Categories
2018 Fiction

Jen Corrigan

BURST

When they look back, they will remember it like this.

They will remember the dusky light, the road slicing through the trees. The wife will remember the hawk perched atop the speed limit sign. The husband will remember the opossum carcass on the shoulder, its insides split out of its outsides, ripe fruit bursting in the sun.

The evening is their last ditch attempt to love one another. The wife wears lacy red panties under her skirt. The husband pays for dinner at Red Lobster.

They say oysters are an aphrodisiac, he says, raising one eyebrow. The wife laughs and touches his hand. Every motion hurts, as if their love was a muscle they no longer used.
The wife looks down at the gray flesh in her oysters, the hills and valleys of the interior. She traces the cochlea-like whorls, imagines the creatures as ears.

They try to fill the car with words. The wife pitches a remember when, and the husband returns oh yes, and, as if rebuilding their marriage was improv, which, the wife supposes, it is. Love is just making things up as you go.

When the wife unzips the husband’s trousers, he moans, and the sound turns them both off. But the wife takes the husband’s limp penis and rolls it between her fingers until the flesh hardens. His penis spits out a teardrop of precum onto her hand. She resists the urge to wipe it on his boxers.

The wife puts the husband’s penis in her mouth and bobs her head up and down. He takes one hand off the wheel and places it on her skull, pushing her head down. She hates this, and she has told him that once before. You say you want me to be in charge, but you just can’t let go of control. They fought. She stopped giving blow jobs.

When the husband gasps, the woman thinks it’s because he’s about to come, and she tightens her lips until they burn from the pressure. Then there is the keening of the tires across the pavement, the whump against the hood, the crack of the windshield spidering out.

The wife sits up. What happened? she asks. What happened?

He doesn’t reply, just drives. His face is a blank kabuki mask, his body motionless except for the delicate tilting of the wheel, the adjustment of the pedals.

It isn’t until they pull into the dingy dark of their garage that the husband tells her.

The wife remembers when she was a child, when she and her brother would climb on the roof and drop things onto the driveway: chipped coffee mugs missing handles, already broken electronics, old fruit swollen with juices. She thought of the time they dropped a watermelon, how its flesh burst out, staining the pavement pink.

We need to go back, the wife says. We need to call 911.

The husband nods, but doesn’t switch the car back on. Neither reaches for their cell phone. They sit until it’s too late to change their decision.

They spend the night in the car with the seats reclined. The wife thinks about Stephen King, how he recovered and wrote Dreamcatcher with paper and a fountain pen. She never finished reading the book. She hated the movie.

The next several days, they don’t leave the house. The husband scans the paper each morning. The wife flips through the news channels.

After two weeks, the husband goes into the garage and scrubs the dried blood off the car, makes an appointment at the body shop. Hit a damn deer, he mutters into the receiver. They’re everywhere this year.

One night as they lay next to each other in bed, the wife says, I blame myself. She tells him I prayed for something to keep us together.

The husband kisses her and gently pushes her onto her back. They make love in silence.

As weeks, months, then years pass, both are surprised at how they’ve learned to forget. Time stretches further and further without the memory surfacing, and they catch themselves laughing. They are joyful even though they don’t deserve it. The wife wonders if, when they die, they will be forgotten. The man wonders if people can live outside of memory.

The wife never gives the husband a blow job again, and he never asks for one. When they look back, they remember the way the trees flashed past, the relaxed sleepiness of full bellies and soft conversation. They rewrite the memory in their heads, imagine it as passion. Together, they construct the fantasy, the wife opening her mouth, starving, the husband winding his fingers in her hair, their bodies singing together as if their very cells are about to burst.


A nominee for the 2017 Pushcart Prize, Jen Corrigan’s prose has appeared or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, Pithead Chapel, The Tishman Review, Hypertext Magazine, and elsewhere. She is a prose editor and book reviewer for Alternating Current Press. Visit her at www.jen-corrigan.com.