There was a time I didn't know where my next husband was coming from.
- Mae West
I like to sleep with other women's husbands. I try not to like this. It's not the healthy thing to do, either mentally or hygienically. I see a shrink. I see a gynecologist. But then I sleep with the husbands anyway.
I started big, with my own sister's husband, Patrick. Sarah had always been the stupider one, the uglier one, and the one who lost her virginity first. It's like I couldn't let her get away with that one. The first time I slept with Patrick, I seduced him in a bathroom at a party. I walked in while he was standing at the toilet.
I slept with my best friend's husband. Norton. This did not make me feel like a woman. I slept with my librarian's husband, while she was at work, counting books. Friends, acquaintances, coworkers. All husbands.
After I started sleeping with her husband, my sister asked if I was seeing anyone special. I said, "Unique, anyway."
Sarah smiled. "What's he like?"
"Oh, you know. Like a man. Male." Sarah kept waiting for more information, so I said, "A mailman."
"Maggie, get serious. Don't you want to find someone? The One?"
"I don't believe in the One."
"Don't you want security?"
I stared at her and then laughed. She laughed, too.
I told Sarah, "I'm the girl in the movies where the guy marries the other, really nice and less slutty girl."
Sarah and Patrick got married when she was twenty-three. I had dated him first, for nine months in high school. He and Sarah dated for the rest of high school and then college. She had never been with another man. "Tell me details," she said, eyes shiny. "I need stories of adventure."
"It's not all that exciting. Probably just like what you and Patrick do," I said.
I live across the street from a halfway house. I wave at the inmates at night ("Hi, guys!"). Squirrels live in my walls, running around in the early hours, hiding nuts or whatever. A previous tenant had once set fire to one corner of my carpet. The refrigerator sounds like Darth Vader. My landlord has a tattoo on his face. It says Jail Sucks.
My sister and Patrick live in a mansion. They have an entire wall of cabinets dedicated to their crystal and china, with display cases for the prettiest plates. They have three Afghan hounds, petulant as cats. Sarah sometimes holds up a tablecloth and says, "Only a hundred bucks! Can you imagine?" She invites me over for dinner and shows me all the things she's bought since she saw me last. While I look at these things, I let the wine pool in the side of my cheek before I swallow it. I'm older than her by two years.
My sister's name is Sarah Allison Brown. She did not keep her name when she married Patrick. She isn't a beautiful sister, or even a particularly interesting one, but she's mine. Nobody gets to make fun of her but me. I'd kill for her.
I'd also kill her. Growing up, she drove me crazy, so needy and sad. Our parents died in a car crash when Sarah was sixteen and I was eighteen. Our parents were both only children; besides a stray great-aunt, we had nobody at all.
My shrink says that this is why. My shrink says that I'm suppressing latent homosexual desires by instead sleeping with the husbands. She says that I have an extreme fear of intimacy, yet I'm fascinated by it, so I choose to witness it risk-free, by sleeping with the husbands. She says that the husbands represent things to me. Fathers, sons, women, power.
Copyright © 2001 by Erika Krouse
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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