In honor of our next Runic theme – Mannaz the Self – a few of these blogs will explore a sense of self. This is the first.
Jodi felt older and weaker every day. Most days his shoulders felt like wood rot. There is a terrible pain in his head sometimes; it makes his eyes shudder.
Love for him has been little more than a demoralizing experience. He can’t imagine little girls waiting for a prince to rescue them. His wife, Shell, told him that it’s a lie a witch ever tried to cut out a heart for malice; she was just trying to spare the girl the raw pain of the prince tearing it out to eat it. His wife muttered absently that she had her heart eaten so many times. Jodi was Shell’s third husband.
Her family was non-committal. They were cordial and welcoming but distant, buzzing like gnats at a picnic so he just stayed at the fringe of the cluster. When his wife married her first husband they were both in their 20’s, young, beautiful. They did the whole white dress, rented hall, bloody roses event. She has a picture in the hall at the home they share of her in that lace and gem crusted gown with a crimped halo of bleached hair, hovering giddy and glowing, beside her parents. Everyone loved the first husband until he vanished for a month. He finally sent a cashier’s check and an apology letter; it was over, he couldn’t stand the idea of being locked down.
The second husband was always smiling and servile but became increasingly manic. Shell discovered what the permigrin should have told her right away. He was an addict. He would trade nurses and doctors for all kinds of prescriptions. Sometimes it was money or deep discounts at the store he managed but eventually it turned into sexual favors. He was arrested lurking around a doctor’s house after he said he wouldn’t help him anymore. In his violent detox Shell’s husband screamed in his cell, “I said I’d blow you! Blow you! For one fuckin pill! You greedy bastard!! One pill!”
When Shell met Jodi she had enough of love and devotion and vulnerability. She was worn like a good suit coat from a thrift shop. Being that they met in their late fifties, they skipped a lot of the back story. For example, Shell didn’t really know anything about his summers at space camp, his college celibacy after an outbreak of herpes on the track team, or the long lonely year he spent at his mother’s side as she died slowly in the comfort of the home where she raised her kids. They had spoken of these things, in periphery but not with the detail granted to the ex-husbands.
It wasn’t all Shell. In fact, it often wasn’t Shell actually mentioning them. It was a knowing look with her sisters or friends, or even just making a face he came to call ‘the shade’. It pulled her face low and dark each time something reminded her of the betrayals before him. Shell’s sisters on the other hand absolutely loved to remind him at every turn.
Laurie called him Charm because, “you know, third time’s a charm! Get it. C’mon, Charm, lighten up!” Her laughter sounded to him like loose change in a dryer. Abrasive and misplaced.
Rowen seemed only to remember that he was completely forgettable. “You want a beer? Oh no, you hate that. Or was that Kevin? Oh, Jodi, Jodi, I’m sorry – just forgot.”
After all, they had only been married three years. There were no silver spangles and rented halls. Even the second wedding had a guest list. Jodi and Shell had eloped. They visited the Grand Canyon and decided that was the perfect place. The ceremony was small with a clerk at the Justice of the Peace serving as their witness. They stayed for their honeymoon. Those were the days he tried to call to mind when Shelli seemed too distant or her sisters were too sharp.
In fact, the sole comfort lately was that he was married, that he could tag along, follow dolefully at her side. The shade would pass over her features and he would make a course correction, mentally logging his errors and misgivings. Over time there were fewer and fewer. The sisters could sling their arrows all day long; he was out of reach far beyond the stretch of the formers’ shadows. Even if he was third, he was still, after all Shell’s husband.