You’re an ice-cold mystery, is what she said to him last night. Then he got angry.

What? What’d I say? That made him madder.

Intimate strangers, she mumbled, always needing the last word.

Another fight and now this.

All she did this morning was touch the damn shower door and it had shattered. A wall of glass falling away, deafening crash when things fall apart.
Each day the heart constricts a little more, closing in on itself. Experience has taught her nothing.

Beautiful jewels heap the tub, the color of sea foam. A million little miracles, birthed, released, transformed, let loose. On her knees, bending into the tub, her hands work quickly, automatically, scooping with a soup ladle, the sound of metal clanking glass, green pebbles jingling into a bowl. They don’t even own a bucket.

Another queasy defeat in this home.

Bob Seger’s voice in her head. Both of us lonely. What was that old song called? The whole point of being in a relationship was to not feel lonely, right? So why did she feel this way all the time? These are the thoughts that move through her head as she picks broken glass out of a tub.

The big chunks go easy; it’s the million tiny little shards that prove tricky. Is there a right way to do this? She wonders, brushing and brushing at the porcelain. Or is she doing this wrong too? Lean into the sharp points of your fear, the Buddhist Pema Chödrön says in that book that sold like ten jillion copies. Fuck that.

Up every night. Three in the morning. Emptiness inside is what wakes her.

Again and again she thinks she’s got it but running her hand over the tub, there’s always another little sliver that catches her hand. She pulls back at each tiny cut, winces, reaches down and does it again. Blooded bliss. She doesn’t know why she does this. She generally tries to avoid pain. She knows about suffering, knows the meaning of divorce.

Later, her fingers are swollen, nicked with tiny cuts. Succulent mortal flesh. Damaged. They look like the hands of someone else, a much older woman, fingers misshapen knobs.

This is what’s left.

These hands of hers. And they won’t stop shaking.

Karen Stefano

Karen Stefano

Karen Stefano is the author of the story collection The Secret Games of Words. She lives in Washington, D.C. where she is currently at work on a memoir.
Karen Stefano

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