A Little Bit of Me

Jottings and Writing, miscellanous misgivings

The Break – Davinia updated

The Break

Outside, the rain continued to pound down on the asphalt pavements. The best marriages are tangled and contradictory affairs, their psychological terrain unknowable to all but the immediate participants.

Davinia’s husband, Eugene, sits stroking his fluffy white bichon and listening to Jim Morrison wail softly on his stereo. On his desk sits a mock-up he’s made of a Harper’s Bazaar cover, with his wife’s face superimposed on Britney Spears’s body. Well, that’s what she would be like if his imagination could be allowed to come true.

She imagines herself as one of the girls—let’s call her Dana—She’s as close as you can get to being a Barbie doll while still breathing. According to the clique cartography, she’s probably a popular sophomore. Boys come and go, putting their arms around her bust to say hello, and a chasm between her snug top (she wishes!) and her denim skirt (how did that get in her wardrobe) beckons back. Would it be hard not to be popular?

Davinia’s husband, Eugene, sits fondling the morning’s paper, his eyes flicking nervously across the pages. He’s looking for evidence of bored husbands doing mischief. It doesn’t matter to Eugene who the mischief is with, or what the mischief is – it’s the thrill of seeing others do what he can only imagine.

Davinia is tired after her day. Eugene hasn’t been paying her enough attention. She schemes behind her fashionable Hermes glasses of how to pique his interest.

Davinia has had quite a day. Early morning she is transported back to England at the dawning of Second World War. She is thrown together with a brylceamed, mustached young English fly-boy who sweeps her off her feet. Just after their relationship is consummated after a picnic in an uncharacteristically sunny English countryside, he is inconveniently called back to his squadron and, before lunch, she has news that he has been shot down – believed dead, over France. Lunch had been a torturous affair as Eugene ridiculed her pitiful attempts to replicate the perfect Provence omelet. After lunch she had parachuted into war torn France and experienced the most exotic and explicit adventures. By six, she was exhausted.

They were arguing. Their respective fantasies had not managed to keep the distance between them from seething with the contempt and malice they felt for each other. Davinia was reading – Women, on average, excel on tests that measure recall of words and on tests that challenge the person to find words that begin with a specific letter or fulfill some other constraint. They also tend to be better than men at rapidly identifying matching items and performing certain precision manual tasks, such as placing pegs in designated holes on a board.

She correctly thought that a man probably wrote the article. Anger welled up inside of her. Eugene made the mistake of looking up from his newspaper and read bits of an article to her about some new age guru who blamed women for the ills of the world-unemployment (more women taking up the precious few jobs rather than staying at home and having babies), rising prices (they instead on cooking foreign muck that had to be imported-Eugene was still exacting revenge for the failed omelet), and violence (women were as violent as men and when a man hit a women she had taunted him for far too long). Davinia exploded,

“Yeah well,” yelled Davinia, “imagine talking to a fish, and you asked it to describe its environment. One thing it probably would not volunteer is that things are awfully wet down here. Men are so fucking insensitive. If you ask one to describe and understand violence you would be struggling to get one to admit that it’s mostly done by males. The truth of it is that if we could stop men beating women and other men, we would pretty much get rid of violence altogether. The maleness of violence is so fucking obvious that it is rarely even noticed; it is the ocean in which we swim.”

Eugene reeled back. Rarely had her heard Davinia to be so articulate. His brain screeched to try and come to match her repartee.

“Err…, well…., what about….., just because…..” He mumbled to a halt. Thinking on his feet had never been a strong part of Eugene’s character. He paused and then it came to him in a flash; a picture perfect reproduction from the Harpers Bazaar article that had run against Britney Spears headless body. “Look darling, “ (he curled the word so that it could be interpreted as either an insult or an endearment), “from observations of both humans and nonhumans it has been proven,” (he liked that-it sounded very authoritative), “that males are more aggressive than females, that young males engage in more rough-and-tumble play than females and that females are more nurturing. We also know that in general males are better at a variety of spatial or navigational tasks.”

Davinia crossed her arms and humphed. “ Right, like the time you found your way to Mike’s place. Oh yeah! And that time that you found a whole new way to get to the West Coast. It only took three more days than the standard two hour drive.”

Eugene paused to recollect what Davinia had managed to drag out of the distant past. “You have to admit it was rather scenic though,” he floundered.

This just infuriated Davinia and she moved onto a topic that always grated between them.

“And don’t get me started on men who rape,” she started.

Davinia’s husband Eugene, who had been down this path many times looked hopefully around for the bichon. A walk in the fresh air, sans Davinia, looked awfully inviting. He heard the distant noise of mail arriving as the postman dropped a bundle of letters through the door.

Davinia continued to read the paper in front of her. She suddenly came across an item that piques her interest and read, then re-read it. She lowered her eyes and, in a low but steady voice said to Eugene.

“It says here that she told her lover to wait in the car while she went to get a present for him from her car. They had had a brief but intense sexual relationship, which had lasted about three months. She returned to the car with a bucket, yellow ribbon around the rim, overflowing with petrol. She threw the bucket over him and then a lighted match. Just think Eugene, a woman fighting back.”

