He spent two days at the motel and then went home. It was
in the afternoon, probably three or four o’clock when he came
back. The sky above was nearly as transparent as water, as if
there was no temperature.
It happened in the month of August, every day a hot one.
The sun had blazed down from above, making the ground below
sizzle and steam. His head hurt because of the incredible heat.
The inside of his brain was a flaming coil of heat, and he felt his
brain must be cooking. That must be it. Otherwise, he never
would have struck her like that.
All of a sudden he had smacked her in the face. Then he
walked out. He could hardly remember anything else. Just the
way his hand had made contact with a face, and had felt it slide away under the pressure of his touch.
He had left in a hurry. It was only later at the motel where
he came to his senses again.
He could not recall a single detail of her reaction, or of his
own, either. Just couldn’t remember. All he knew then was he
couldn’t just turn around and go back to her side. This was the
very first time he’d slapped her. Now that he’d thrown the first
fist, it’d look bad to make it easy for her. He had to teach her a
lesson. That’s all he was thinking.
After two days he went home. During those two days she
had not called him on the phone, and he hadn’t dialed home,
either. Some thoughts of his daughter had come to him, but he
supposed he could wait two days. He and his little girl could
wait two days alright.
And when he finally did go home, he saw the entrance to
his building cordoned off by yellow crime scene tape, and the
police had put a seal on his apartment door. The doorman
stopped him at the entrance and informed him that something
had gone wrong.
She and the child were both gone. Everything inside was in
utter and abject disorder. The place was totally trashed. The
rumor was that a thief had entered. At that time the mother and
daughter had probably been asleep. No one was sure why a thief
had killed two females, surely no threat to him, after all.
He went inside the house, but couldn’t tell what had happened
inside. The bodies had already been carried away.
The house had been turned upside down, and looked like a
war zone. Not a trace of a clue anywhere. He stood in the midst
of a mass of debris, the rooms filled by clothes littered all over the place, book cases toppled, newspapers, toilet paper, candy
wrappers, snack wrappings, garbage, the child’s toys all about
him. . . . And yet it felt extraordinarily empty and desolate.
It wasn’t that she was a fuss body who wanted every last
thing in its proper place. What he was looking at here, however,
was not at all her sort of “lived in” style of house-keeping. So
much was on the floor that there was no where to put your feet.
What had once been on tables or beds had been hurled to the
ground. His eyes fell on his little girl’s dress, color pink. It was
torn and lay spread on the floor like a discarded dish cloth, now
with dark smudges of foot prints on its surface.
Afterwards it seemed to him that he had never left the
He could not clearly recall the last moment of their contact,
how his hand felt as it brushed against her cheek. That’s what
he’d tried so hard for two days at the motel to push out of his
mind forever. He had not known at that moment, that this was
all that was left, between him and her.
This was all that was left. Whatever the expression on her
face, he couldn’t picture it now. How she reacted, he couldn’t
picture it now. After he hit her, he just turned and left the place.
He remembered a feeling of excitement and pride about his resoluteness.
Walking out on her just like that, with firm steps. It
had to be cold and without emotion, resolute. Then when the
time came for him to return, well, then the whole situation
He did not understand her. They had been married for four
years, but still he didn’t understand her. But four years of
patience had finally come to a head, and he had to teach her a
lesson, to make her begin to listen to him. Make her realize there were a lot of things that couldn’t just depend on her whim.
But after the breakdown, he would say he was sorry and
reconcile with her. And only when he was away did she reflect
on their relationship.
He really loved her. Of course he loved her. But, hey, people
did have limits.
Afterwards, it seemed as if he had never left that room.
Later he moved.
Regardless of where he was, however, it was as if he was
always looking at the bedroom, the bedroom from which the
bodies of his wife and daughter had been removed. And when
he stood there, everything had already happened, and earlier
when he’d just spun around and left, he’d made certain things
Did it have to be all connected like this? If a person uses a
knife to slice into a piece of meat, the meat splits apart. If you
put flowers with broken stems into a vase, the flowers wither.
It’s the same thing: If you turn in the direction of the door and
walk away, then you leave the room. But there was this blow to
the face. A certain palm of a hand meets the side of a certain
cheek, and then someone winds up dead, and a little girl’s pink
dress lies on the floor, stepped upon by a certain foot. Maybe
the footprint belongs to the murderer. It is a murky smudge, like
a birthmark on skin, on the wrinkled fabric of a dress that once
glistened and shimmered; an artificial birthmark, declaring that
whatever has to do with the dress, dead or alive, belongs to the
That blow to the face triggered a certain whole series of
In the city, early morning. A man and a woman quarreled in bed. The woman said, “You’ll wake up the child.” She got
up and held the little one. She was naked, because they had just
been making love and then began to argue, and immediately he
went limp. Exchanges of more embarrassing, more desperate
The child made no noise, was sleeping soundly. It was only
an excuse for her to turn away from him.
He began to get into his clothes. Not a word did he utter.
That was the moment he decided to walk out and, more, to hit
He began to get into his clothes. Not a word did he utter.
That was the moment he decided to walk out and, more,...