Sharon Wahl


Marriage

     I had known him for years. But we were friends, him and his wife and me, so of course I never told him how I felt. When I heard he'd had an affair, that he didn't wear his wedding band for a month, I was jealous. And yet I've never been jealous of his wife.

     Not long after that I visited his town on business. His wife was away for the weekend, and we had dinner with several of his friends from work. We decided not to see a movie with them, but stayed to finish another bottle of wine. He was sitting next to me. The outsides of our thighs had touched often while we ate. They were touching now. We looked at them, at each other. The table was no longer crowded, but neither of us moved away.

     I would meet him at his apartment in an hour. I pictured his bedroom. I pictured it with the bed made, which it probably hadn't been, but would be when I got there.

     Before leaving my hotel room I looked out at the street. It had been empty. Now there were slow lines of people, families with children, boys carrying odds and ends of furniture and luggage. They walked with eyes fixed on the dark pavement and on their stumbling, exhausted feet.

     I carried a small suitcase and a shopping bag with wine and bread and two apples. I gave the apples and bread to a woman carrying her daughter on her back. I gave the wine to a man with a broken arm strapped against his chest. Another man reached for my wallet. I gave him the money in it: a twenty, a ten, a one.

     He had taken in thirty or forty people. They sat everywhere in the apartment, cross-legged on the floor and on the bed, which had been made but which I would not sleep in. All of us stared into the television, trying to understand that suddenly, war had broken out.


Coincidence

     He said he liked things best sliced thinly, julienned. She disagreed: she liked things chunky.
     But I can lay the strips side by side and count them, and I always know exactly how many I have, he said.
     It isn't how many, it's how much, she said, for anything important.
     How many times have we made love? he said.
     She looked at her palm: the rows of black marks, four lines and a slash, repeated smaller and smaller so more would fit.
     One hundred and two, she said.
     Ha! he said.
     How much do you love me? she said.
     Let me measure the ways, he said. He wondered if all her toes would make a pound. He wondered if -- after all, she was very thin. . .
     They tested it on her bathroom scale and yes, there were exactly one hundred and two pounds of her.
     They were amazed, delighted, made promises, poured sparkling wine.
     To the future, he said, raising his glass to hers.
     Don't drink! she said -- If there were that many marks, exactly, could there ever be more? She felt the numbers striving with their cool diligence towards this end result.
     She took off her clothes.
     In the morning she had not gained, but lost, a pound. The new mark was very small. The rows had compressed while she slept, the black lines getting harder and harder to count. Practically useless.