“Look here,” he said, rattling the newspaper in her face. “It says here there’s almost certainly ice water on the surface of the moon.”
The look she gave him as she pushed the paper away was equally icy, but he didn’t notice.
“Says here that scientists are analyzing old data, information they collected in 2008, and – blah, blah, blah – bouncing infrared light into caverns and – well, it’s pretty scientific, whatever they’re doing. They can’t tell how deep the ice is because it’s in these dark craters, so it could be the tip of an ice berg or as thin as a layer of frost.”
This information was met with a thin layer of frosty silence. Again, he didn’t notice. Couldn’t he just take a breath once in a while, she wondered, glance her way, see her? With a sigh, she heaved herself to her feet and walked heavily to the kitchen. He kept on reading the evening paper aloud.
“Hey, know what else?” he called.
She couldn’t hear him over the running water and clashing pots and pans, and he had to know she couldn’t hear him, but he kept right on talking. She’d long ago stopped calling back, “What?” It didn’t matter. Talking was what mattered. Monologue was what mattered.
His words woke her in the morning, dogged her days, trailed her into sleep. She believed she knew what it was to be an oyster with a hard grain of irritation growing and growing. Only she wasn’t forming a pearl.
Earlier in their marriage she’d tried to participate, make it a dialogue, but she finally realized he wasn’t interested in what she had to say. So she built a carapace of hardening layers of silence.
Some women, she knew, longed for their husbands to talk. “Just say something,” they’d beg, “carry one end of a conversation.” Not her. She longed for her husband to shut up. If he wasn’t reading the newspaper to her, he was giving a running commentary on the television show she was trying to watch. Or reading unconnected paragraphs aloud from his current library book. Or looking out the window, relaying neighborhood activities. She never got the whole story about anything.
Parts of what he was saying drifted in from the living room: “…Twelve dead and they think it’s from…Social media says that first-born girls are more likely to…two-headed calf born in…The Gerbers got a new car, it’s a big red….”
Chatter no different than usual, but today with an inward thump she reached the end of her endurance. No more. The thought of silence, blessed silence, made the long bones in her body vibrate with anticipation.
She got the suitcase from its place of hiding behind the coats in the hall closet. It had been packed for years. From time to time, she’d update the clothing, replace the toothpaste. In an inside pocket was an envelope containing a stack of one-hundred dollar bills. She’d never been sure she’d actually do it, but she’d felt better just having an escape plan. Now she was ready.
Tearing a page from her shopping list pad, she wrote a line, then quietly picked up her car keys. He was still talking as she slipped out the door. She’d be long gone by the time he came into the kitchen to see what was delaying his dinner, and then he’d find the note on the table, pinned down by the salt shaker.
“You know that ice on the moon? It’s the tip of an iceberg.”