Entropy Takes a Wife

Copyright Ken Brady. No reproduction without express permission from the author.
(Originally published in THE WILLIAM AND MARY REVIEW, 2003)

Strength is subjective. Sometimes it’s just the way you look at
something, in the right light, at the right angle, that makes you
realize it’s not as strong as you first thought. Ask someone who’s
just slammed the face of a man twice his size into the sidewalk while
the wife-stealing bastard cries like a baby. Ask me. I was stronger
then.

She stands on the railing of the Coquille River bridge, just past Hard
Cash Lane on forty-two. The rain plasters her hair to her face, and
she doesn’t move it away. I want to push the stray locks from her eyes
as she cries, then kiss her tears away. But the tears are a torrent,
and the rain sheeting down her face and into the river below seems a
trickle in comparison.

I’d likely choke.

“Can we go back to the way it was?” I ask.

A Chevy goes past but doesn’t even slow. The occupants probably see
nothing but a middle-aged couple standing in the rain, if they see us
at all. They have their own concerns. The bridge flexes and shakes as
the car zooms away. I feel like the whole structure is crumbling
beneath us.

“I didn’t like the way it was,” she says. “That’s why I found someone
else.”

We don’t mince words anymore. She knows that I know what she’s done.
And I know that she knows what I’ve done about it. And now she’s doing
something about that. And so it goes, as we one-up each other till
death do us part.

“What do you expect me to do?” I ask.

“I don’t expect you to do anything,” she says. “I’m leaving you.” She
leans her face down, stares toward the river. She flinches.

I take a step toward her.

“Don’t,” she says. “Please.”

I stop. Please still stops me in my tracks. And what do you say to
please?

I turn to the sound of thunder. Big grey clouds in the distance are
moving nearer. They’ll be here any moment. A log truck rumbles past,
and the bridge vibrates so much I can feel it over the shaking of my
hands.

I can’t look back at her, so I stare toward the clouds, watching the
rain fall. I was once so strong, and so was she. But our marriage was
stronger than both of us put together. And now?

“What happened to us?” I ask.

“Things fall apart,” she says. I turn to ask her to repeat it, to
explain it to me, but she is already gone.