One Thing
by Stephen Dixon
 
 

I told her I only had one thing on my mind to say. She didn't ask what, sat there, reading, looking over her shoulder out the window, I didn't know at what, then at her hand--the way she was holding it, in what I'd call a relaxed fist, probably at her nails--shut her eyes, seemed to be drifting into thought, then when her face tightened, deep thought, opened them, popped them open is how I'd almost call it, and still without looking at me--she was looking to the side of the coatrack filled and at the top covered with our sweaters, hats, coats and scarves--seemed about to say something, to me without looking at me, to herself aloud, when she closed her mouth, shook her head, began blinking rapidly as if she had a tic, which she never had before that I was aware of so I didn't know what to make of it, stopped, her pupils rose till they were partly hidden while she put a finger to the inner corner of her eye as if she were trying to take out something that was in it, which is probably what caused the blinking before or just that the blinking was a way to get rid of the irritation or the speck, wiped the finger on the back of her other hand, looked at where she wiped, from where I was I couldn't see anything there, her book fell off her lap so she'd probably forgot she was holding it, could even the last few seconds or so have stopped holding it and had just let it rest there, the book made a noise when it hit and she looked at it--half on the floor and half on her foot or somewhere in that range--bent down, picked it up and opened it and seemed to be looking for the page she'd left off at, I suppose found it because she held the book in front of her and resumed reading or at least looked as if she were, continued to read or looked as if she were, though in about three minutes--and she seemed to be only looking at the righthand page--there wasn't a page change, after that: little motions of her face and eyes and hands and even her foot tapping a few times but nothing else really but that, and I was sitting opposite her and about to say something like "As I was saying, I only have one thing or you could even say 'one point' on my mind to say," but I knew she still wasn't listening, not so much not listening but that she wouldn't respond to me in any way no matter what I said or how urgently I said it, by looking up, by saying she heard me the first time, by saying she heard me now and what did I mean, or anything like that--"I know what you're going to say, didn't think much of it when you first said it since I also knew then what you were going to say, so don't even bother saying it now"--she was out of it, as they say, and not because she was so absorbed in the book she was reading, she knew as well as I that it was dull and almost unreadable, meaning a chore to read it was so dully written and had so little to say, there was nothing new in it, I wanted to say, it wasn't exciting, which I already in so many words said, there was nothing about it in subject or style and whatever else there is to grab the attention and hold it or the kind of attention she was pretending to give it and I think would continue to give even if I repeated those words about only one thing or point on my mind to say, just as the book didn't, hadn't, whatever, for her when I said it the first time, that thing about only one thing, etcetera, when she looked up, I didn't know why, nothing I did that I could see made or encouraged or sparked her to, and not at me but around again, coatrack, window, thumb held up with the nail side facing her, book in her lap or something there, maybe just her lap, so I didn't say it again, didn't even want to by now, I got up, went into the kitchen and thought of making myself coffee or tea, thought this while I was going to the kitchen, even a hot chocolate or cup of broth, then got so angry just after I grabbed the kettle to put water in it that I slammed it down, for ignoring me and using the book as an excuse not to look at and listen to me and everything else like that as a device against me, coatrack, window and whatever the heck was outside, and ran back to the livingroom, didn't run but sort of just walked quickly back--rushed--still angry and about to say what I thought of her treatment of me, all the improvisations and stratagems or tricks, I'll just call them, tricks she used on me, paying attention to anything but me, her nails, which didn't seem to need any further cleaning or trimming, the coatrack--maybe something to do with it being so filled, but it had to be looked at three or four times?, and what could be out the window that wasn't there when she looked a minute before?--the same tree with the same bloom, the same back fence in no need of repair, bushes,the redwood table and four chairs, little grass I'd mowed a few days before, maybe a bird standing on one of those or hopping between two or three or flying or just fluttering in place in the air before flying off. Well, that would be something, if it was that, and worth looking at, for a short time at least, but she still, if just for a few seconds every now and then, could have looked up and given the impression she was listening or prepared to listen to me, all to most of which I was about to say, some of it angrily, when she started smiling, not to me but the book, something in it was making her smile, it seemed, or maybe she was just looking at the book but smiling at what she sensed I was about to say because of the way I'd stormed in here and possibly over that one-thing-on-my-mind I'd never got to say, or if it was the book then something in it reminded her of something else that was humorous or enough so to cause a smile, or whatever causes a smile, or because she just recalled something that made her smile which had nothing to do with the book or me, or maybe something to do with me but not part of my storming in and one-thing-on-my-mind-to-say, what we once did together that was pleasant or humorous or both, something I'd said our child had or did that was one of those, or something she'd said to one of us or both or someone else, or anything, but she'd smiled and was still smiling, hadn't let up, and how could I rush up to her and berate her about something when she was like that?--it'd seem awful or despicable or just not the right moment or totally out of sync or whack--anyway, it'd be more difficult to do than when she wasn't smiling, that's for sure, especially when there was a good chance she wasn't smiling in any way disparagingly at me, so I stopped, thought about going back to make coffee or tea, thought of saying again there was one thing on my mind I wanted to say, since what was on my mind then hadn't anything to do with anger or reproach, thought if she knew or had some idea what that one thing was I'd wanted to say, for though I knew it had nothing to do with anger or reproach I now forgot what it specifically was, thought of asking what she was smiling about though she was smiling less broadly now, but she looked so content smiling that I didn't want to intrude into whatever was causing it, I really just wanted to stand there or sit down opposite her and sit there looking at her pleasant face made even more pleasant by her smile and then, when she was done with it, well, something, but not repeat what I'd started out to say about that one thing, because really I completely forgot what it was. Something about, well, something involving or alluding to, well--let me think about it and not about almost everything else--something concerning us, I was almost sure, and that it was silly, fighting like this--that was it, though I think I was going to say to her "having a dispute like this"--when we know we always eventually work it out and we always do and to such a degree that we always feel very good with each other after, or just good, and as a result of it, much better to our child, so why don't we this time take a shortcut and immediately forget what was eating us and also forget the reasons that caused it, whatever they were, and I didn't know then when I was going to say that one thing and didn't know now, and just sit quietly together, maybe after a little make-up hug or kiss, talking about things the way we talked about them when we were feeling good with each other, or just sit quietly together or across from each other reading our respective books or thinking about our lives, our own or one with the other or ours together or separately with our child, or whatever we want to think about--something like that. She stopped smiling, looked up at me, I smiled, was about to sit beside or opposite her, she looked down at her book without smiling, I thought "Give it time," and went into the kitchen just to go someplace and get away from her and not, at least it wasn't in my mind then, for anything to drink.