Husband? Wife!

No, nurse, no! I do not want another blanket! No, I do not want a sponge bath or a clammy priest or a steel rod down my ... Agitated, you say? Yes, I am agitated, you fat cow! Yes, I am agitated, you menstruating virgin! Move aside, nurse. I beg of you, step aside! I need to behold my wife's face. I need to press her glazed cheek against my broken chest and whisper into her ear: Do not be afraid, my love. Do not be afraid.

We are alone again, Husband. I am glad. The nurse with the heavy eyeliner and white clogs is teasing the night clerk. He is from Bialystok, and I hear that his penis is long and sharp and clean, like a scalpel. The girl from housekeeping swallowed it whole, she says, and her nose has been bleeding ever since. She is coffee-colored and Haitian, and double-jointed like her father and her father's father. If I bear you a daughter ... Oh, do not look at me like that! I can dare to dream, can I not? ... If I bear you a daughter, Husband, do you think that she will have your shiny high forehead? Or do you think that she will have my downy arms or my pinched nostrils? Or perhaps she will weep over the color of the morning sky, or sketch the likeness of a magenta flower in a field of cut grass. These things I do not know. I only know that I love you, Husband. That is enough.

I am cold, my love, so very cold. Behind my eyelids, I am painting the darkness red, like fire. Oh, why have you left my side? The slip of a girl is gone now, too. She has run to fetch me a pair of rolled socks. Thick ones, she whispered, like the fleshy thighs of the night nurse. When she returns, she has promised to tell me stories about Port-au-Prince. There, she says, the air is warmer than semen. Oh, to fill my lungs with your sweet breath! The ecstasy of filling your womb with my boiling blood. Would that not be heaven on earth? Oh oh oh! Why is it so cold? I am tracing your nipple with my tongue, my love. I am waiting for your heat.

Your sister is in the lounge, Husband. She brought me this blouse from your mother ... See? ... and a stick of peppermint. The blouse, she says, matches my eyes. Her steady weeping turns me to stone. Her heart, she claims, is broken. Ha ha! Then why, I asked, have you steeled your heart against our union? Why have you taken offense that I chose your brother and he chose me? I do not forgive her, Husband, and yet ... And yet she begs to see you. Her black eyes hammer at my own until I am forced to look away. I said, "Perhaps tomorrow he will be ready for a visit." My sister-in-law tore at her short black hair. "He is in a coma," she wailed, "not at a bloody health resort. You are so selfish!" I thought you should know that, Husband, because ... oh, it shames me to say so, but ... I know your sister is right. I am selfish. I am greedy. And so, I beg of you, Husband. Choose life. Choose me!

Where are you, my love? My skin is burning. I am on fire! Do not be frightened. I am here, Husband. I am lowering the rail of your bed, like this. And now I am moving this tube over here and ... Did I hurt you? ... let me slip my sandals off. Quietly quietly. There. Let me remove my slacks, Husband, and my blouse, too. It is done. Now I am getting into your bed and ... oh! My fingers are like ice! Let me loosen your drawers and ... shhh ... warm my hands between your legs. Like so. Oh, Husband! I think I have entered the kingdom of heaven. Do you hear the angels singing?





--Bara Swain (2001)