A Small Seed
She noticed his laugh first. Full-throated, like a walrus. Like a roar. He wore a red paisley shirt and cowboy boots. His beard was curly, black, thick. Kimmie thought, while sipping her Sancerre: this man is a beast. It mystified and repelled her. She hated herself the next morning when she woke up next to his snoring, hairy body. But there was something about his ferocity that she couldn’t shake, like a leathery musk she kept wanting to inhale.
They struck up a casual thing, meeting when she had the time, when she allowed herself the betrayal of her best interests. He gobbled up life while she could only mete it out in measured bits. This discrepancy interested her enough to keep her motivated. He would sometimes take her by the hand and ask her to follow, to trust him. She always took his hand. She followed. But she never trusted him. That was part of the attraction, she supposed. Once, they ended up at the far end of a Chelsea pier in the brutal darkness of a January morning. She watched him take his clothes off, shivering in the wet air. Without a word he kissed her square on the lips. She heard the hard splash of water. It took him five minutes to convince her to jump, but she did it. She regretted it later, but in the water they rubbed against each other for warmth, her bony limbs against the heavy lumps of his muscles and it felt good.
They moved in together into a railroad apartment in Astoria with paper-thin walls that whispered to her at night. Complaints and accusations. They told her she didn’t belong, that it wasn’t her home. I hate this place, she said, it feels like it’s haunted. He laughed and held her tight on the bed, as if to squeeze the fear out of her. Hey you haints! Don’t you dare take my baby, this is our home now you hear, he bellowed, pounding at the walls. She hated him a little for making fun of her, and felt a small seed of meanness plant itself inside her. But he rubbed her breasts and breathed his heavy, smoky breath on her face. She grabbed his hair and made love to him on a squeaky seven-year old mattress.
She had a timeline of how she wanted her life to go and after a while she accepted his place on it. They agreed to get married in the spring of the following year. Do you want a big wedding, he asked? No. Just my brothers. A friend or two. Not your father? he asked her. She shook her head, her wiry brown hair like hickory switches. He raised his eyebrow but said nothing. He watched Kimmie fold in on herself, as she often did. She’d mentioned her father only briefly before, his miserliness and his anger. Her face withered. The seed inside her grumbled awake.
They had a small ceremony at her boss’s penthouse on Madison Avenue and afterwards got wasted on shots of Schnapps on the balcony. Mm. Like apples, she said. Did I ever tell you my dad yelled at me once for wasting an apple slice? He slapped me, too. Hard. For a goddamn apple slice. She laughed a caustic laugh. He put his drink aside and kissed the ridge of her hair. She could feel him trembling. It was too much for her; she couldn’t stand it for some reason. Tiny tendrils of disdain spread through her. She lifted her head up at him and smiled big. I’m fine, I’m fine. Let’s keep drinking. I’m fine.
Later, after her hard-earned promotion to assistant editor, after she’d run out of excuses, they had their first child. Then a second. They moved out of New York and into New Jersey, into a bright blue, two-story house (which she protested was too big for their needs, but eventually acquiesced to), with a chain-link fence and two red oaks in the front, one slightly droopier than the other. When the holidays came around, their house would be the only one on the block with no decorations. Are you Jewish? a neighbor asked her once, standing near their unshoveled driveway one December. Mind your own damn business, she responded.
Kimmie felt the insidious growth inside her; its presence seeped out from her pores like resin. It threatened to choke her baby daughter as she held it. On her son’s fifth birthday, when he asked for ice cream instead of the single cupcake she had made for him, Kimmie refused, then stared blankly at his disappointment. She left the room to let her husband console him.
She spent more and more time at the office. Looking out over Columbus Circle and into the dark reaches of Central Park she’d watch the people lumbering about and drink vodka from a ceramic mug, thinking about how her children loved her husband more than her. The venomous roots had taken a firm hold inside her, and when she met the new head accountant, a smug Ivy League graduate rigid as a pole, she knew even then that she’d soon be fucking him on the cold marble floor of her private bathroom.
Her husband filed for divorce and threatened to take the children away. She didn’t protest. An entire tree had grown by then, choking up her veins. That winter, after the divorce was final, after she’d come to get her things, she drove away forever and looked back in the rear view mirror – her family was building a snowman, round and fat. They decorated it with garlands and string, used a bright red rubber ball for a nose, and topped it off with a fluffy Santa Hat too big for its head. They laughed at the sight of it.
Dominic Lim, a former musical theater actor and professional musician, is currently enrolled in the Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program in Writing at UC Berkeley Extension. He was featured by Whoah Nelly Press website as one of their “(Un)heard Voices” and his poem “The Oyster” will be published in Ursa Minor. He is the founder of the vocal ensemble, NovAntiqua, works as an intellectual property specialist and is proud to call Oakland his home.
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