I contemplate my marriage standing next to a toaster.

According to the menu, it is toasted bread with jalapeño flavored butter for today. Strawberries on the side. The crunch reminds me how we used to crack walnuts. Stick it in the space between the closing door and its frame, right above the hinge. If we were lucky, it’d split into exact halves. A perfect divorce.

I write down the names of the cities we visited. The skyline we brought back. After a while, there were only clouds between us, our blurry smiles like white markers on negatives. Your essential oils and hair color, occupying all the space on the sink and the bathtub. Their permanent rings underneath. I lost hair and you gained weight proportional to the number of times we listened to “Forever Young.” We kept falling and falling—waiting for the door to close on us.

***

I decide to take a survey that calculates the happiness index. I can fake it. I can prove I am happy. Until I become a stick willing to break under the slightest pressure. All it takes is one question.

***

I started small—baby steps, doing what I could. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw myself—above you, beneath you, beside you, the bronze body, with the paunch and receding hairline that filled me, soaked me, aroused me. On our anniversary, I made a dinner reservation, wore the dress you got from Thailand. While sipping your favorite Chardonnay, I remembered how my mother reacted when I told her about you. Her worried look and her careful voice, as if she knew the ferocity of marrying an old scholar.

***

There are always possibilities. To love someone else. To believe in God. Years happen and then everything is about matching curtains, buying flatware, blaming your luck, and having kids. To become this one person you thought you’d never be.

***

Days splinter. I hold a knife close to my wrist, the vein ready to burst. Then I think about an old joke that still makes me laugh. Suddenly it seems like I’ve misunderstood it. It had taken all these years. Even now, I find myself laughing, knowing that I will end up crying. Truth makes you a ghost of yourself, desolate and alive. It makes you question and choose.

I find a walnut, place it on the floor and smash it with a hammer. It explodes into a million pieces pinching the air, each heading into a direction I’ll never know.

Tara Isabel Zambrano

Tara Isabel Zambrano

Tara Isabel Zambrano lives in Texas. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Storm Cellar, Lunch Ticket, Necessary Fiction, Moon City Review, Matchbook and others. She moved from India to The United States two decades ago and is an electrical engineer by profession.
Tara Isabel Zambrano

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