The morning after my husband packs his suitcase and leaves, I cook some braised pork, a plateful of Brussels sprouts, and a chunk of my ring finger for breakfast. Sitting by the window, I wave at all the blue cars whizzing by our house, the trickles of my blood staining the carpets. No one waves back. Later, I sit in the empty tub with a full heart, half a brain, and three-quarters of my finger. I slowly inhale and exhale like a prayer, practicing what my husband used to call the Ocean Breath, his name a glue between every two words.
Other wives in our neighborhood WhatsApp group tell me when husbands leave, they do it out of love. Devastation sits next to joy, they say, just another part of the deal. My husband isn’t like that, I insist, but whether to them or myself, I can’t tell. He and I have gone through a lot together, from a pair of broke students to rookie capitalists to full-on brokenhearted in just a matter of years. I refuse to accept him setting up camp in another house, putting new rings on old fingers, sucking blood off their knobs. In his now-vacant workshop, I’m painting a forest on the stub of my finger, sowing a new memory with each new stroke. I draw animals between the spiky trees, children with fearful smiles on their faces. I sing each of them a different lullaby as I blow air onto my fingers, reassuring them everything will be all right, that their dad is just hungry for love.
At night, I hear a scuffle next door, another husband yelling and banging doors. Feasting on different parts of his partner’s body. Drinking the moonlight for relief. The stub of my finger sizzles with longing, screaming out for attention. My wedding ring vibrates like a radar, and I rush toward the window with anticipation. I look about to check if he’s nearby, but there are no blue cars in sight. I collapse on the floor like a windblown shawl, then untie the knots on my stubs. I water the nerves one by one. Something close to rage sprouts out of the open-ended veins, black and thick like a burnt tree. The kids don’t seem to play around my hands anymore, their loud silence blending with the house’s familiar silence.
The last time my husband and I exchanged a few words, he told me the fingers would hurt most, because they are the agents of truth. What about kids, I asked him, choosing my words short and sweet and simple. He sat down by my side on the couch and put my ring finger into his mouth. Kids can be like that, he said after a while, more sinew than meat, more hate than love. I obeyed. I nodded. We didn’t say a word to each other until the moon swept over the tree line like a caring father. We sat on the couch. We sang our children’s names in silence, born and unborn. We let our faces be claimed by the ethereal light, careful not to break any bones.
A YW fellow, Sarp Sozdinler’s work has been published in The Kenyon Review, Electric Literature, The Masters Review, The Normal School, Maudlin House, Hobart, HAD, No Contact, X-R-A-Y, among other places. Some of his fiction pieces have been anthologized and received a mention at literary events, including the 2022 Los Angeles Review Flash Fiction Award and the Waasnode Short Fiction prize selected by Jonathan Escoffery. He works on his first novel in Philadelphia and Amsterdam. You can follow him on @sarpsozdinler and read his work at www.sarpsozdinler.com