Maybe he fantasized with the condoms and his Playboy magazines. Emily got up from the hallway floor and went to her bedroom to find the box of tissues. She blew her nose loudly, honking like an old goose to clear her sinuses. She was so tired, so disgusted. She looked at herself in the mirror and was surprised to see how old she was. The puffy, sagging face with its red blotches looked back at her with nothing to say, with no agreement with her thought.
The phone began to ring. Emily looked at her watch. It's not him unless he's calling from the airplane. She walked into her office and answered the phone.
"Mrs. Emily Fatzer? This is Agent Susan McKenzie with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I understand from the Port Laughton Police Department that you have been the victim of fraud? "
Emily cleared her throat. "Yes. We bought -- No, 'we' didn't -- my husband bought some statuary that he was told were collector's items, and -- "
"And this sale was conducted over the computer from a site in Oregon, is that correct?"
"Yes, a woman named Edith --"
"What was the approximate value of the items purchased?" butted in Agent McKenzie's voice.
"I believe they cost about forty thousand dollars. I have the receipt with -- "
"How long ago did the transaction occur?"
Emily took the phone from her ear and looked at the speaker. Her head ached from crying, and her store of patience had pretty much been drained by the past week's events.
"Mrs. Fatzer? Mrs. Fatzer, are you there?" said the agent's voice.
"No, not altogether, I don't think," said Emily to the air and put the phone to her ear again. "Three years ago. I have all the documentation you'll -- "
"Would an appointment on Monday work for you?" the woman interrupted her once again.
Emily stared at a framed collage of dried flowers that hung over her desk. Does this woman know how rude she is? She thought of the package of contraceptives in Mark's room, and Marcella, and Frank and Stein. No, no more. I'm not going to do this to myself. "Actually, Sara -- "
"Susan," supplied the voice.
Emily felt her eyes crinkle with just a hint of amusement. "I'm sorry. Mrs. McKenzie -- "
"Ms. McKenzie," said the voice coldly.
"My husband Mark just left on a business trip to Michigan. He accidentally took all the papers with him in his briefcase, the silly. Can I have him call you when he gets back next week? Then you'll be able to speak with him and interrupt him in person."
A moment of silence on the other end. "That will be fine, although I will need to set up the appointment a few days in advance so that -- "
"And your phone number and extension?" asked Emily quickly.
"1-888-375-7373, extension 4302. Have him call me as soon as he can to set up -- "
"I sure will!" said Emily, almost ready to laugh.
"Have a good day, Mrs Fa -- "
Emily hung up on her, smiling as she did so. What an ass. Mark will be so annoyed if she talks to him that way. Serve him right. What an irritating woman, no wonder she's only a Ms. She stood still, replaying that last thought. She began to tremble and her eyes burned with a new flow of tears.
Yes, if she was nice and polite, she could be like me. I know how to be nice, and my reward is to be Mrs. Mark Fatzer, wife of a well-to-do professor at a beautiful little university in a lovely coastal town with a large and properly appointed house. I know what to say to my husband Dr. Fatzer, how to deflect his temper tantrums, how to flatter him, how to keep his house for him. What a reward it is to be Mrs. Mark Lying Sneaking Cheating Insensitive Cursing-at-his-wife Bastard Fatzer!
Emily looked around wildly for something to throw. No, there was nothing in her office that wasn't hers, nothing in her bedroom that wasn't hers, and she didn't want to break any of her things. She hurried back to Mark's bedroom and stopped before the bookcase that held his collection of Playboy magazines. She reached forward and grabbed a handful of them, and tossed them violently over her shoulder. Then two handfuls, and she dashed them against the wall. Another two fistfuls, and then she swept her arm in back of the row of magazines and knocked them all to the floor. She stepped on them, picked them up and threw them again and again until she was sweating and out of breath.
She stood back and admired her work. There were naked ladies everywhere, on the bed, beside the bed, smashed against the baseboards, halfway across the hall. Titties, titties, titties. How many magazines were on the floor? Was that every copy of his collection for the past five years? He had boxes upon boxes of them in the attic, carefully preserved in plastic containers, a perfect collection reaching back to before they were married. What a treasure. She turned her back on them and left the room.
Well, she had more than a week before she had to clean up her handiwork. She peeled off her gloves and threw them into the trash can of her bathroom. She wanted to have a glass of wine and some cheese before Mark called from Battle Creek; she wanted to think about how she should receive his call.
"What do you think?" she said to the wooden spoon beside her on the table as she set out a plate of cheese cubes, some cucumber slices, and the wine glass. "Do I confront him with his shit or do I let him play it out?"
