Strange tongue, stubbed with words, dark with hunger, can’t speak. Stout muscle, choking vine, ribbon of lies. It takes your breath, hides your key, sucks your teeth. It swells in your mouth for a drink. It says your prayers.
I wanted to be annoyed with her. I was annoyed with her, I mean. But as always my husband intervened, pointing out that my annoyance was irrational and unfair, even cruel.
He was right. My reactions to her faults were outsized, disproportionate. No good came from these grudges. When I felt them flaring up, I did my best to suppress them. I was pleasant, because that was reasonable and just, and I wanted to be pleasant, reasonable, and just. That’s who I thought I was. That’s who I wanted to be.
A gentle sound, a murmuring, a wooden bowl of voices rolling around like marbles, never loud, never harsh, never letting up. An aberration, he thinks, sure to fade, but it does not fade, does not turn into background noise like a creek’s chuckle, because in the sound he hears, at irregular intervals, and only half-certain, his own name—two syllables, a certain rhythm, familiar trochee.
What were they saying about him, or to him. What was he missing: he was looking at the soaps on a shelf in a grocery store, trying to remember the one he liked, when his name floated through him as if called out, an intonation that made clear his engagement was expected, but he’d missed what came before and couldn’t understand—try as he might, looking now at the floor, his hands on his ears, standing perfectly still—what was being asked of him.
“We were all aware that there was a disaster brewing, or already afoot, but I hoped it would ask no more of the restaurant than any disaster does: simply that we stay open, tough it out, feed people, and let them feel normal for at least the duration of a meal.”