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He opened one eye, then the other, and saw both his hands, plain as day, right there in front of him.
“Oh boy!” he said.
“Are you on drugs? What are you on, Charlie?”
“I’m fine,” he said. “I’m just disoriented.”
“I don’t like the way you’re acting,” she said.
“Who’s acting?” he said.
“You know what I mean,” she said. “You’re being weird. You’re acting, well, inconsistent.”
“You want consistency? I can do that,” Charlie said.
“You know what I mean,” she said and turned off the bedside lamp.
“Actually, I don’t,” Charlie said. He stood up.
“What brought that on?” she said, nodding toward his midsection.
“What?” he said.
“Your erect penis, Charlie.”
“Yes. That. I had a dream, I think. It’s kind of a stubborn one, you know?”
“Well, bring it here,” she said. “Let’s not waste any of that while Wilson is asleep for once.”
He liked it when she acted a little saucy this way. It had been a long time. Charlie crawled onto the bed, then on top of his wife, and he grabbed her with both hands.
“You should get a condom ready,” she said.
“No, no, we had an agreement,” he said.
They had not been trying to get pregnant again nor had they been trying to avoid getting pregnant.
“I don’t want to pursue it or prevent it,” Charlie had said. “Let’s just wait and see what happens. We’ll just have sex like a normal married couple, and if we get pregnant again, it’s meant to be.”
“If we have sex like a normal married couple,” Wendy had said, “We’ll never have sex.”
“You know what I mean. That’s what’s wrong with this country,” Charlie had said. “Everybody is actively preventing or pursuing something. That’s what everybody’s life turns out to be: prevention and pursuit. I don’t like it. I don’t think that’s a way to make a life for yourself.”
“Fine,” she’d said. “Suit yourself.”
“You smell like whiskey,” she said now and then they quit talking and got down to business. Life with an insomniac toddler had eliminated foreplay from their repertoire. But just before they reached a point of no return, a fire engine and an ambulance roared down Eighth Avenue, and Wilson came running into the room, shrieking.
In the morning, Charlie rolled over to touch Wendy and knocked Wilson in the head. He was sleeping between them, twitching and farting. Wilson had a thousand-dollar organic, eco-friendly mattress on his bed that he never used. Charlie sat up and bashed his knee into the wall. Master bedrooms, Charlie thought, should feel somewhat masterly. This room was smaller and more cramped than his first dorm room in college. He did not enjoy waking up in these moods, but he could do nothing about it except drink some coffee and let the feeling pass.
He felt closed in once he got out of bed, his shoulder pinched and his neck stiff. He stepped over a pile of laundry, a stack of books, and Wendy’s exercise ball. He walked across the living room to the bathroom. Charlie scowled at himself in the mirror that hung in the corner of the room for the purposes of good Feng Shui. There was neither Feng nor Shui in this room; it was too crowded. Wendy and Charlie both had desks in the living room. On Wendy’s desk there was a neatly stacked copy of the first few chapters of her novel, held down by a turtle paperweight. That stack had not moved for two years. A few piles of books lined the back end of her desk. There were at least three coffee cups on her desk at all times. Today, the inventory included one glass mug dirty and crusted with the remnants of her morning iced latte, one paper cup from Starbucks, and one Dartmouth mug holding an old tea bag. Two bottles of water and one can of Diet Coke rounded out the collection of dead or dying beverages. As he did every morning, Charlie cleaned up the mess. He collected the two mugs and took them to the sink and washed them. Then he drank what was left in the remaining water bottles and took them to the small recycling bin next to the fridge, along with the soda can. He took the Starbucks cup and disposed of it, but not before placing the cardboard Java Jacket into the recycling bin as well. In all things, he tried to be good and orderly. In the kitchen, he threw the deli containers from the previous night’s dinner into the trash, wiped down the counter, washed a few stray dishes, and went to make some coffee.