Story Time #3: Inspired By Neil Gaiman

“Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, and then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life…You give them a piece of you. They didn’t ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you cry in the darkness, so simple a phrase like ‘maybe we should just be friends’ turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It’s a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love.” –Neil Gaiman

Setting: The darkened living room of a married couple in their mid-30s who don’t have children. It’s not that they have super nice things, but there are a few sharp corners and delicate knick knacks. The only baby pictures in the house belong to their friends. 

It’s very late when the bedroom door opens. SHE is wide awake and in need of something to calm her down, make her sleepy. SHE stumbles to the kitchen to make herself some tea, shooting whiskey while the tea steeps. Deeming the tea ready, SHE pours in a healthy glug of whiskey and heads back to the living room to sit on the couch, all alone in the dark, drinking her hot toddy. SHE stumbles along the way, much of that having to do with the Xanax she’d taken before bed to help her sleep and maybe stall all thoughts on why she she was all alone in her bed so late. 

SHE sits on the couch in the dark, sipping her tea and trying to think about not thinking. 

A long while passes. SHE’s not asleep, she’s just quiet. Very quiet and trying to relax in the dark. After a very long silence the front door opens, barely making a noise. HE enters, keeping his own noise to a minimum, not taking into account that SHE would be in the midst of a bout of insomnia. SHE clicks on the lamp and scares the everloving hell out of him. 

HE: (jumping like a little girl) Jesus! What the hell?

SHE: You’re home late.

HE: What were you doing in the dark?

SHE: Nothing. Drinking. Trying to get sleepy.

HE: (clearly trying to divert attention away from his activities) Why can’t you sleep?

SHE: (taking a long drink of her tea) Because you weren’t home. Because I couldn’t hear your breathing. Because I couldn’t feel you, couldn’t smell you…(Sniffs the air) Still can’t smell you. What is that? (Sniffs again) Is that the J Lo perfume? No? It’ll come to me. Just give me a minute.

HE: It’s late, but I can take a shower if the smell bothers you.

SHE: (with a fake Aw, how sweet look on her face) Thanks for that. I have a feeling you were going to take one anyway, but that’s a good enough excuse to get you out of the room with no further conversation on the topic of where you were when you were supposed to be in bed with me and why you smell like that.

HE: (Knowing he’s finally caught, he flounders for a second but then starts to lie)

SHE: Don’t bother lying. You’re not good at it, you never have been.

HE: (stands there silently for a moment, a little dumbfounded) I don’t know what you want me to say.

SHE: Well, I’d like you to say that you aren’t sleeping with someone who’s not me, but we both know that would be a lie, and you can’t lie to save your life.

There is a surprised silence while SHE pointedly concentrates on her empty tea mug. HE hadn’t realized…HE should have realized…SHE isn’t an idiot. SHE isn’t blind. But SHE is, first and foremost, his Best Friend. They are together because they love each other in so many ways and they can’t live without each other. HE wonders if there is any way SHE can lock up his Wife so that he can talk to his Best Friend. 

HE: I’m sorry.

SHE: (mechanically) Don’t apologize. If I’m not doin’ it for you, then that is your prerogative. I apologize for everything I’ve done to make you lose interest. If there’s anything I can do to regain your favor, just tell me. I am here to fulfill your every fantasy.

HE: (uncomfortably clears his throat) Hey—

SHE: I’m serious when I ask if there’s anything I can do to improve myself. I mean, what do the girls you’re sleeping with do to attract you? Are they extra flexible, do they do things in bed that you think I won’t do, because I’ve told you before—

HE: Stop it. No. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re perfect. You’re amazing.

SHE: (nods to herself) Ok, so then why are you coming home after three am, smelling like dirty sex instead of staying in and having the dirty sex with me?

HE: It has nothing to do with you.

SHE: (barks a bitter laugh) I’m sorry, but I beg to differ. It kind of has everything to do with me. And you. Me and You.

HE: No, it really doesn’t. I promise. I love you.

SHE: That’s a nice sentiment. But I might believe you if you stayed home more often to have fast and furious wall sex with your wife, babe. (SHE sees the blush on his cheeks) Oh. I see. You’ve found someone else to do the vigorous wall sex with. Congrats. (Silence) Nothing to say to that?

HE: I love you.

SHE: Stop saying that. I love you, too, but that doesn’t matter in the least right now. So shut up. (HE shuts up but SHE wants to say something, just can’t get it out of her mouth.) As your wife, I am hurt and appalled and angry and scared and a whole lot of things right now but I cannot deal with those right now, so I’m going to lock those up for now and hope that they don’t lead to violence. (Her chest starts heaving, then SHE starts huffing sobs. Before any tears come, SHE calms herself down.) But as your Best Friend, I am pissed and offended. I am so mad you didn’t come to me and tell me you needed… whatever it is that you need. I’m supposed to be The One Person you can talk to about everything. I’ve known that something was wrong, but I thought that for sure you would tell me, but then you didn’t. And now I can’t sleep. I’m up all night, whether you’re here or not, worrying that I’ve lost my Husband and my Best Friend and my Soul Mate in one fell swoop. And despite how calm I look on the outside, I can assure you I’m a quick trip away from falling apart completely, and frankly, I’m not sure what will happen when I do, because it’s never happened before.

(SHE looks at him sadly)

And I know I have lost at least one of the three tonight, and I’m not sure which one yet. And you haven’t said anything yet, so it’s all up to you. But…if I’m reading the situation right, if I know you at all, you need some time to form your words. This is a life changing situation and you need time to put your brain together, and post-sex is not the time for that. So unless the situation changes at all, I will give you time to figure it out.

(Trying not to cry, she heaves herself up from the couch. SHE is drunk and wobbly.)

I’m going to bed. I think I can sleep now.

(As SHE moves around him, she inhales deeply. It suddenly clicks where she’s smelled that particular fragrance before. She stops before she even gets halfway to the bedroom.)

Oh. I remember what that is. Dolce & Gabbana. For men. Ok.

(inhales deeply)

I’m gonna go sleep in the second bedroom and you do whatever you want. After I’m done feeling whatever it is I’m feeling I will figure out what I want to do. Good night.

SHE turns and exits the room calmly and gracefully, like her whole would just hadn’t been shattered into billions of little shards, impossible to glue back together. HE stands stock still, so heavy and sad. After a while, HE follows her down the hall, stopping briefly to look at her closed door, before continuing on to his room alone. 

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