I looked at my phone while waiting for the water to boil. I didn't sleep with my phone in the bedroom anymore. I didn't trust myself after the incident with my half-brother. He refused to believe I'd been asleep or on Ambien when I sent the series of— what he referred to as— "pornographic texts." I guess he wanted to believe I'd been conscious when I wrote them. We all have our underlying masochisms and far be it from me to try to define or understand Billy's. I have enough trouble understanding and interpreting my own.
I had six new texts and two voicemails, none of which were from Billy. We never talked anymore except after the nocturnal texting incidents. Mostly I thought Billy was boring. He didn't have any sense of humor, for one. He failed to see anything funny about me, and that was the main reason I found him boring. But there were others, like his girlfriend and his job and his dog and his mom.
The night before I'd left my husband's apartment at one in the morning, my underwear damp and cold from a mixture of his semen and my own clear ejaculate. I'd left my underwear inside out and crotch up on his bathroom floor for him to deal with later. When I washed my hands, my husband's beard was in the sink and I figured he would have to deal with that later, too.
Things were working out better now that my husband had his own apartment. Better for me, I mean. I liked going home to an empty house, the fear that emptiness engendered in me. I needed to feel fear sometimes to remind myself I wasn't missing out on something, even if I had no idea what that something was.
A year earlier my husband and I had discussed divorce in a similar manner to the way in which we had once discussed marriage; like only one of us wanted it. Which was true. I didn't want a divorce. I thought my husband was confusing my request to live alone with what he viewed as societal reasons for ending a marriage. Once I explained to him this wasn't the case at all, that I just needed to feel something like horror at the end of every day, he acquiesced and fairly quickly found reasons of his own— his old friend internet porn, not having me nag him about hairs in the sink— to enjoy our separate living arrangement. Now I drive four miles across town to fuck my husband.
My daughter was at a state university an hour north. I worried there was something wrong with her. I always worried: envisioned grotesque car crashes I remembered from movies, rape scenes I'd seen on Netflix TV shows or read about in what turned out to be bogus magazine articles. It was still scary, even if that one reporter had made it all up. It represented what could happen to my little girl, to all our little girls, now that they were away at college. It was a little fetishized, all these traumatic scenes I was envisioning starring my daughter, but I couldn't stop. They just kept appearing in my mind like the pornographic texts I'd sent Billy, which if you ask me Billy was lucky to get.
One of the reasons I couldn't stop envisioning my daughter's doom was the break in and robbery last year. A man had entered her dorm in the middle of the night, while my daughter and her roommate were sleeping, and taken their laptops and her roommate's phone, right from the roommate's hand. My daughter spent the next forty-eight hours searching for her stolen laptop online and helped the detective buy it back in some sort of sting operation. Now she had to testify in court. "Do you want me to come up and go with you?" I'd said. She was going to be face to face with the burglar, which seemed terrifying even if the burglar was only a year older than her, and, I guess, selfishly I wanted a part of it. I'd made the mistake of sounding too empathetic on the burglar's behalf early on in the investigation, though— something about him not having been afforded the opportunities she had been given, some lines I'd stolen from The Great Gatsby, lines she surely recognized having so recently read Gatsby in high school. At the very first signs of my empathy, I was severely reprimanded by my daughter. I didn't make that same mistake twice! It quickly became apparent she didn't need me to accompany her into court.
"I can't wait to testify," she'd said. After that she changed her major from marine biology to forensics. She told me recently her goal is to head a crime lab and I don't disbelieve she will achieve her goal. She's a little like the Reese Witherspoon character in Election. Meaning, most of the time my husband and I try not to get in her way.
But it wasn't my daughter who'd called. My phone showed two missed calls from 'Dad.' My own father was dead. This was how I referred to my daughter's father now that he was no longer someone I had sex with.
I listened to the voicemails while measuring coffee. My daughter's father was calling to tell me about a writing prompt or contest— I wasn't sure which— he had heard announced on the radio. He was on government assistance and listened to national public radio 24/7.
"The theme is 'Fools Rush In,'" he said. "I thought you could write about meeting on a Wednesday and getting married on a Saturday."
I couldn't remember the day of the week my daughter's father and I had met. I didn't think it was a Wednesday. I remembered that he had been intoxicated when he entered the small bead store where I worked. I remembered him giving me LSD and asking me to marry him and me saying yes like I had no other plans for my life. My only plan was to work my 9-5 retail job, read Bukowski, and try to write like him, too.
I didn't return my daughter's father's call. My daughter's father hadn't dated anyone in the fourteen years since we'd divorced. I went with my daughter to visit him on her school breaks. He made us falafels in the oven, garnished them with mustard without asking if we wanted mustard.