In a college dorm, in a prison, in a marriage
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Drunk on red wine and pea soup,
my first husband and I will grab our wool hats, pull them over each other’s ears, and pretend we are happy Quebecois sailors home from playacting for the baby. She will giggle in her highchair, pointing at Daddy, who will, after a minute, turn away, light a cigarette;
I will hold my breath —
will he say, as he’s started to say, that he’s not sure he wants to be married to me? But the baby, swiveling her head from me to her father and back, will clap her tiny primate hands for the first time and watch us for a reaction. She, canny baboon, will know she’s accomplished a spectacular feat. Amazed and relieved, I will smile at her, and so, briefly, will he. I will rock her to sleep singing “Loup Garou.” My husband will say he needs more cigarettes, closing the door behind him.
The next morning I will find him
reading, dark head bent over Propertius. The baby, miraculously, will sleep late. I will see the Queens Public Library schedule posted on the refrigerator and wonder if I can escape for an hour. I will call my sister in Florida. I will say everything’s fine; the baby is clapping. I will brew coffee and bump drowsily into the spice rack we found two years before at the Punjabi store, where we walked arm in arm through the aisles.
I will remember his long hair
tangled in my fingers; a spring day under sugar-magnolia trees; walking, blinking, onto the street after a night and a day of yogic, ambitious sex — and through the kitchen window over the sink I will watch the sky redden. I will wonder if I will ever be loved the way I believe I love him. If sparrows or starlings are singing, I will not hear them.