Martin killed the grass. I can see it, blond and brittle, from my bedroom window. Behind me, the phone rings.
It’s Martin. “I forgot to put the bins out, Sharon! And all those piles in the back yard, they have to go today! I’ve got to plant when I get home and if those weeds are still there—!”
“I’ll take care of it.” I use the gentle voice, the voice I use when Martin overreacts. “I’ll clean up the piles and get the bins out to the curb.”
“Really?” His voice cracks. “You don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind.”
“You have time?”
No, not really. “I always have time for you,” I say. “Everything will be okay.”
Hanging up, I slip the silver posts of my pearl earrings through my punctured earlobes, and hurry down the hallway to the garage for my work gloves. Granny-Smith-apple green, they match the pendant hanging from a silver chain around my neck, a cold nugget against my chest.
My four-inch heels sink into crumbling earth as I work. Twenty minutes later, I flap the lid closed on the green disposal bin, shutting out the odor of rotting food, mixed with the damp scent of the pine needles and weeds.
I don’t have time for yard work. I haven’t unloaded the dishwasher and the tile in the kitchen feels gritty when I walk in bare feet. Not to mention that I’m meeting with a client in half an hour. I notice a smudge of mud on my blouse when I glance down. Another thing to do. I’ll change it, then hit the road and pray for a clear highway.
I won’t think about Martin, about all the times I’ve lied to him, or changed my schedule to keep him sane. I won’t worry that these stresses devoid of consequences are piling up on his head so that he can’t bear his own skin. I return to the house to rinse my hands in cold water.
Back in my bedroom, the dead grass out the window looks like a picture I’ve framed and hung on the wall. I should be the one to rake it up and plant new seed, water it and toil over it so that Martin can sleep better at night. Tomorrow, when I’ve secured this account, when I’ve had time to mop the floor, then I’ll worry about the grass.
Sighing, I toss the dirty blouse into the laundry basket and slip a clean one off the hanger. Fastening the pearly buttons with trembling fingers, I catch a glimpse of my face in the mirror. I’m a stranger: silver streaks in her hair, creases around her mouth, and wrinkles like tree roots sprouting from the corners of her eyes.
“He’s a good man,” I tell the person in the mirror, using the gentle voice I always use when she asks me why I love him. “He needs me … he does need me.”