The spoon faced her blandly, accepting its role in life to be used to stir things, be they hot or cold, to be used to pry open lids of cans of vegetables or have its handle used to lift hot lids from pots when an oven mitt was unavailable, to listen to a distraught woman muse about things she would not be willing to confide to anyone else in the world.
"Yes, you're right," Emily told the wooden implement. "You don't ask to be a fork or a chopstick. We do what we're built and bought to do. Good idea. I've never had much practice being confrontational with anyone, let alone someone like my husband. He doesn't back down from anything, even if he knows he's wrong. He just strikes out. There, I said it out loud. You're the first one to hear me talk about how mean he can be if he doesn't like something. I don't want to fight with him today; I'll cry and then feel like more of an idiot than I do already."
She sipped at the glass of wine. "And you know, I'm tired of being the idiot. Just because he's got a doctorate and I only ever got my BA, why does that make me the one who's always incorrect about my information and the one who never gets to make the decisions?"
Emily stood up and looked around the room. Mark had picked out the appliances they used, based on his research into Consumer Reports. When the old stove died, Mark replaced it, though he rarely cooked. The bigger and more efficient refrigerator was his idea, too, so that they could chill more food for their parties. Granted, she got to keep her mother's kitchen table for a worktable in the kitchen, but the table in the dining room was of his choosing, as were the chairs by the fireplace, and the carpets, and the cars in the driveway and airport long-term parking; the mattresses and the lawn mower, the landscape plants and the televisions. "Spoon," she said, picking the wooden thing up again and putting it in her pocket so that its bowl faced forward, "how many things are there in this house that speak of me? My mother's table, that's one; the koi in the pond, two. My pink and rose and purple stuff in my bedroom; and the laptop I just bought, even though that's a secret thing. I'm a non-entity even in my own house. No wonder he's screwing around. I don't even exist."
She sat back down at the table and pulled her notebook to her. Under the line that said, "Go over house from room to room and see what has to be done to make it saleable," she indented again, and wrote "I. Study -- ok." And on the next line, "II. Mark's Bedroom -- okay." Well, except for the trashing of the magazines, and that she intended to leave as decoration for a few days, at least. She'd pick up his titty magazines when she absolutely had to, and not a minute before. And his damn condoms.
Leaving about a half a page blank, Emily wrote "Number Two: Find a job." That was the terrifying prospect she'd been avoiding thinking about. If Mark was going to dump her and move to Michigan, she would be on her own for the first time in twenty-eight years. What on earth would she have to do to stay alive and fed at her age? Her typing skills were rusty, her knowledge of computers limited to some free classes at the library; she could plan party fare, but what caterer would hire a woman in her fifties when he could pay illegal immigrants less than minimum wage? "Spoon," she said, pulling the implement from her pocket again, "I don't know what I'm going to have to do, but I promise I'll take you with me when I go. I won't leave you behind."
She got the day's newspaper from the stand by the stairwell, and sorted through it to find the classifieds. "I'm just looking right now, mind you,' she said to the spoon. "Just to check it out. I'm not in the market yet, though it may be soon. As yet, I have not been fired, my dear spoon, though my employer is becoming less and less agreeable to me by the minute. Don't tell anyone."
Really great. Not only is a wooden spoon my psychotherapist, it's also my current best friend. "My job is to be Mrs. Fatzer, and all that that entails, for a while, anyway. It's not a hard job, God knows, unless you factor in all the bullshit and lies and being told you're 'fucking stupid' and finding out the hubby is screwing around on you."
Emily listened to herself talk along with Spoon, and wondered at her own feelings, following the burn in her cheeks back along the pathways of emotion. She wasn't heartbroken at discovering her husband's deceptions and -- well, it was circumstantial evidence at best -- proof of his infidelity. Not heartbroken. Not at all a sense of oh my god my lover loves someone else! It was more like, How long has he been letting me go through this charade? How many people have seen me sailing obliviously through each day, thinking life was all hunky-dory? She shuddered. Hunky-dory was a revolting turn of words. Where had it come from? Why did it still persist in the language? Spoon had no answer. Emily picked it up and held it before her face. "You know, I remember falling in love with him, but I can't remember when that stopped. You don't remember either, do you? You came later, when the days were still good and seemed all okay, but there wasn't a sense of being in love anymore. You arrived after being me was a profession, not a passion."
I've become my job. Don't they criticize people for doing that, for becoming totally immersed in what they do to the exclusion of who they are? And if I've become my job, then who the hell was I before my job as Mark Fatzer's wife possessed me?
Is that person even still alive?
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