I’m beginning to think he does it on
purpose, as a punishment. He’d never admit that, of course,
not even to himself, but I can’t account for it otherwise.
I’ve asked him not to do it enough times. Exactly enough
times. I ask him again, I’ll be nagging.
It’s because I
go out on my own. He doesn’t complain when I do, indeed
he can’t, because if he did then I might, too. I might ask
him what he does until three o’clock in the morning with
his business acquaintances. And that would be breaking the unspoken
code. Neither of us asks. But this business with the lights is
really pushing it. Something’s going to give.
If I ever thought about
it before I came home I might be able to take action. Like not
coming home. That would be justifiable at this stage. Tell him
it was his fault, I just couldn’t face walking into the
house, so I stayed away. But I always forget about it once I’ve
had a couple of drinks, and I don’t think of it again until
I come round the corner of the drive and see all the lights blazing
Then I feel sick. I
want to turn the car and drive away, but it’s too late by
then. The night’s associations have broken down. Everyone
has gone home.
I sit for a while, trying
to calm myself, build up courage. Then I begin to imagine they’re
in the car with me, and I have to get out. I go through the house
as quickly as I can, turning out the lights, ducking, covering
my head with my hands and stumbling across the darkened rooms.
It’s too late to close the windows now. I leave them open
so that they can find their way out. The bathroom is the worst,
because I have to keep still, and I lash out stiffly as the whirring
wings pass close to my head in the dark. I don’t wash or
brush my teeth, just feel my way up the stairs as quickly as I
Why did we have to come
here at all? It was never like this in the city.
Outside the bedroom
door I can hear them. Their wings clatter against the Japanese
light-shade. I open the door and slide in my hand to turn off
the light, and the noise stops almost immediately. My back is
tingling and my nerves play wriggly tricks with my skin as I slip
out of my clothes. I can hear them in the air and knocking against
the paler dark of the window panes.
He pretends to be asleep,
but I know he has heard me come in. His body is hot in the warm
bed. I pull the blankets up around my ears, dreading the flutter
of wings between my skin and the sheets. He turns towards me with
a satisfied sigh, and pulls me close.
Taken from ‘Roughly Speaking’
(1991), page 9.