CHOKE – Hannah Mariska

I drop my bag to the floor  and stretch, cat-like, enjoying the feeling of shedding the tight work clothes and stiff office banter.

How’s your day been? I ask. The living room is thick with the day’s stuffy summer air. Crusted dishes climb up out of the kitchen sink. There’s a pair of crumpled socks on the rug. He’s wearing ripped sweatpants.

It’s been a doozy, he says from the sofa, staring at his phone. He scratches his head. White flakes dust his shoulders and the back of the sofa.

I rest my hand on the kitchen counter, sticky with rings of coffee. Is that right? I call out, just to say something. Hold in the stream of anger that is fighting its way out. The tightness returns to my shoulders as I run the hot water, fill the sink with bubbles, scald my skin as  I wash the dishes. I wipe down the counter, start chopping onions with puckered, wrinkled fingers, soft nails. What have you been up to? I ask as I chop and cook, eyes watering, holding the tears in.

As the sauce bubbles on the heat, I rush to the bedroom to pull off my dress and tights and swap them for the comfort of my stretched pyjamas. The tights fall inside out on the end of the bed, sagging, a shadow of how I feel.

We sit down to dinner, hot plates burning our laps, TV flashing white across the dark walls. He rushes the food down, choking after a few mouthfuls, licks the plate clean and puts it down on the coffee table. The dirty fork rests on the arm of the sofa. 

How was your day? He finally asks. His phone is back out.

It was okay. I explain about the work colleague that is still giving me grief, how today she snapped at me in front of the rest of the office,how she pulled me aside later to apologise in private.

Hmmm. He thumbs through images on his phone. Oh, I got a new T-shirt today, he says. He jumps up and shows me, holding it up against his body. His face lights up. The fabric curves out over his stomach.

I want to walk out,want to throw the T-shirt in the bin, scream.

Picking up the plates and carrying them to the kitchen, he chats away about more T-shirts he’s ordered, ones he thinks I might like. He comes back with two plastic bowls of crisps and hands me one.

I smile. I tell him his new T-shirt looks good.

Hannah Mariska originally hails from Wales, and now lives, writes and works in London. You can find her on twitter: @hannah_mariska

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