“Every man has a secret,” I say, “At least, every man who is around me.”
“What’s my secret.” Not a question. Perhaps he does not believe he has one.
“I don’t yet know,” I say unconvincingly. But I do yet know.
They love to be adored, don’t they! Men love women who pretend they don’t know; who turn a blind-eye. Who play dumb and say yes-and-no when prompted. Yes, darling.
I speak in my Darling voice to my ex-husband when he comes over to fix the computer. Again. The external hard drive doesn’t work, and all of my pictures are gone; all of my documents. At least, in part. The pictures are stored on the web, mostly. The documents, sent out to friends.
“Andrew, can I get you something to drink?”
“What do you have?”
I pour him a glass, not a highball. He only drinks from the short glasses, and I drink from the bottle. It’s a dreadful habit I have in my own home–drinking from the gingerale bottle. I try to keep that private. But everyone has terrible habits at home. Some people pick their noses. I swig from the two litre.
He has brought the dogs and they stink. The little one climbs up on my sofa (my lovely sofa!), and I clap and yell at him to come down. The dog looks at me defiantly, the reclines like a lion. Lapdog in repose. I come at him to remove him, but he rolls over for a belly-rub. His torso is matted with urine.
How can he live like that; let them live like that?
“They only misbehave when you’re around,” Andrew says, looking up from the computer. Me, hot-faced, suddenly. I cower, awash in blame. It must be me. I did this to them.
“I would prefer they not climb on my sofa.” I musted the courage to say this, shifting from foot to foot in my running shoes. My beloved running shoes; the ones that carried me away; that let me run away.
“At home,” he continues, “They learned to climb up on the kitchen table.” He says it like it’s cute. It’s not cute. I look down at the dogs, and they look dirty; matted. Their hair is too long–I used to trim their bangs. The bigger one is vocalizing; she wants me to come down to her. She was always mine.
“It’s almost your home-day, Moose,” I say, picking her up. I cannot look away from her. I remember her tiny form; her bent-over puppy ear. Her tiny puppy teeth. I dislike puppies.
“We brought you home four years ago, next weekend!” I say into her head. Her head will always smell like puppy to me.
He looks at me sheepishly. “Four?”
“Yes, four. 2006.” Two thousand six. The year of the fire; the year before things fell apart.
“Oh. We had a birthday part for her in January.”
From the look on his face, I can tell that he had a third birthday party for her; she’s four.
Without fanfare, Andrew leaves.
My companion turns to me. “Why does he let the dogs climb on the table? Why doesn’t he push the chairs in?” Pushing the chairs in has not occurred to me. It feels like my fault that the dogs climb on the table. It is my fault that they misbehave when I am around.
It is my fault.
Later that night: Every man has a secret.
But he does not believe he has a secret. Like I am foolish; or blind; or oblivious.
Everyone has a secret.
Every last one.