The Cure for Nudity
“The Stevensons sent over a lovely meat basket,” my husband said. I was sipping tea on the living room couch. Harold placed the basket carefully on the coffee table. It was stuffed with freckled circles of salami, a shank of lamb, chunks of steak, and green grapes. I sneezed.
“Have you forgotten it’s spring?” I said.
Harold looked away. “There are grapes,” he said, standing uselessly about.
Then he said, “The Stevensons said that new supermarket confiscates your grocery list and sends it to the feds if it looks suspicious. You know what terrorists eat? Brussel sprouts. Brussel sprouts and no fat yogurt with fruit on the bottom. There’s one secret terrorist cell that does zero carbs. What’s that, celery sticks?”
I concentrated on the way sunlight warmed the room, then on the salty meat smell from the basket, and then on my Harold’s face, which bloomed into a bouquet of fruit and vegetables. His gentle grey eyes turned to fresh bunches of broccoli, and from his aquiline nose burst forth a juicy bunch of purple grapes and a cherry tomato. His wide forehead and neck grew vibrant radishes, strawberries, orange slices, and lettuce. I sighed. Long ago, his heart embodied the luscious vitality of fruits and vegetables. How juicy his kisses! How ripe his touch!
“Harold, your face is doing the thing again,” I said, sneezing. “’Let’s go out together. We can put shiny peas on our tongues and crackers on our eyes and read poetry.” A pleading cracked my voice.
“Can’t take the congestion?” he laughed, squeezing his face back to normal. “Why don’t you just take some allergy medication? I bought it yesterday—it can also be used as a toilet disinfectant.” The memory of a toilet: New Years Eve, nineteen eighty-eight, Harold and I locked in the Stevenson’s bathroom, groping each other on the toilet seat. There were meat baskets everywhere and Harold smothered my neck with salami slices and nibbled them off. I whispered, “I never eat meat in Spring my darling.” Harold ravished me on that toilet, with all the rage and power of war and presidents. Now, remembering made me dizzy.
“Harold,” I grunted, loosening the belt of my green terry robe. “I’m wearing the leather girdle ”
“Honey, for Chrissakes,” Harold said nervously.
“Harold, don’t drink the water, don’t drink the water,” I moaned. It was our code for seduction. I threw myself on the floor, rubbed my slippered feet together. “Take off my slippers Harold, I’m your golden girl, I’m your golden girl, don’t drink the water.”
Harold stood there, not strong like squash but scared like a raisin. At that moment, our boarder, a female dwarf named Sophia, jumped into the living room. She was going through this phase where she jumped instead of walking.
“Hey, Mrs. G, what are you doing on the floor?” Her young voice was tuneful.
I cleared my throat and breathed. “Just channeling ancient secrets, Sophia, don’t worry.”
“My dear, you look especially pretty today,” Harold said in a friendly way. “Heroically life-sized!”
“Don’t let me get in the way here,” Sophia said. “I just came for circles of salami and then I’m off to read my book in the sun.”
“What book?” I asked, stretching out on the Persian rug.
“Dracula,” Sophia said. She adjusted her tight pink shirt and tossed her curls. “Really, sorry to bother, I’m leaving now.”
“Okay leave me,” Harold joked, “but just remember if you do I’m coming with you.”
“Well, sure, you’re more than welcome.” Sophia smiled and light popped off her little freckles.
That’s when I saw everything. Harold loved Sophia. Harold loved Sophia.
I rose with great effort. “I’m not enough for you, am I?” I whispered. “It isn’t enough that I wear rubber bras and rubber masks and put up with your vegetable faces?” Harold and Sophia stood frozen, emboldening my whisper to a shout. “You, Harold?” I yelled. “You, the alienated dissident who looked at me in a polka-dotted party hat and said “I see you Karen. I see you for who you are.”
“I do see you,” Harold said, “It’s just that—“
“You’re a man after all, Harold,” I laughed bitterly. “A man who forgets about meat baskets and falls in love with pretty dwarves just when I am feeling fragile and alone, like a fish in a bowl, that’s when you do it, when I am haggard and afraid like five dead stomped-on flowers in a field.”
“Honey, please calm down,” Harold walked towards me, his hands saying easydoesit.
“Harold, you smell like lemons!” I sneezed in anguish. “That’s why I’m having allergies. You’ve been drinking lemonade with Sophia!”
“Really,” Sophia said. She jumped towards me. “You’re getting hysterical.”
I marched to the meat basket and scooped a handful of steak chunks. I threw them at Sophia’s head.
“Stop it!” she cried. I clocked her with the lamb shank. She screamed and jumped towards the front door. Harold jumped with her.
“You jump out of here, Mister, and you’re not coming back,” I warned.
In his confusion, Harold’s face bloomed into a giant steak chunk. I ripped it off his neck and threw it at Sophia, who was already jumping into the shady street, towards the Stevensons’ house. I shut the door.
“A young dwarf,” I said royally, “should not jump into the arms of a married man.” Harold shrugged and slunk back to our bedroom.
I took care of him for a while, bathed him, read to him, and coaxed his head to grow back little by little. Spring gave way to summer, and then fall, and things went back to normal, although my heart grew another black and blue mark, and when Harold touched it, I remembered.
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