“Obsessive Compulsion” Scene 2

Bennington ran the tips of his fingers over the glowing surface of the elm wood tabletop on which he and his wife, Gloria, had consumated their marital agreement. 

Gloria hoovered past on the hardwood floor with the efficiency of an automaton. 

“Tough day?” she asked, setting a bowl of soup in front of him.

Steam clouded the memories of meals and sex. 

“Tough client,” he said. It wasn’t really a lie. He could think of three different people he’d seen during the day who fit the adjective. 

Maybe I should be at the top of the list.

The heat from the broth stroked the shine off the spoon and burned his tongue. 

He slopped greasy bubbles onto the table’s surface. A curse escaped his lips. When had her seasoning become so muted? Two dabs at the spillage with a colorful napkin dried his mess.

“When did we switch to paper?” he asked, noticing the harsh edge of his own voice.

“Paper? The napkins?” Her figure swooshed by, still trim with enough shape to inspire glances from strange men. “I told you months ago I was eliminating overuse of detergents.” 

“Doesn’t that increase landfill use?”

“It’s paper, Bennington. Since when did you become a greenie?”

He refocused on the tabletop. The wooden altar was their first item of furniture. Gloria defined their relationship by the piece. It had filled their tiny apartment on Applegate Street. She’d orchestrated impromptu viewings for every wedding invitee to wander through her father’s furniture store, past the Amish Kingston style dining set, ensuring its establishment as the foundation for their first home.

Gloria sat down across from him. “Maybe you need a vacation, Dear.” 

Maybe I need an affair. The thought jumped in before he could stop it. 

“Cute, Glory,” he replied, pushing the intrusive idea into shadow land.

A wisp of coiffure arced over her forehead to touch the narrow line of her eyebrow.

“Get away from the problems of strangers.”  

“Not quite strangers.”

“Not friends,” she caressed her lips with the soup spoon. “Not family.” 

In those early days when they made love on the oversized table, Gloria screamed her passion, expressing wildly adventurous collusion. They’d emulated acrobatic positions and roleplayed situations from blue movie video discs Bennington’s best man donated for their newlywed apartment. An intimate psychological experiment. Gloria climaxed in shrieks that could break glass and routinely disturbed their neighbors. Bennington once answered the door naked, shocking the stagnated and frustrated Widow Morley after a particularly boisterous bang.

“I have some ideas for our trip,” Gloria stated.

“A tab of acid with champagne, perhaps?”

She scowled. “Where is your mind? Nature has enough stimulation for people our age.” 

“Ouch.” Bennington said. “Ganja and a glass of Merlot?”

“Those days exist only in your memories, Sir Galahad.” 

Hearing the pet name, long lost to ancient frolics, stirred tumescence. “We are wounded but hardly dead. You’re up for pleasure this evening?”

“My lord, Bennington. You’ve resorted to quoting our priest for sex?” Her tone shaped the question into a scolding. “Middle age is more suited to wisdom than wit.”

He slurped a spoonful of disappointment.

“I’ve created a list,” she said, shifting from the conflict. “A stroll on the beach after check-in. Then a quick shower to rinse the sand. The Delightful Restaurant for dinner.”

“Delightful? It’s called that?”

“Yes, Dear, it’s called Delightful and the reviews verify it. After a good night’s rest, I thought we could learn to swim with the stingrays. I’ve signed us up. Barbuda even has a bird sanctuary, the Frigate, with over a hundred seventy species to calm your distress.”

Bennington’s lungs filled with the sharpness of exasperation. “What if I don’t want to learn to be stung by a stingray? What if I just want romance and passion on the beach?”

Gloria inhaled to a count of eight and exhaled her disapproval. “Romantic passion is made not found, lover boy.” 

“Didn’t we used to have the fun kind of passion?”

She ignored the question and pressed on, lists embedded within lists, planning their upcoming tropical vacation into a clinically boring business transaction.

Bennington drifted, circumventing The Baby, perambulating a mental investigation of Erin the Phlebotomist.

Gloria’s voice interrupted. “Are you even listening?” 

He had resolved the first three steps necessary to uncover Erin’s movements from the hospital. “Of course I’m not listening. You’ve managed to isolate spontaneity into categories of despair.”

Gloria stood, her chair scuttling into the wall behind her. “You wouldn’t know passion if it slapped your penis. Start appreciating all I do for you and maybe you’ll light a fire!” She left her meal on the table and stalked out of the dining room. 

Bennington’s soup spoon settled at the bottom of the bowl. 

Erin the Phlebotomist should be off work tomorrow by three. If he cancelled his two o’clock appointment, there was a chance he could see her again.

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