Instructions for Meeting the Man Pretending to Be Your Husband

Sunday, January 15, 2023

You will forget everything we talked about when you sit down to speak with him. You will want to meet with him somewhere safe. Somewhere public. A park. A cafe. Remember, this is wrong. He’s smart. He knows how to remind you of the early days when you were in love. Even now, he’s a romantic. Talk to him, instead, in a parked car. At that rundown lot that used to be a gas station. You know the one. You will recognize the graffiti. The pornographic elephant. The 1990s cartoon characters. When you buckle your seatbelt, look past his shoulder and tell him that you don’t love him anymore.

Remember that he is not what you think he is. Remember what I showed you in the attic. The rolls of flesh and collage of bone hidden beneath the boxes of photo albums and video cassettes. Don’t worry about why I was up there. It’s not important. All that matters is that he is not the man you thought he was. That man is gone. You’ve seen his sloppy arteries and empty eye sockets. The messy remains of what could only have been him. Something else has taken his skin and wears it like a condom.

Of course, you must remember that even before he was replaced, he was not the man for you. Remember the nights we spent together sipping wine and complaining about his behavior over the phone. He rotated gig work, never making a profit. Never sure if Uber or Lyft was the right fit. His favorite TV series is a clip show on MTV of people hurting themselves. He smokes your pot without asking. His best friend hit his girlfriend two years ago, and he hid it from you. This was always how it was going to end.

When he asks you why, mention all the things he did wrong. Or don’t. Give him a reason that will make sense. Invent a lover. Tell him, finally, that you are bisexual and that he no longer does it for you. When he grabs your wrist and asks you to look at him, only do so if it’s to remind yourself that he no longer blinks and that his hands never stop feeling like sharkskin.

Think of how everything fell into place when I showed you his corpse. The sudden revival in nighttime spooning. How the touch revived you even though you always thought he felt cold. That he had been making more of an effort to cook for you. The lavish meals and boxes of chocolate. That for the first time in however long he didn’t look away when you stripped for the shower. The relief of him going down on you and his tongue between your legs after telling you for years that the thought of it made him recoil. Remember his hunger, how he wrapped his lips around your pussy and you felt like he would devour you. Devoured. That was the word that stuck with you. He was going to swallow you whole.

Don’t think about why you never smelled the flesh in the attic. Banish any thought of how long he rested in the cobwebs and Christmas ornaments. When you feel doubtful or need convincing, repeat to yourself that I was just up there to find the camcorder video of our pre-prom. That I wanted only to show you something good. Something easy and simple in its joy. Us together as teens in blue and purple. Gowns down to our ankles. Hair permed and curly. Planting kisses on the soft spaces between each other’s cheeks and lips. I didn’t expect to find the body. Nobody could have.

Remember that you trust me. That you love me. That we played in sprinklers as kids. That we called each other every Thursday for two decades. I know that we’ve drifted. That’s what friends do, right? We have our peaks and valleys. Love and distance and anger. But I’m here now. And this is good. Think of how your pulse quickened when we hugged each other goodbye after our first dinner in four years. How you paused and looked at my lips, and we existed in that still, quiet moment. I know you think about it as much as I do. Didn’t we feel naked in the best of ways? If I wanted to hurt you, couldn’t I have done it then?

Don’t forget the gun in your purse. Be ready and remember our nights at the range. Touch the safety. Remember that it kicks. When he gets angry, reach for it. When he makes a move for you, lift it. Don’t let him reason. Don’t let him explain. If he reaches for you, step out of the car and take the gun. If he opens his jaw and you can see his teeth—his real teeth—fire. You won’t have a second chance. If he pleads with you, ask him to leave the car. If he sobs and begs for you to explain, lie. If he looks you in the eyes, look away. If he asks you about me, tell him we haven’t spoken in weeks.

Don’t let him kiss you.

Sunday, January 15, 2023