A Hypothetical Question - a Matchbox Story
Can you ever forgive the love of your life for something they never did? | Fiction | Fresh Soup
The third round of the Matchbox Story project got off on the wrong foot. Unlike in the two previous rounds, I decided to limit the option to send in story ideas to paid subscribers only, and I found out the hard way that capitalism and creativity don’t always go hand in hand. The unhappy result was that I received hardly any ideas, and I almost gave up. Fortunately, my incredible mother-in-law, Nurit, saved the day by proposing a story about a couple who get into a real and painful fight about a completely hypothetical issue. As always with the Matchbox stories, an idea that comes from my readers encounters something that was already germinating in my mind. And, not unlike the previous Matchbox story (where the notion of reincarnation met my personal obsession—developed in Berlin—with squirrels), here, too, Nurit’s idea about an unrealistic hypothetical argument encountered the anguish I’ve felt since reading the disturbing testimony of a woman who was almost killed by her abusive husband. These two elements coalesced into the story before you.
For beloved Nurit
“If we were shipwrecked on a desert island and had nothing to eat, and you died,” said the man as he lay naked in bed, “I would never—but I mean never—eat you. I would lie there next to your body, grief-stricken and starving, for days, and the thought would never even enter my mind.”
“Well I’d eat you, and I’d do it quick,” said the woman, planting a kiss on him. “I’d do it while your body was still warm, before the meat could spoil.”
“What?” The man moved away from her and sat up in bed. “Are you serious? How can you even imagine something like that? What sort of a person could eat the flesh…the quivering heart that never stopped loving her even for a moment?”
“First of all,” said the woman with a grin, “it wouldn’t be quivering because you’d be dead. And besides, I never said I’d eat your heart. I think my first choice would be your firm butt…”
“Stop it. It’s not funny.” He stood up and walked out into the living room, naked.
“I’m not joking!” the woman called after him. “I’d eat your ass! It’s supposed to be the juiciest part.”
The man could feel the sobs mounting in his throat. He hated that. It made him feel like a little boy: lost, powerless, helpless. But this was a truly extraordinary situation: it’s not every day that your wife tells you, without batting an eyelid, that she would literally eat your corpse.
She followed him into the living room.
“I just can’t believe you said that,” the man hissed and sat down on the couch, “it’s worse than if you’d slept with another guy.”
“But why?” asked the woman and sat down next to him, but at some distance. “I’m not cheating on you or anything. You’re already dead, and if I do eat you, it’s only so that I can preserve our love—”
“‘Our love’?” he burst out. “People don’t ‘preserve their love’ by devouring their partners! People aren’t supposed to chew, swallow and then shit out their love!”
“You don’t understand. I’d be eating you to survive, and as long as I survive, our love will also stay alive…”
“Gross. Now I can’t get the image out of my head: You, digging your teeth into my flesh. Me lying there, dead, and instead of burying me you tear me apart like a chicken…”
“Stop.” She moved closer and tried to hug him. “You’re getting carried away again. This isn’t something that happened, it’s just—”
“Don’t touch me!” The man shoved her and her head hit the wall behind the couch. It wasn’t a serious blow, she didn’t even bleed, but she immediately stood up and walked back to the bedroom. When he went in to make sure she was all right, she was already throwing some of her clothes into his blue backpack, which he used for work trips.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Enough,” she said, her voice full of tears. “I can’t take it anymore. I’m going to my mom’s.”
“Your mom’s? What do you mean? First you tell me you’re going to eat my body, and then just because I don’t get all enthusiastic about it and say ‘great idea,’ you get up and run to your mom’s?”
“You hurt me,” she murmured, while she kept packing, “I don’t want this anymore. All these outbursts over nothing—”
“Nothing?! You call this nothing? What you said insulted me. It might be the most insulting, hurtful thing anyone could say to her partner.”
“Oh come on, enough with the hypothetical victim-playing. You’re not dead yet, and no one’s eating you. You’re alive, and you are a controlling, violent man, and I’ve had enough. Okay? I’ve just had enough.”
“Me—violent?” he snorted. “You tell me you’re going to eat my pancreas and I’m the violent one?”
“Forget it,” she said, and touched the back of her head in the spot where she’d hit the wall. “I don’t even want to talk about it anymore. It’s over, don’t you get it? It’s over.”
“You’re not going anywhere until we finish this conversation,” said the man, trying to sound threatening, and locked the front door.
“Yes I am.” She slung the blue backpack over her shoulder, and as she started walking to the door, she added, “Maybe you should find a more obedient woman to wash up on a desert island with.”
The man sat on a chair in the kitchen and ignored the dim banging on the door. The woman lay on the floor, next to the counter. The man heard Taka, the neighbor from across the way, shouting, “Naomi, open up! What’s going on in there? Is everything okay?” The man looked at her and tried to spot the slightest movement in her body: a blink, a chest rising and falling, a flutter. But Naomi did not move. And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, he felt the hunger, like a punch in the gut. They hadn’t had anything to eat since the night before. He opened the fridge, but other than milk, a half-empty jar of pickles, and a few expired eggs, there was nothing there. The bangs on the door were getting louder. He looked at Naomi again, as she bled onto the floor. He couldn’t even dream of eating her. How could anyone so much as imagine themselves doing that to someone they loved?