The city of stops and bridges and lights passes into a membrane of hills and curves and longer breaths—the clear view, the lack of landmarks is disorienting, the surfeit of oxygen is suffocating; he wants out of there, back, he doesn’t want to do this, he’s glad it’s only once a year.
Everything good is round and warm. Everything bad is flat and cool. The kitchen floor is flat and cool until we warm it with our roundness. We take things up. We bring them down. Noise. We see her, the One, smell her, and there is nothing else. We go there, we gather, we make her our center. We learn her. Touching. Pulling.
She rolls out a crust, glad for the way some things can be settled with a meaningful look. He had asked why, she had looked, and that had been that. Their bargain.
The crust is for pies for the babies. She thinks this day’s meal might be too rich for them. The two of them are underfoot now, literally, plucking at her ankles. Finished with stacking measuring cups, they’re pulling at her hose and letting it snap back, again and again. They seem content enough, so she lets them.
It’s the smell. Standing next to a pig carcass doesn’t help. He paces, waiting for the farmer to return with his meat and intestines. Shit. Piss. Mold. Dead things. Who knows. The farmer returns with the package, adding sweat and tobacco to the catalogue of odors. This bargain. As if knowing where their food came from, getting it, making it, eating it, right from the source, was enough to charm them against a past, a future, of stench. Or was it a penance of some kind? His wife could have everything she wanted—she would allow him to give her everything he wants a wife to want—if once a year he smelled this shit, she ground this flesh, they ate her meal. He didn’t really know. That is his bargain. That they never say important things out loud.
She feeds the meat through the grinder, gathers the flesh tendrils and stuffs them into gut casings. She likes the clean smell of it on her hands. The pies have finished baking, and she takes them from the oven to cool. There is blood everywhere. She cooks the sausages and calls the family to supper.
After eating, the wife walks to the long window overlooking the harbor, wanting. Hands against the tempered glass, she leans forward and looks back over her shoulder at her husband, still at the table chewing, staring. He swallows and starts toward her, but stops at the babies, still in their high chairs. Cock blocked again, they laugh, as he shrugs, lifts them up and out of their chairs, sets them loose on the rug.
Where we are now is flat but not cool. The other one of us is round and warm. We touch the other’s hair, face. Pull. Push. There is wetness. Coldness. Bad. We rub our eyes, chew our fists. We make noise we fall into the roundness the warmth of the other. Nothing.
They are on the couch, stomachs full, satisfied. They see the babies, asleep in a pile in front of them. The husband says, oh, they smell worse than the farm. They are nasty, the wife agrees, and folds herself into his arms to sleep until morning.