_____“If I have to live with him like this, I think I’ll go nuts. I feel like a trapped animal, like I might have to chew my leg off to escape.”
_____That was Eileen, describing her marriage to Marvin, a misanthrope about twenty years older than she was. He’d lost interest in sex. She hadn’t.
_____We were in the same therapy group that met every month, only we called it a writers’ group, and some of us really were there for the writing. Patricia was writing a series of stories about zombies. Jenny wrote poems about her mom and about nature. I was farting around with a movie script about a woman who goes off the grid.
_____I was between jobs. Somehow I’d gotten stuck in the technical writing line of work. It started when I worked for an electrical firm, writing their codes and procedures, then a software firm that did computer games, and after that an insurance agency, methods and standards. Even when I tried to bust out of the mold – ad writing, promo work, speechwriting, anything – they always looked at my resume and told me I was a technical writer and that’s the kind of job I should be looking for.
_____“I told him, I said, ‘Mitch, I want to have sex,’ and he said, ‘Well, then go have sex, Eileen. I’m not stopping you.’”
_____“So are you going to have sex?” I asked her.
_____Eileen rolled her eyes. “That’s what my novel’s about, Karen,” she said.
_____Before the next monthly meeting I got a new job – technical writing for a company that makes microwave ovens and other appliances. Troubleshooting, assembly instructions. So I stopped coming to therapy. One day, several months later, at noon, when I was going out for lunch, who do I run into on Presidents Street? Eileen.
_____“How’s your novel coming?” I asked her. I explained about my new job, said I hadn’t been able to work on my script, so I’d stopped coming to the writers group.
_____“Me too,” she said. “I stopped writing on my book and moved out to my own apartment.”
_____I didn’t ask her if she was having sex. The question seemed too personal.
_____“You know ‘evil’ is ‘live’ spelled backwards,” the boy announced to his father from the doorway.
_____Ogden looked up from his laptop computer. He was sitting at the dining table reading the online version of the New York Times. The boy was just starting to deal with pimples, he noticed again. Always a distressing time of life.
_____“You’re right,” Ogden replied after a moment, since Jeremy seemed to be expecting some kind of response.
_____“You just don’t get it, do you?” his son muttered, disgusted, and he turned to leave the room.
_____What was this all about? Ogden had a brief terrified thought that his son was suicidal. “Jeremy!” he called, but his son ignored him, and Ogden heard the heavy tread of his boots on the stairs, heading for his room. After a moment, Ogden turned back to his laptop.
Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. A chapbook of poems, Me and Sal Paradise, was published last year by FutureCycle Press. Two full-length collections appeared in 2020, Catastroika, from Apprentice House, and Ugler Lee, from Kelsay Books.