Forearm and Elbow
She is proofreading a medical textbook all about fractures. Last week it was gastro-intestinal disorders. The week before that, Sexual Function and Dysfunction had asked her how often she became aroused in the shower, and another one, for first responders, had informed her that taking iodine pills when visiting a nuclear ground zero could help protect against future thyroid cancer. "Yeah," her boyfriend had said, "you won't get cancer. But your face will be melted off."
"We're not talking about me," she had responded.
Tonight he says, "It is your night to do the dishes." Yesterday, when it was his night to do the dishes, he had told her that it wasn't fair. What wasn't fair was supposed to be that he had to do all the dishes, not just the ones from dinner but the dishes that she stacked up in the sink while he was at work and she was at home, freelance proofreading. She told him she didn't think two glasses, a mug, a cutting board and a small plate were really a matter of justice.
She gets up from the table and moves to the sink to do the dishes. The doctors had told her that it is important that she try to do as much for herself as she can. She thinks: her boyfriend will not come up behind her while she is doing the dishes and slip his arm around her from behind. His forearm will not rest against her stomach, the crook of his elbow will not cradle her hip. His cheek will not rest against her hair. It had been his idea for her to get this proofreading job, after the bus accident. But the medical textbooks, he thinks now, are making her morbid. He told her the titles sound apocalyptic. He told her it's no fun when they don't go out.
The next day, when she reads that forearm fractures are more common in boys than girls in children over the age of two, but in older people they are much more common in women, she goes into the kitchen. She holds the mug she drank her morning coffee from over her head and drops it to the floor. The kitchen floor is old linoleum, soft with age. Only the handle breaks off. She sweeps it up into the trash anyway. It has been a month since the cast came off. Her ankle is only stiff in the mornings. After lunch she does the same with her plate. She cannot think what to do with the plastic cutting board so she puts it, whole, into the trash can along with the bread knife. The water glass and wine glass from her afternoon snack are easy. And just before he gets home from work, she takes the trash out and puts a fresh bag in the bin.
"Thank you," he says when he comes into the kitchen. He is looking at the empty sink.
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