice is too full of thoughts
customers gotta know something’s wrong with the woman when they call us up.
During lunch, I ask some of the other ladies how long this temp’s going to be with us
tiptoe around how she’s just really bringing me down
and I’m so relieved when they say this is her last day.
The insurance salesman walks us through the funeral process
tells us they will pay for any kind of funeral we want
when my husband dies. “Any kind,” she says, then winks at my husband
as if to say she knows he’s a humble man, he won’t want
some New Orleans-style funeral, a horse-drawn carriage dragging his coffin
down the street, anything more complicated than
maybe an open-casket wake with coffee and sandwiches in the corner.
“We only do this for employees at your level of seniority,” she adds
as if implying that I, too, might want to jump in on that free funeral plan
and I look like someone who might insist the company pay for more
than just a hole in the ground and a bouquet of cheap flowers.
I nod and smile politely because honestly,
I don’t give a damn what’s done with my body when I’m gone,
but in my head I am already planning one hell of a funeral for my husband
I’m going to have him cremated and shoved into a Roman candle
or loaded into a rocket and shot clean into space
watch him and his ashes explode in a cascade of sparkling lights over the ocean
so bright and beautiful that even dolphins and sharks will poke their head out of the water
wonder at the noise and the lights
because I’ll be damned if I let this free funeral go to waste
not after thirty years
of watching him die in a dead-end government job.
I’m going to leave them a note when I go, tell them
I’m gonna be a hobo from now on, I’m taking my goldfish
got my clothes wrapped in a ball and hanging from a stick,
fishbowl carefully tucked under my arm, Lucky’s gonna be fine.
I’m gonna ride the rails from now on, like those old guys I used to see
hobbling around Dodge City when I was a kid, sleeping in the park
with their three-legged dogs except I’ve got a fish, a fish and a dream
and we’re going to go everywhere, we’re going to see everything.
I imagine my husband’s really going to miss Lucky
especially since he’s the one who named him.
I never figured out why we bought a goldfish in the first place
but now that I’m leaving, I can’t stand to leave Lucky behind.
When I was a kid, my mom worked on a pig farm, and during the summer
when I wasn’t in school and had no one to look after me
she’d take me with her so I could see the animals. I’d bring a sketchbook along
or something I was reading, because most of the animals at the farm
were just gigantic, stinky pigs, and once pigs stopped being cute little pink piglets,
I wasn’t much interested in looking at them anymore.
All day, I’d sit as far away from the big concrete holding area the pigs were kept in
trying to get away from the stench, watching my mom as she came by and hosed off
all the feces stuck to the backs of the pigs that came from their wrestling or mating
hosed the piles of shit off the concrete floor they stood on all day long,
refilled their troughs with buckets of yellow or gray slop, dumped out their drinking trough
refilled it again with the same hose she used to clean them with.
At the end of the day, though, if she’d gotten her work done early enough
the owner of the farm would let her take me to the horse corral out back
which was the real reason she worked there at all, was to see the horses.
Sometimes, she’d set me on the back of one of them for a few minutes
lead us around by a tether and tell me how she used to ride horses all the time
when she was my age, how she wished I could have that kind of childhood, too.
She always sounded so sad when she said that, as though me not having a horse
was as great a tragedy as she could imagine, something she felt really guilty about.
On the last day she worked on the farm, she finished up extra early
took me out to the horse corral, and this time, she got on the horse with me
sat right behind me and made the horse fly. I don’t remember any reins
I remember my hands wrapped in horse hair, knuckles squeezed white
the world a blur on either side, my mom coaxing the horse to go fast, faster
I don’t ever think I felt as close to my mom as I did that day.
I think about it all the time, especially now.