I sat behind a red door wearing a novelty-sized cowboy hat. Not the small kind of novelty, but the big kind, and not grenadine red, but a there’s-blood-on-the-fruit-salad red. The hat was pulled down to rest over my eyebrows, so I could see the television. There was still room in my hat. I could probably pull it down over my face and if I cut out some eyeholes maybe I’d rob a bank still wearing these sweatpants.
But I didn’t have time for that, ‘cause Kerry would be coming home soon with the peanut butter. I doubt she’d like the hat but I could deal with disapproval. “Gotta pick your battles,” mom said, years ago, around chewed-up wedding cake. It was keeping my ears warm and I didn’t want to get up. Snow had come in the night before and was pressed up against the door just waiting to sink into the tops of my boots. My hat was helping.
I heard Kerry jiggle her key in the lock.
“For fuck’s sake.” She sighed, stomped the snow out of her sneakers (why would she wear those?) and plopped her bags down just inside the door.
I turned carefully to look at her, and the big sheriff star reflected light on the wall next to her head.
“Peanut butter?” I asked.
“In the paper one,” she answered. “Why are you wearing that?”
“It was next to the bed.”
“My ears are cold.”
“Oh,” she rolled her eyes at me and it was a little gross because her eyes are really big, which makes the whites of them also very big.
I turned back to the television, which wasn’t on. My laptop, resting on my bare belly, came alive again at my finger’s tap against the trackpad. I couldn’t bring myself to focus my eyes so I stared blankly out the windows into the white.
“Are you going to use this or did I get it for no reason?” Kerry moved toward me, peanut butter in hand.
I extended my arm behind the couch, ready for the jar, finally focusing my eyes on the label. I reached for my stale bagel that’d been on top of a battered coffee table book that I used as a plate (on and off) for several years. I looked back to ask Kerry for a knife but she’d disappeared into the kitchen.
I ripped the bagel up and dipped into the peanut butter. Chunks came off in it but Kerry didn’t like peanut butter so it was just mine, and I thought that was ok. I let my head drop back onto the couch, which jostled my hat. I did silently debate the merits of putting a shirt on because I was sure there was one buried between the arm and last cushion of the couch, but the paunch that’d glommed to me in my thirties was content to be overwarmed by the computer.
“Don?” From the kitchen.
“Yeah?” From the living room.
“Come help me? Keep the hat if you want.”
I knew, implied in her request, was the command to put a shirt on. That was fine. Of course I’d wear a shirt for her; I loved her. I wrestled the hat through the headhole of a fancy work sweater which was crammed down there and plodded through our red kitchen door to Kerry. “Red is for kitchens,” she told me when we moved in, sixteen years ago. We had rooster plates too because chickens are also for kitchens.
The kids have gone– her little helpers. I have to mow and take out the garbage again. I still work, of course– didn’t plan that well; I’ll retire in ten years. Kerry’s dreading it I think, because I annoy her when she’s not in love with me. I bet she’ll just pick more hours up at the home.
She handed me syrupy pineapple spears that came in a little plastic box because we don’t like to core the actual fruit. We have yogurt and fruit a lot for meals because we both hate cooking. There are cons to marrying yourself, but we get along well enough I guess.
“You have a good morning?” I asked Kerry.
“Yoga went well. I’m sweaty.”
“Cute,” I replied.
“You know it is.” She moved to hug me from behind, and though yeah, she did smell a little like yoga, I still liked it.
She snuggled against me and said, “We both need a shower.”
After a few moments I mumbled, “Love you.”
“Same.” She kissed me between the shoulder blades. “I’m gonna go– you need anything?”
“No, go ahead. I’ll shower after.”
“Okay,” she said, but before she turned to our bedroom, she snatched the hat from my head.
She didn’t respond but scampered through our door and shut it behind her. I shook my head and continued to slice the pineapple, some strawberries, and plopped them into white yogurt. Mark calls me princess because I don’t eat much meat, but he only has one testicle because he sat weird on a bike once. Oh, Mark.
After two showers and a tug-of-war starring my sheriff hat, in which its structural integrity was compromised (Kerry won), we sat together on our couch with bowls. Kerry snuggled into my side like college and piled up some books in front of her for when she finished her lunch. I’d set my computer down but not closed it, so when I finished my food, I could work.
“Babe?” Kerry shifted against me.
“What would you think of me going back to school?”
Surprised, I said, “I think it’s a great idea! What will you go for?”
“Master’s,” she mumbled.
“In?” I asked.
“English. Sound dumb?”
“Never. You love that stuff.” I rubbed her arm to warm her up. Kissed the top of her head.
The sun soon disappeared, dinner was salad because it’s easy, and bedtime followed a few hours later. We made love then for the first time in two weeks and it was really nice. Loving is easier than people make it out to be.