Michele Maron

Fortune Cookie

Portions of her mem­o­ry slipped through a dark hole. She knew who I was, but just ran­dom facts about our his­to­ry togeth­er. She knew we were mar­ried, but she did not know for how long, or any­thing about Elvis in the white leather pants who sang Jail House Rock after­wards when we laughed till we cried.

She didn’t know about Hercules, our dog of four years, whose head had also been com­pro­mised by a teenag­er dri­ving by, tex­ting instead of hit­ting the brakes when Hercules ambled, blink­ing, into the street.

Of every­thing she’s for­got­ten, the lost mem­o­ry of our lost Hercules is the hard­est for me.

She retained all the infor­ma­tion about her data tech job at Amazon, but noth­ing of our exper­i­ments with swingers and how we both looked at each oth­er that one night and pulled the plug on our sex­u­al wanderings.

She did not retain the names of our two cats, but she knew they belonged to us, and how Jeff occa­sion­al­ly sprays our pil­lows, so before we leave we wrap our pil­lows in garbage bags and leave them in the closet.

She knew she liked straw­ber­ries, but for­got about her aller­gy to wheat grass and insist­ed on drink­ing the stuff just to feel what it would be like to have her throat close up. She knew the neigh­bors’ names, but she retained near­ly noth­ing about the lives of their chil­dren with whom she’d played cards dur­ing their adolescence.

She found strange solace in the neigh­bors’ hon­ey suck­le bush and palm tree fronds and, since the acci­dent, has wan­dered over every week to the neigh­bors’ house to vis­it the plants.

She talked to her­self after­ward and anger gur­gled up with bizarre sen­tences like: “He sucked on lemons for the mil­len­ni­al and now the liv­er is puck­ered like lips, so what do you think of that?”

She mum­bled, “God dog, god dog god dog,” at frus­trat­ed moments, like when she saw her face in the mir­ror in the after­noon light. She asked me too many times, “How did I get this old? I don’t feel like this, that’s the prob­lem.”  And then she said, “Say some­thing,” and I couldn’t say much, and some­times she cried about my lack of response, what she referred to as white noise I allowed into our lives.

All of this god­damned white noise rush­ing around the house, you would have thought you’d put a stop to this by now.”

Whenever we went to the doctor’s office, she sat in the wait­ing room chairs and asked me too loud­ly, “Do you still want to grow old with me?  Do you still want to do this?  Because I’m not entire­ly sure where this is all going.”

And she told me she hat­ed me when I asked her if we had to do this again. “Must we do this again?”  She sighed, exas­per­at­ed and told me that no one gives a moth­er fuck about anything.

After our third vis­it to the neurologist’s office I began bring­ing for­tune cook­ies from the Asian gro­cery sto­ry in the Central dis­trict. She loved for­tune cook­ies and the fact that I’d stuffed for­tunes into them.

Husband love is like prick­ly pear, han­dle with care,” and “More sex makes for an improved mem­o­ry.” She laughed uproar­i­ous­ly at “Dog is God spelled back­yards.” And “When you go to the dog park today bring extra poop bags for a dog named Clive.”

There is the before and after with my wife that is in and of itself for­tune cook­ie-like. The neurologist’s words, “Damaged cere­bral cor­tex,” and “We’ll have to wait and see,” mean that I grieve the woman I loved while liv­ing with a woman I think I also love and who is only dim­ly rec­og­niz­able to me.

I’m not com­plain­ing. People change, you do know that don’t you?  Women who love gro­cery stores can, and do, devel­op dis­taste for flu­o­res­cent lit aisles of canned goods. The per­son who loves Bob Dylan can morph into some­one who grav­i­tates to Kenny G. The woman of Italian her­itage who eats spaghet­ti three times a week might one day declare that life is too short and there’s no longer any time left for long-noo­dled din­ners. The woman who once laid on the floor with your dog and eyes mist­ed with tears because he would some­day die, can in fact for­get that he lived and died, and you may lose sleep over this, your heart doesn’t thump itself closed.

A woman who reads long nov­els for entire after­noons can and will devel­op a sud­den taste for graph­ic nov­els and she might even copy some of those images out onto blank white sketch­pads with metic­u­lous­ly sharp­ened pen­cils. The woman you once loved, and prob­a­bly still do love, will say to you, “From here on out it’s a superhero’s life.”


Mishele Maron’s writ­ing has appeared in Saveur and Seattle Magazine. She lives and writes in Seattle’s Green Lake neigh­bor with her hus­band, two daugh­ters and two dogs.