My Wife’s Best Kept Secret
It’s funny how stories always open with some wanker waking up or tied to a chair.
Or waking up and tied to a chair.
If this was a story told from Terrence Blackburn’s perspective, I suppose that would be the case. Except I’m the one who tied him up, and I’m the one who beat him unconscious.
You must understand. He fucked my wife.
He’s waking up now. This is where his story would begin, I guess.
“I… didn’t have sex with your wife,” he whispers to me through puffy, split lips.
He did, actually. Twice. Once on the sofa and once on the washing machine during a spin dry cycle. She liked the spin dry cycle. A lot.
I let him know that I know better by giving him one of those knowing nods. Slow. Deliberate.
These types of stories are always told in basements, too. I can understand the aesthetic, really. There is certain menace to being sealed off from the world. I’d imagine it’s even worse for Terrence. He knows it’s my basement.
He’s probably wondering where Shirley is.
“Look, ok, it happened, once and…”
“Twice,” I remind him.
“Ok.. fine, twice. I’m not going to lie to you; you’re obviously a well informed guy. Hey, we can work something out right? Money?”
“Good, good,” he says, smiling nervously. He thinks we’ve bonded over a theoretical deal. He pushes me further. “So, look, I have money. Lots of money…”
“Shirley likes money, that makes sense.”
“Ah, yeah. Hah, o.k. then. So, all we need to do is go down to City Central Bank and I can do a…”
I punch him. I’ll be feeling his teeth in my knuckles for weeks. The crack of his enamel makes me sick in my guts. Still, it’s satisfying.
“I don’t want money,” I tell him truthfully. “You’ve seen my house, all the pretty things I own.”
His tongue slides through the gaping hole where his front teeth used to be, pressing the roots against his bruised gums. The blood is thick. It’s fascinating how quickly the human body comes undone.
He’s fighting to stay conscious.
“Did she weave that woeful tale of spousal abuse and raging alcoholism?”
He just stares through a pair of marshmallow eyes. I think he understands.
“Do you think this is the first time I’ve done this?”
He slowly, painfully lifts his head and manages a reply before dropping his head again.
He’s smart, I’ll give him that. It is my first time, but I could get used to it. Gary Reddin would’ve been so lucky. He never recovered from the bankruptcy. Ate the barrel of a gun a year later.
I guess that would make what I’m doing now somewhat merciful.
“O.k., Terrence, you got me. I’m new at this, but I think violence comes pretty natural to men, don’t you?”
He slowly shakes his head, it floats slightly, drifting around on his shoulders. He coughs. “You’re sick.”
“Am I? What would you do to the man that had sexual relations with your wife?”
He’s digging deep for some horrible pain that will outlast this one. Maybe he thinks it’ll keep him awake. Hell knows why he’d want that. The silence lingers while he strings together his next words in his brain.
“My wife… is dead.”
“Before she was dead, obviously, Terrence.”
“I’d kill him.” No pause, he doesn’t even think of his answer. Clarity in the moment, like her death had just happened.
“Exactly. That’s exactly right. Except, here’s the thing,” I say and lean close to his ear. “For the amount she’s cheated on me, there’d be too many bodies to bury. I just couldn’t realistically get away with it.”
“So… why are you doing… this?”
“I don’t know, Terrence. I’m not even that angry. Well, with you, anyway.”
“If you’re not angry with me, then let me go!” he says. A little river of blood dribbles down his chin and onto his shirt. Now he’s just whiney. I lose respect for the man who was a defiant bastard two minutes ago. I don’t feel sympathy for him as I knee his ribs until I hear tissue crack. Shirley would choose this over me?
I take a moment to catch my breath, as does Terrence. There is a subtle whine in his nasal passage. It’s irritating.
I sit down next to the laundry hamper and rest my arm against its lid. Her favourite tea towel lays on the ground next to it, ready to be washed. I wipe the blood off my knuckles with it and toss it back on the floor.
