A Good Husband

Melinda was fine, better than my ex-girlfriends who were ugly, desperate things clinging to some idea they’d pinned me to. No, Melinda was fine, not the greatest-looking thing, but average. If one were to walk through a mall or some crowded space and happened to go by Melinda, nothing of her would enter and linger in memory. But I held her—she was my Melinda. We rarely argued and when we did the bickering was never indicative of a deeply-seated malice toward the other. We were good partners, married for seven wholesome years.

Melinda was a decent cook, and whenever I made a terrible joke or remark she always managed to smile for my sake. Good Melinda. She wanted a family; I told her I would make a terrible father and about the ills of overpopulation. She understood. But if there were any flaw in this immaculate system it would be that she loved me. I disliked the way she looked at me when everything surrounding was silent. I hated her looking because I was never able to truly replicate it to her benefit, even when her life was dissolving away. There were days when I believed that she knew that the feeling wasn’t mutual and this would always sink some guilt into me. Poor Melinda; I didn’t love her.

It was when she was in the hospital that I tried to heighten the illusion, but there was always an undercurrent of doubt which rendered my attempts visibly facile to me, and as a result I couldn’t help but feel she perceived my performance. But I remember her face, a small smile rising from the white. Her contentment and lack of fear made me feel better, but it also made me want to make her truly believe that some other loved her. So I tried being there for her, telling her how much I loved her (maybe I told her too often,) but the more I tried the more gaudy and ineffectual it all felt.

Then, of course, she died. I was out when it occurred. At first, I hoped Melinda believed, but I was also touched by guilt; she spent the last nine years of her life under a deception. I soon returned to our room and sat on the bed. I started thinking about how she should’ve spent her life with someone else, one who could have done more than paint a fabricated spark. But she never had anybody, not even me. Pathetic Melinda.

But the new wife is good; she’s a better cook than Melinda. But I’ll never tell her about my previous wife, I mean, I’ve said things of her, of course, but I never told her about Melinda and the things she represented to me because I need to retain the wife’s safety and faith in me. I also need to move on—we’re going to have a family it turns out. I’m fine with this outcome, though I wouldn’t mind having a son over a daughter. I hear taking care of girls is a troubling endeavor; boys are simply easier. And plus, I don’t want a daughter to become one of those women who sit alone in crowded places, groping for my eyes.

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5 thoughts on “A Good Husband

  1. Wow. He’s such an unlikable character. Did you try to find good in him? I’m always wondering how deeply writers try to find redeeming qualities in their characters, if at all. I suppose it depends on the writer.

    • Not really, I intended the reader to see the narrator as an utterly pathetic wretch. But one could perhaps see some good in him with his trying to make Melinda’s final moments “good,” but even then one has to question the depth of his supposed guilt (and whether he’s really concerned for her) and also his commitment. Either way, I don’t think the husband meets the mark.

  2. I’m so glad this is fiction, though I’m sure it’s someone’s truth. I thought you wrote it well. I wanted to feel some sort of empathy for the husband, but I really just felt so sad for Melinda and couldn’t drum up anything for the narrator.

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