"Blood"

-–from New South (Spring 2013 Issue)

 

In the morning, my husband watches the baby sleep, a galaxy of silver stars and ancient planets dangling from the mobile above the baby’s crib. When she finally wakes, he tickles her belly and looks into her eyes, waiting to see his own reflection staring back at him. He coaxes her to utter the word “Daddy,” listens patiently to hear her say it, but she just stares at him with a look of confusion, as if the word is lost somewhere in her tiny little baby brain.

At breakfast, my husband says the baby’s hands look like his hands, that the baby’s nose looks like his nose. I want to tell him that I’ve been having an affair with my ex-husband for the last two years, that three months ago my ex and I went to a local clinic and took a blood test, and that the test confirmed that my ex-husband is the father of the child. But I don’t say anything. Instead, I sit there and listen to my husband talk about the miracle of genetics as the words crawl to the back of my throat.

That Saturday, around midnight, I wake to the stench of cooked meat. When I get into the kitchen, my husband is sitting at the table eating a T-bone. It’s barely cooked, and the meat is charred at the edges, the steak itself soaking in a pool of brown blood. He cuts off a piece of meat with a knife, stabs it with a fork and takes a bite. He wipes his face with a paper towel then rips a dinner roll in half and uses it to sop up the puddle of blood on his plate. When the fork and knife become obsolete, he puts them down, holds the steak between his hands and begins to gnaw what’s left of the purple meat directly from the bone. As I watch him eat the steak, I remember an article I read somewhere about how when male lions take control of another male’s pride, they kill (and occasionally eat) the former male’s cubs to get rid of the offspring and to create their own bloodline.

The next morning, when I find my husband in the baby’s room again hovering over her crib, he looks over at me and smiles. “I could just eat her up.”

As he says this, he stares at the baby with wild, animal eyes, as if there’s some dusty, age-old desire buried deep in his DNA, some ancient primordial impulse flickering through the wires of his brain urging him to sink his teeth into the soft flesh of the baby’s skull, to rip the meat from her tiny ribs, lick the bones clean.