We watch The Bachelor and then my husband buries me in the backyard. It’s just an ordinary Friday.
My husband is a modern man—he does all the cooking and the cleaning—he whips up some burgers and mozzarella sticks and then he grabs the shovel and slaps my butt. I giggle like in our courtship days, even though I’d rather wash my hair.
He does my makeup first, like in the movies. My husband’s good at makeup. He always knows what to pick and how to blend and makes good duck face, like a schoolgirl in a selfie. He’s making it now. It means, show me your lips, beautiful. He’s putting on the gloss. Our lips are so close now. He smells like aftershave and soil. Well, he doesn’t, but I am imagining it already, I am imagining the eyeshadow smearing, it is always blue, to go with my blue eyes, and tonight I know it will be all glittery like in the 70s, like a psychedelic shipwreck, or a drowned Natalie Wood. Actually, I think Natalie was wearing red. She was wearing a red jacket and some socks but I think she would rather have been wearing blue. I know I would.
I know if I were my husband I’d get this party started, so I could get back to Game of Thrones. My husband loves Game of Thrones—he prances around like that Jamie guy, even though he looks more like Tyrion, small and slight with those bird shoulders like a ballet dancer, like a maitre d’ waltzing with the shovel, the glasses sliding down his nose. My husband is an accountant, but he’s not very good at math. He hasn’t thought this thing through. Two plots—his and hers—even though he’s like a scared girl in the dark. It’s always my turn to be buried. He says this is good for him, for us, for his biceps and his triceps, that we’ll save on a gym membership for him.
He says this and pulls me close. This is always the best part. Knowing how much I will be missed. Since we’ve stopped having sex this is the closest we get to touching each other’s souls. I feel his soul beneath his overcoat, it shivers and then pulls away.
My box is pine. Real pine, not the cheap stuff. Three hundred bucks on eBay. A steal. He throws in all my favorite things—the flat screen and the dog and the complete six seasons of Sex and the City, my unfinished novel with a pen that doesn’t work. He puts the earbuds in my ears. Kisses me. I’m buried at sea to Blondie—the Tide is High—my husband is like the captain of some dark vessel, he looks at me like I am Natalie, like I am Natalie Wood, drowned in love, and it’s too much, like I’m the key to some important equation, calculus maybe, or the answer to the hunger problem. Like if only he could solve me he could fix the hunger problem, or instill world peace.
He blows me a kiss. I watch that episode where Carrie sets up a registry for herself so her married friend has to buy her Manolo Blahniks, and I feel a deep tugging in my ribs. It tugs and tugs.
I am getting close. I can feel the end of the hole, the shallow tha-thunk! of the box, the dull surprise of the lid popping open, like an aging stripper in a birthday cake. But I don’t stop. I go all the way, all the way to the Earth’s center, and then I pop up somewhere in Jersey. I watch myself being buried, and my husband checking his watch, and he is chatting with Mr. McGillicuddy, our neighbor who has the same maiden name as Lucy from I Love Lucy, and they are laughing and sharing a beer and comparing shovels and speculating on what Jamie will do tonight on Game of Thrones.
This is going on all across America. Husbands cooking BBQ in the backyard. Tucking their wives into the dark.
Notes from Guest Reader April Bradley
What I appreciate about “Aftershave and Soil” is how unsettling and bizarre it is, and yet so polished.