New Chairs

Flash
Malka Herman


Photo Credit: Jin Choi/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

Sometimes, she wished he would abuse her. Leora immediately felt guilty for the thought, but when she realized no one could hear her, she lovingly turned it over in her mind. She was 23; married for two years to a man she didn’t love but gave her no good reason to leave. Right now he was sitting in his favorite chair—tan corduroy with burgundy stains—reading this week’s Torah portion.

“How was your day?”

He looked up from his book in a foggy confusion, “Um… it was good. Thank God.”

“Mine was good too.” She tried to think of something that might keep his attention. “I bought a new set of chairs for our kitchen table.” She dragged one from the kitchen and made him look at it. “New furniture kind of feels like having a stranger over, doesn’t it? All out of place and wrong, and then one day, when it’s seen too much, it becomes part of the home.”

Her husband’s expression turned panicked. “Having guests over is a Mitzva, Leora.”

She felt a little bad, seeing him this uncomfortable. “Yes, you’re right.”

 

At eight o’clock they both undressed in the dark. He was an accidentally good kisser; something sensual about his lips.

“Am I hurting you?” He always asked this after he entered her. She shook her head no so he slid in and out of her briskly, reminding them both that this was an action meant to produce a baby and not physical pleasure.

Leora thought about her friends who described sex as something spiritual and satisfying; she pictured her husband’s lips all over her and fantasized about their two bodies in naked light, in the shower together, on the kitchen table. Without realizing what she was doing, Leora let out a small moan of pleasure. Her husband stopped his motions, embarrassed for her.

“Sorry.”

He pulled himself out of her and went to take a shower.

 

Leora had a nightmare that night. She sat in a field of corduroy grass while one dark, burgundy patch started at her feet, spreading outward until it covered the whole field. When she stood up she realized the burgundy patch was actually her own blood, draining flesh from the soles of her feet until all she had were stumps for legs.

“What am I supposed to do now?” She screamed into the empty field of blood.

“Sit.” Her own voice echoed back.

Leora woke up. Her husband slept in the bed next to hers and she had never been more grateful for his presence. That weird whistling noise his nose made at night grounded her in its disgusting normalcy.

Leora went downstairs, made a cup of tea, and sat on her brand new chairs.

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Malka Herman graduated from Johns Hopkins University in May 2015. Since then she has worked for Penguin Random House, lived on a ranch in Colorado, and taught a writing course at Duke for high school students. Who knows what’s next? Email: mherma16[at]jhu.edu

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