Sliced

Over the phone, the college kid is slick. He has a summer job, selling kitchen knives. He gets company points, he sings, just for the appointment, even if I don’t buy anything. I would really help him out, he croons. He repeats, these knives have to be seen to be believed.

The morning the knife kid is supposed to come by, I almost cancel. I don’t need knives. I don’t need to waste my time. I should know how to say no, goddammit. He shows up, tall, thin, and the best looking male to walk through my door in I can’t remember when. My hand rushes to my unwashed hair, gray at the roots and especially sad around my face. I feel every moment of my forty-four years.

We sit at my dull dining table and he lines-up the shiny knives. His show includes cutting leather like it’s air and scissoring a penny like it’s a round of chocolate. He talks fast and is hypnotic. Turns out we’re from the same state, the same one-church town, the same high school. I tell him more than I’ve told anyone in almost twenty years: I was married before, to my prom date, for little more than a year. He asks my ex-husband’s name and I can’t remember. My mouth hangs. I can’t remember my ex-husband’s name. My face warms.

I cover my mouth with my hand. “Oh, God.”

“Imagine,” I say.

He squirms on my straight-back chair, his smile strained.

I buy the full set of knives, the scissors, and the wooden storage block for fourteen hundred. When he hears, my husband will go off like a firecracker. I don’t care. The knives are fierce, state-of-the-art. The kid and I hold either end of the check. I want to kiss him, to tongue his wet warmth and taste the mint off his breath.

After he leaves, I grasp at my ex-husband’s name, at a picture of his face. They’re inside me somewhere, bobbing in the dark. Then, hey presto, I remember his name. Of course. I cannot resurrect his face beyond a watery blur. I cry till my eyes burn, till my head throbs. That voice right above my pubic bone starts-up again: Everything comes to nothing.

I shush my noise, and think about those knives, their power and their possibilities. I forgot to ask the kid how long those knives would take to get to me, forgot to ask him to send them priority.

by Ethel Rohan

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