Toska

by Manuela Silvestre Read author interview March 25, 2013

We woke up one day and his eyebrows were gone.

Robbie and I were still married then, we still slept in the same bed. He’d always had these bushy black eyebrows that came anxiously close to meeting in the middle. I was almost relieved. We looked around for them some, as if they could have scurried off and hidden under the sink. I investigated his forehead, but there were no little hairs growing in, no razor burn.

Things had been off for a while, but they were small enough that we could ignore them. We would set down a spoon on the counter and find it on the cutting table, take the dog out and he would just spin around and around and never pee. Then it started driving us crazy, because we couldn’t figure out whose fault it was exactly.

There were other things too, like all of a sudden my magazines were neatly stacked on the coffee table in the living room, even though I always read in Robbie’s den. The potpourri, well, not even the smell could be traced. I started bringing plastic cutlery home from the office, so I’d have something to eat dinner with, but eventually I gave up when the salt went missing and resigned myself to takeout. On the nights he came home Robbie didn’t mind either. He loved pizza and I’d never been able to knead the dough right.

After a week went by and the dog hadn’t peed, I spent two hours searching the house. I figured it was drying before I could find it. That or Robbie had been taking him out secretly to piss me off.

I started taking the dog to the vet every other day, but she assured me he was fine and started to think the problem was with me. The neighbors, too, I could see them staring at Robbie and I with pained looks on their faces, always while grasping to hold hands. It was as if they felt bad even though we hadn’t said anything, but it really just made me want to punch them in the face. If the dog could still go, I’d have him shit on their front yard.

On the day Robbie’s eyebrows went missing, I finally said something.

“Look, if you’re doing this on purpose there are easier ways.”

“I’m not doing anything Lila. Why would I ever shave my own eyebrows off?”

“I don’t know. You’ve never been good at confrontations.”

“Well you’ve always been good at sneaking around. God knows you’ve done worse things while I was sleeping.”

I got up and went to the bathroom. I still had my eyebrows.

Sometimes when Robbie worked late I liked to walk around the house, taking a mental inventory of the things that had changed. I enjoyed the surprise of finding marbles in my cereal, or the liberating feeling of discovering the placemats I’d never liked were gone for good. Before, on nights like these, I’d taken to going out, driving to bad parts of town and seeing if I could surprise myself.

Then my ring went missing, right off my ring finger. That one he wouldn’t believe was coincidence. After that, I caught Robbie moving around the silverware and hiding my panties. He was sloppy about it, and unlike before, when I could feel something before being able to put my finger on the difference, I now noticed straight away the black lace sticking out from under the couch. He liked to put the black ones there and the red ones in the pantry. The thongs I never found. I don’t think he ever liked me in those. I started cutting the buttons off of his shirts and leaving them in the ice cube trays. I’d separate them by color and size, black to blue and large to small. The dog I just didn’t pick up from the vet one day.

The way we started sleeping on separate beds was Robbie got rid of ours and bought a twin. I found the receipt for it sticking out of the garbage disposal.

The way we got divorced was one day I found the marriage papers and my name was gone, the space over the dotted line as clean as ivory.

About the Author:

Manuela Silvestre is a writer by night, New York University student by day. This semester she is hiding out in South America until it is no longer cold. This is her first publication.

About the Artist:

Karen Prosen has been taking photographs for about five years now, and although she has newly branched out into various other modalities, photography will always be her most favorite and most natural way of sharing with the world. She believes photography is like being a mirror for someone, and saying, "Did you know that this is the way I see you?" It's why she loves portraiture—the ability to turn beauty in all its forms around to show the beheld. To Karen, photography is a gift.