“Being a woman is a terribly difficult task, since it consists principally in dealing with men.” – Joseph Conrad
Portrait 1: The Wife At Play
“I don’t know. I didn’t see who she walked in with. Why?”
“She came up to me and started talking like I should know who she is.”
“Oh! One of those, huh?”
“Maybe, I’m not sure. She seemed nice; obviously married. She mentioned a baby. Only a few of my friends have kids. Anyway, I’m at a loss. Help me out, will you? Find out who she is.”
“Sure, no problem!”
Another event the husband has dragged her to. She recognizes no one, and feels lost in the crowd. Her man, off schmoozing and working the room, expects her to make her own way, leaving her in his shadow two steps before crossing the threshold.
She makes polite conversation, thanks the host for his invitation and wishes him a joyous birthday. His face lets her know he has no clue who she is. His stare towards the corner lets her know he’s not interested in talking any longer. Another one to add to her mental list of men who ‘Dismisses the Mrs.’
Excusing herself to refill her champagne glass, she is greeted by a few semi-familiar faces at the bar. They nod in her direction, acknowledging they’ve seen her before. Even if it was only an hour ago. She casually mentions her husband by name, joking he should be bringing her a new glass every twenty minutes until she says, “STOP!” That’s when they realize she’s with him. The Wife. Why didn’t she say so? Glasses are raised, clinked together, and the introduction is made. “Hey, this is Michael’s Wife.”
Portrait 2: The Wife At Home
“Hail, Mary! Full. Of. Grapes. What’s he done now? His poor wife; there’s always some dirt she’s got her hands in. Marge, come take a look at this.”
“What, George? What is it? I’m busy.”
“You do not want to miss this, Marge! Get in here right now. And bring the camera. This is VIRAL material.”
She feels the heat from her neighbors’ stare as they watch from their balcony. Annoyed that her husband wouldn’t pull into a gas station, or café, she douses his naked body with the hose. His clothes, thrown to the side, are soiled with whatever abomination was released from his bowels.
‘I can make it home,’ he says. When he shifts gears at the intersection, his body loses control. He shits his pants. A strong stench fills the car and she rolls down the window to hang her head outside — just like a dog on a sunny day. Their son, restricted by his car seat, is gagging in the back.
A moment she won’t soon forget, she puts down the hose. She enjoys the twisted pleasure of the scene as she walks to the garage for a towel and trash bag. Prolonging the parade, she finds a stick in the yard and disposes of the evidence. She pulls out her phone, dials the detail shop for an appointment, and looks up to give her neighbors a wink.
Portrait 3: The Wife At Work
“Oh, honey, I almost forgot. I drove by the cutest house today.”
“It’s For Sale, By Owner.”
“Ok. Talk to me.”
“I chatted with the wife for a few minutes; she was outside. It has wood floors, 3 bedrooms, 2-1/2 baths, a den, and a basement. She sounded desperate to sell; her husband’s in China already.”
“Maybe I can use the den to write.”
“That’s what she used it for. It overlooks the garden.”
Pulled in the opposite direction, away from what she longs to do, she sits at the computer, browsing several Metropolitan neighborhoods. Tasked with a long list of logistics, she starts searching for the best schools and most affordable homes. For the fourth time in ten years, her family is relocating.
What seems adventurous to outsiders, she dreads. The never-ending start from the bottom — continually reinventing herself — trying to remain sane. Although, she’s not sure she’s been too successful of the latter one.
While every move is crucial to her husband’s career, it never gets easier. She’s reminded of the decade of lost wages, advancement and, of course, the instability she offers to employers. She wonders if she will ever be able to realize her passion. Her only redemption — writing — the moment she’s alone, whispering and kissing the air, liberated from the egos of the world.
This is a fictional story, inspired by true events, and written for a flash fiction contest.
Author’s Note: Please notice how you learn very little about the wife, like how she looks, and you are never even given her name. This was intentional. Also, please notice how the second portrait stands out from the other two. Almost as if it doesn’t fit into the story. That’s because the wife is “in her domain.” And, while she takes charge of the situation, remember it’s a pile of shit she’s left cleaning up.