All That Glitters

There was glitter on the back of his left hand. Not craft glitter. The kind found in little girls’ makeup. And hers.

He rubbed at it.

She defied convention and logic in a thousand ways he loved, and a thousand he despised. Today had been a relentless avalanche of the latter, the result of which sent him to this moment when he doubted everything – their past, their present...their future.

It had begun with her denial of his bedtime advances. Technically, they began before the new day had – at eleven thirty seven. But they continued well past midnight, so he considered this the first offense of the new day. Of course he understood her reasons – he always understood.

“Of course I understand, baby.” But don’t you see how much I want you right now?

He didn’t say the second thing. He only thought it, but he was certain she’d heard his thoughts because she always heard his thoughts. The fact that she didn’t acknowledge them but simply rolled over and hugged her body pillow became the second offense.

Offense isn’t the right word.

She’s not committing crimes against anyone. But it’s the first word that came to mind when he started thinking about how things were progressing (beginning right around eleven thirty eight the night before) and he couldn’t seem to come up with a suitable replacement. He’d tried “annoyance” and “quirk” but neither of those seemed right either. So he stuck with “offense”. He initially felt guilty about this, but convinced himself that since it’s a word he’d never speak aloud to her, it wasn’t so horrible.

He rubbed at the glitter again, and it seemed to multiply. Now it was on the back of his left hand and the fingertips of his right.

When morning sunlight had streamed in through the skylight to spotlight her side of the bathroom vanity, he counted at least three offenses – a toothbrush still dripping foamy toothpaste onto the countertop, dusty spills of eye makeup painting pink clouds around the bowl of the sink, long brown hairs peeking out from the drain – but then reduced them to a single offense he gave the name “the price of beautiful.”

The cookie he grabbed as he raced out the door disintegrated when he took a bite and some of the crumbs flew down his shirt. He didn’t notice this until that night when he changed into sweats and a t-shirt, after hours of scratching at what he imagined were phantom bugs nipping at the half dozen or so hairs on his chest. (He only ate that first bite of the cookie, then tossed the remaining pieces, save those chest-hugging crumbs, into the tall grass next to the garage. It was a butterscotch chip cookie. His favorite, when they weren’t burned on the bottom.)

A computer called him while he was in a board meeting. He listened to the message an hour later while racing down the hallway to the men’s room.

“This is a courtesy call from First Federal Bank. Your checking account is overdrawn…”

“Thank God for overdraft protection,” he said aloud, though his throat tightened on the word “overdraft” (because he was trying to figure out what she’d forgotten to write in the checkbook) rendering it as little more than a grunt, prompting a strange look from Bill who was standing at the leftmost urinal. Bill zipped, flushed, washed his hands and left without a word.

The middle urinal was spotless. No one ever used the middle urinal.

This reminded him of an offense he hadn’t yet noted from the morning. The toilet water was blue again. She knew he hated those blue drippy things.

“But they were on sale,” she said while brushing her hair. Over the sink.

He thought about adding her “sale excuse” to the list, too, but her bargain-mindedness almost always tipped the positive side of the scale. So he didn’t.

The drive home was typically long and stressful. He called to talk with her just as he merged onto the highway, but dropped the phone when he had to scratch at the bugs and honk at the idiot in the H3 who hadn’t yet discovered the turn signal lever.

When he finally picked up the phone, she was still talking as if he had been listening all along and when he asked her to repeat what she’d just said, he heard a familiar sigh – the one that made him feel three inches shorter than his already short 5’9” frame.

“I’m sorry, I dropped the phone,” he’d said. She apologized, too, but an apology doesn’t erase the history of a sigh, so he included that in his tally.

Dinner looked and smelled great. But the mess in the kitchen reduced his appetite from “ravenous” to “just hungry.” There was flour everywhere, including on her cheek. He did some of the kitchen cleanup before sitting down to eat. He brushed the flour from her face. She smiled politely, like a stranger smiles at someone attempting a good deed, and barely said a word.

Monday Night Football always took precedence over Scrabble. They could play Scrabble the other six nights a week. Well, five, when the NFL channel hosted a Thursday night game. (“Look, honey, at least I’m not watching on Sunday nights. There are games on Sunday nights, you know. And I’m not watching them.”) But she pouted and shuffled off into her computer room to sulk anyway. He nursed a beer, scratched his chest again, this time imagining phantom cookie crumbs, and probably burped once without saying “excuse me.” (To be fair, he noted this – and his angst about the messy kitchen – on a second list of offenses he was keeping track of for his wife’s benefit.)

It was nearly eleven when he turned off the TV and wandered into the bedroom. She was already in bed, sitting up, leaning her back against the headboard, reading something by Anita Shreve. Again. He undressed, climbed in beside her and grabbed The Tipping Point from the bedside table.

That’s when he noticed the glitter on the back of his hand.

By now, there was glitter everywhere. Not much – but enough to notice. It was on the back of his hand, his fingers, and, though he couldn’t see it, on his right earlobe.

He looked at her. There wasn’t a trace of glitter on her face. No evidence of any makeup at all and yet somehow she still glowed. She looked up from the book, reached over and brushed something from his ear. He saw the gold sparkles on her fingers.

“If you think happy thoughts, you can fly,” she said, and rubbed the glitter onto his forehead.

He looked into her gold-flecked eyes and forgot everything on his list. He kissed her. And she kissed him back.
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