Men are such boys, particularly husbands; they need daddy’s approval and mommy’s attention as long as they live. Unlucky the boy who outlives them as my husband did. I look at the photo he hung of his parents by the shaving mirror and see in them the themes of every marriage. His inflated chest and open-mouth smile of joy are convincing, except for the questioning eyes. She sags beside him, jowls pulled by her own gravity, tilted from propping his confidence. She can’t be frivolous until he’s reliable. I don’t like the way this makes me sound. On sunnier days I see him as boisterous, her grimace as gas. I watch my husband at the mirror dreaming, and wonder what goes through his head. Does he bounce between perceptual poles like mine, or does he look at the same face every time he shaves? Does he understand, a little bit, that I couldn’t live without him? I’m thinking of shaving my mustache, he told me. I think you might have to grow one first, I answered. When I came home with groceries, he met me in a shaving cream mustache, funny boy. We laughed; he kissed me; I had to wash my face. Later, in the car, he wasn’t so funny. The whole night out he had audited me. Something wasn’t adding up. He stopped the car and spoke three sentences, one irritated, one furious, one frenzied. He might as well have been talking about his tail. I felt the old darkness descending. What do you want me to say? I asked him. Do you want me to say you had a mustache? All right! You shaved your mustache! It’s not the words I need, he said, It’s what you know. I need you to say what you know.

Copyright © June 23, 2007 David Hodges