I stare at the man for awhile, watching his head bob and weave, glaring back at me with disgust. He’s found a safe place, I can tell because he doesn’t fear me. It’s amazing what a person can do when his back is against the wall. It’s possible he thinks he’s already dead and has dealt with it. That makes me smile. I’m glad he’s found peace.
I know I haven’t.
I’m quickly figuring out that I’m tired of punishing this guy. How long can I possibly do this and feel any satisfaction? I already took his front teeth.
“You know, I bet if all this cheating business had never happened, you and I could sit down for a beer.”
He nods. I don’t think he agrees, he’s just responding to appear more amicable. That’s fine.
“Do you like football?”
“Me either. Perfect example, wouldn’t you say? How often does it happen if you put two guys in a room, one of them doesn’t like football?”
He’s not looking at me anymore; he’s staring at the unfinished floor.
“Well, not many times, I’d say.”
I stand up again and stretch. My back is sore, probably slipped a disc when I was kneeing him. I’ll need to call Dr. Evans in the morning. I quickly check my watch.
“You can let me go, I won’t say anything to… anyone, I swear!”
“All the same, Terrence, I’d prefer if you stayed here a little longer.”
“But I’m not going to see your wife again and.. and.. I-I swear to god that I will never let anyone know what happened here tonight. You said you aren’t angry with me and … I can see that you’re a reasonable man. Let’s work this out; what do you want from me?”
“You know, I’ve been contemplating that myself for the last few hours and haven’t really figured that out yet.” I walk over to him and pat him on the shoulder. I sigh. “There’s something you need to understand about Shirley. She’s a bit of a control freak. I don’t get out much. Honest to god, this is the first male company I’ve had in five years.”
“You think I’m company? You’re killing me for Chrissakes!” There’s fire in him, behind the hamburger face are eyes that hate me.
“No, of course not. But it’s good to be able to chat about things, you know?” I pace behind him, which he doesn’t like much. He keeps swaying his head to follow my movements, like at any moment I’m going to clobber the back of his skull. “I’ve been with Shirley for twelve years. That’s a good chunk of time to devote to someone, wouldn’t you say?”
He grunts and nods.
“How long were you and your dead wife together for?”
“Eight years,” he mutters.
“How’d she die?”
“Cancer,” he says quietly. It must still be a sore spot for him, he sounds lonely when he says it. Poor guy.
“Yeah, my mother died of cancer about four years back. It was hard, I can identify.”
I can sense that we’re sharing one of those moments. One you’d see in the movies where all the main conflict is resolved and there’s this perfect moment of healing. And afterwards you sit back and grin because you feel like somehow you contributed to it.
I grab a knife from the shelf behind me. He starts to scream. He thinks it’s the end. It is, in a way.
“It’s too bad we had to meet this way, Terrence. I think we’d have been friends.”
I sink the blade into the rope tying him to the chair and his hands come free. He stares up at me, wide eyed and he slowly gets to his feet. He backs away with his hands up. I wonder if he still thinks I’m going to kill him.
“I’m sorry about all this; I honestly don’t know what came over me. It seemed like what I had to do, but in the end I think I’ve made a mistake.”
“Aren’t you afraid that your family might see this?”
“No, Terrence. Shirley left me this morning and took the kids to her mother’s. We’re separated. Now I have all the time in the world.” I pause, a little embarrassed to be asking him for anything. “You could come over tomorrow night for a few beers and we could watch The Wire. It’s really well written.”
“You’re a sick bastard, you know that,” he says, pointing a finger at me.
“Yeah,” I reply, nodding as I look at the floor. “People keep saying that.”
I look up and he’s gone.
Awhile later, as I’m sitting in front of the television, there’s a knock at the door. It’s the police. I realize Terrence isn’t a man of his word. Probably best we never did become friends; I couldn’t handle another relationship founded on dishonesty.