Eugene saw this as the perfect opportunity to escape having to give an answer and perhaps infuriate Davinia even more. He pushed the bichon off his knee and trudged across the room. The small dog scrambled after him, perhaps in anticipation of the walk, but the ever-increasing noise of falling rain had dissuaded Eugene from venturing out.  Eugene’s mind was reeling with the possibilities of right-of-reply and he was somewhat distracted when he picked up the bundle of letters and a package, slightly damp from the outside conditions. He trudged back to the only warm room in the house and casually tossed the bundle on the occasional table. The bichon bounced around his feet, still in hopeful anticipation of a walk, but seeing Eugene settling down with his magazine again, he leapt into Davinia’s lap. She stroked the lap dog and stared furiously at Eugene and inwardly remonstrated him for his lack of interest in her newspaper item.

“What would you like for lunch sweetie?” Eugene asked knowing in the depths of his heart that this is what the funny little man with the Ronald Coleman moustache must have felt when he looked back at the TV pictures of himself descending from that plane waving his funny little piece of white paper and muttering about peace in our time.

“Eggs Benedict,” Davinia replied curtly and she watched with contempt as Eugene hauled himself up from his comfortable armchair and left the warm room for the confines of the cold kitchen. She listened with increasing anger to the banging of refrigerator and cupboard doors and then the noises that accompanied the making of Eggs Benedict.

“You call these eggs?” Davinia shouted and eggs, tray, and utensils sailed across the room and exploded against the far wall where they dripped down in a hideous river of eggs, butter, lemon, bacon, muffin, and chives.

Eugene blinked and shoveled a mouthful of the treat into his own maw and he just couldn’t see what was wrong with it. Perfect, except perhaps for the bacon which was a little on the crispy side, but then Davinia always preferred her bacon that way and he had taken extra care to get it just right.

“Its not honey cured. You know I can’t eat that watery rubbish that you get at the supermarket. They inject all sorts of chemicals into it to make it look like bacon in the packet but I know that the pan must have looked like a cauldron of boiling rancid pork fat,” intoned Davinia.

With a slight feeling of guilt, Eugene finished his meal off before it ended on the wall.

They both stared in silence at the mess.

It was either from exhaustion or disgust but, at that moment, he decided to die. She looked at him and the look was both ghostly and terrible-a look that said-“you were a terrible disappointment to me – you never really lived up to the expectations that everybody had of you.” His eyes flickered and then closed. He went to sleep for the last time.

The brown envelope lay on the occasional table dripping amber fluid onto the living room carpet. Davinia looked at Eugene and for the first time in a number of months there was tenderness there.

“Aren’t you going to open it?” she asked tenderly.

“I would rather you did,” he replied; though he picked the letter up and tried to pry open the flap, without much success.

“Here, give it to me,” Davinia said in a gentle voice, as she took the envelope from Eugene and slid a long fingernail that sliced through the thin paper. She handed the decapitated envelope back to Eugene who handled it as if it was a venomous snake. He slowly withdrew the official letter from the envelope and carefully unfolded it and began reading. Davinia tried to decipher the meaning by looking at his moving lips and the expression on his face but Eugene was characteristically blank. She waited an excruciating few minutes then her impatience got the better of her.

“What does it say? Do they know anything? What’s going to happen?” she gushed in staccato fashion.

Eugene dropped the letter to his side and the expression on his face said it all. He was drained of any colour and Davinia saw that there was a faint tremble in his hand. He looked at Davinia.

“ They say that it’s an advanced carcinoma of the bowel and the test results indicate that it has secondaries in my liver and stomach. There are also indications that it has spread to my bones. They have scheduled me for chemotherapy next week and they want to admit me to hospital tomorrow for further tests.”

There was a stunned silence in the room as both of them struggled to assimilate this information.

“Well! That might mean good news. They are going to treat it so they must feel there is something in that.”

Eugene remained silent and looked at a spot on the wall above Davinia’s head. He had been expecting better news as he had felt his health was actually improving. This was a bitter blow to him.

“I don’t want to go through another six months like the last time. I don’t think I can stand it again.”

“ You must. The last treatment worked. Look love. I know that it was difficult for you but we went through this the last time. Just think…..” Davinia couldn’t finish the sentence. She had listened enough to the surgeon the last time this had happened and his dire predications resonated in her head.

We can give him an extra few months but the cancer has spread to other parts of his body. I have to be honest with you Mrs, ahhhh Mrs Smart. Your husband doesn’t have much time left. I think it would be best if you both started to.”

Davinia had stopped listening at that stage and had tried to imagine what her life would be without Eugene.  At first there were the positive things. She could take that trip to the Mediterranean that she had dreamed of and she could do the things to the house that Eugene had stalled saying that they were over capitilising. Then as visions of sun lit beaches and tanned Greeks floated around in her head she envisaged the cold bed at night; the lonely, spacious room; the silence. She felt her heart skip a beat and she felt a hot flush coming on. She was dammed if she would admit this to Eugene though, even if he did look bit forlorn. Much as she had thought of England in the early years of their marriage she tried to think of plates of feta and olives, of sheep being led up a seaside path by a young, virile sheepherder.

Davinia realised that although they had their differences they fitted together in some weird way – like a glove (albeit a fingerless glove – Davinia couldn’t help but have her pound of flesh) in a slowly growing hand that learns to expand with time. A glove that has its holes, wrinkles, and flaws, but that gives comfort in the cold, protection for the naked hand.

These long weekends are a bitchThe Break


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