The Reasons Why

Mary McCluskey

He asks why you are leaving, and you try to tell him: that the weight of his pain, added to your own, would sink you. And you can barely carry your own and only if you swim fast.

He says, so swim faster.

In the grief booklet from the hospital it says that separation and divorce are normal in such situations. You throw the book across the room. Then you hide under the bedclothes until he comes in and pats you clumsily, somewhere in the small of your back. You feel the touch, on the weighted sack that is you, and you say – Go away. You ask him if he, too, feels that tight fist clenching in the chest. He says - for Christ’s sake, spare me your metaphors.

His eyes in the morning are bleak and hollow and mirror your own. How can you look into those eyes for the rest of your life? In the small print endnotes at the back of the book you study statistics. That so many parents divorce, separate, commit suicide, sink into depression, lose jobs and libido does not surprise you. What causes you to shake your head, stare sightlessly out of the window, is that so many stay together, stay sane, work. Make love.

When he stares into space and you know that he is remembering, you want to shake him. You want to say: Listen, just stop it. I’m making dinner. I’m going ON.

You say, memories are daggers pinning us to the past. We could bleed to death.

He says, please. Talk like a normal person.

Later, you lie curled into a small ball under the bedclothes, hiding from the light. You hear the sound of the coffee maker. You sit upright, fast, and scream: You’re making coffee? How can you? Fucker!

And that’s why.

Mary McCluskey's

. . . work has been published in In Posse's Ethnic Anthology. Also in Atlantic Unbound, Dimsum (Hong Kong), and many other print magazines and e-zines.