What the Mutuals Don't Know

We know it was not the snow because we passed through the snow like the planet through space, the flakes sifting silent, motionless, spinning as we moved among them. We know it was not the Gruyere that clung black and flaking on the crocks of the French onion soup. We know this because ovens are meant to do just that: apply heat. And we are looking for something not meant. And that night as we waited to entertain the crowds that would not come was one of the few we looked at each other and asked if something was wrong and we said No. Nothing. "Actually," we added, and with a genuine taste of surprise on our tongues we kissed. The Gruyere burning two rooms away continued to burn, and because we did not notice it could not have been the issue.

But when we found the crocks you threw one into the stainless steel sink and it shattered. I did not expect that miniature explosion. Did you? A strand of onion hung from the faucet. Later, when we argued over the argument that ensued, I said I had said nothing then. But we know I did. I had said, Great, in my sarcastic way. It was not great, that we know, but neither was it the answer we now look for.

Do I think it was my reluctance to have children? No. And that question is not a fair one, we know that. We do. I'm glad you see now that it was neither me nor you. That it was neither me nor you is something we know above all. And if it was me or you, it isn't now. Not now. Because this is the way we make this fair, this is the way we make this, as they say, mutual.

What do you think of this: that it was my insistence upon -- and your frequent complaints toward -- my leaving toenail clippings on the edge of the bathroom sink? Can't we see, together, that in that act I epitomize myself? I will not touch them. That we know. But I despise the clippings. They are as feces freshly deposited, they reek, they are the yellowed, worthless crust that serves as home to a fine dark line of filth. I have not let them grow untouched these ages to a state where they might finally be cut away only to have to pick them up once more. I know that but you do not.

That was both me and you. I left crescents of keratin and you swept them into your palm and took them to the garbage and told me, every time, to do it myself. Is this the answer we are looking for? We know it was not the sunless season or the failed attempt at foreign food. Was it the clippings? We know that there are other possibilities. But let us say the small part of the story brought us to the end.

About the author:

Joseph Parslow lives/writes in a very small room in Albany, New York. He has been published in Ephemera, On the Premises, and Six Sentences, and he is the senior editor of the online literary journal Holy Cuspidor (holycuspidor.com).