Is Anybody Out There by Ben Tanzer
You are lying there in bed. The two of you, you and your wife, and you are as far apart as two people can be, even if the actual space between you is but inches.
The baby is sleeping in the Pack ‘n Play in your closet. He was in the room he shares with the older one, but that isn’t working out tonight, so now he is in here with you, and the older one is in their room, the door shut, repeating the phrase “Is anybody out there,” over and over again.
As you lie there, you try to take a moment and disassociate, attempting to picture yourself leaving your own body, and then the room itself, as you slowly pause to look at you and your wife before drifting out of the window and away from all of this.
Arguably, it’s easier to picture killing your wife, your children and yourself, than actually leaving them, which somehow seems much more destructive and impossible on the face of it.
You recognize that this is how things go wrong in those dark indie movies that Sundance loves. Someone makes a decision just like that. They choose murder over merely opening a door and walking away forever because in getting caught up in the throes of something they can’t figure out, all of that just seems easier.
But this isn’t Sundance and you know that you definitely aren’t killing anyone or going anywhere, that you and your wife are in this together until the end, bloody or otherwise.
At this point the two of you are still miles apart and staring at the ceiling, searching for escape hatches and trying to ignore the calm, but persistent question emanating from the next room, “Is anybody out there?”
Hey, you say, not looking at her. This isn’t going to be any Kramer vs. Kramer thing. If someone leaves, and I’m not saying I want that, but if someone leaves, they don’t get to leave the kids behind, so that the parent who stays has to learn how to make French toast and possibly bang some hot young associate from work. Well, I guess the banging part would be fine, but the rest of it, no, can’t have it. Deal?
Something shifts here, as you hoped it would, the chasm between the two of you has shortened.
You roll towards each other and just stare for a moment. It’s amazing how much the boys look like her and how lucky that makes them because she’s so fucking beautiful and always has been.
“Deal,” she says smiling.
And with that you smile too.
Ben Tanzer is co-founder of Wham! and the author of the books 99 Problems, You Can Make Him Like You, My Father’s House and So Different Now among others. I also oversee day to day operations of This Zine Will Change Your Life and can be found online at This Blog Will Change Your Life the center of my vast, albeit faux media empire.
© 2012 – 2013, Metazen.