by Lucy Walton |
The wife lies in silence. Eyes bright, another night of no sleep.
She watched his chest rise and fall, imagines his stomach heaving through the burden of his fat – his diaphragm weighed down. She reaches out to touch her husband, feels warmth but not the warmth she used to know. It is the warmth of strangers, the warmth of a large man bushing past you in a hallway, the warmth of a stranger breath on the back of your neck in a cramped tram compartment.
The thick black hair – the bristles oh the bristles! Oh what she wouldn’t do to tear out those4 pig-back bristles, this kind that the butcher burns off with a torch before laying the swine belly out for sale.
The wife runs her fingers through the nest of tangled bristles – with the same tenderness she had a decade ago, such sweetness in that touch, such hope, willing the subject to come alive – every time in vain. The body, the lump, stayed stubbornly still each time, what tenderness there is in faith alone. What foolishness there is in the first few caresses.
Yet also, what brilliance, what joy. His thick brows, his lined eyes, his hunched shoulders, had once all seemed so majestically real. The wife had held this man believing his ugliness to be sardonic, perhaps wise, her beauty wasted on him in a purely ironic fashion.
Her mother had not like the pig, and her father had simply gone silent on the matter, and her past lovers scoffed and her present friends stood aghast, while she agreed mutely to be the wife of a man she’d only ever touched out of habit. Curiosity, indeed, of her love of their sex but dislike of the very body which provided it. His pores all soaked in her resentment, whilst also saturated in her gaze – for she never stopped watching him, and never stopped wanting to look away.
She had so long wished to run away, to wake up each morning and be somewhere other than his arms. But then suddenly all the touches stopped at once, and the pig, in his genius, withheld all flesh, all caresses, and in her hideousness, in her sense of rejection, she married the creature.
The wife denounces love and strokes the cheek of the pig. He grunts and turns on to his side, facing the wife. With thin, protruding lips that once seemed so supple, those short lashes which once seemed so tidy and masculine, those short cropped curls where there was once a mane.
The wife sits up in bed, careful, as always, not to take the sheet from her husband. The wife takes a sip of cold tea from the bedside table, seeing, in her peripherals, the small movements of the mound beside her, as she always has, all night hours are spent in his condition.
The wife opens the draw beside her, picks out a fluorescent plastic cigarette lighter, with little fluid left, she flicks the flint a few times, and a small, sweet flame flutters. She brings that flame down, and places on the chest of her husband, on to the pig’s bristles. The pig goes up in flames! And before he can squeal he is gone, charred, disintegrated, leaving only a pile of ash and the faint odour of a butcher’s shop.