by Than Pence
Tina and Fred have their dinner, which leads to a realization.
|Tina passed the breadsticks to her husband, noting that a long, red hair had landed on the bunch. One of her hairs. As she settled the basket onto the table near Fred, she snatched up the red hair and wiggled her fingers, letting the hair lose grip with her and plummet lazily to the floor.
She resumed eating but noticed in her peripheral that Fred ended up not taking a breadstick. He had asked for them and had all of a sudden not taken any, and why? She asked. He said that he was starting to feel full. His earlobes briefly reddened, which was Fred’s tell. He was lying.
Tina thought back to when she realized that his red earlobes were his tell: when they had first met, during Cassie’s weekly poker game. Cassie had been going out with Fred then and he was only filling in to make the game more interesting. She’d cleaned him out good that night and it was a little difficult screwing over Cassie to get at Fred, but it had been worth it. Mostly.
Was he really getting filled up on the spaghetti or did he have a problem with her hair having been on the breadsticks? She grabbed one up and put it next to the half-eaten one she already had on her plate. It was partially soaked with sauce anyway. She took a small bite, as if to merely prove a point. It tasted fine.
Fred met her gaze and gave her a tight-lipped flash of a smile before he curled some more noodles around his fork and stuffed it in his mouth, getting a little sauce on his chin in the process. He started talking about work before even swallowing his bite. Tina wondered if he could be any ruder.
She put another bite into her own mouth and instantly felt like it didn’t taste right. Fred stopped talking and he looked disgusted. Tina realized that some of her hair had fallen out of her ponytail and had come up and into her mouth with the last bite. She had been so distracted by Fred’s display of rudeness that she hadn’t noticed. She was more bothered by his blatant display of disregard for her own little slip. She quickly put her fork down and picked up her napkin to clean the sauce and salvia off of her hair.
Fred finished his bite and said nothing while also putting his fork down. He looked like he might throw up. She offered up a smirk. “Well, at least it’s angel hair pasta, right?” He didn’t see the smirk, and if he heard her, he didn’t acknowledge it. She felt herself getting a little annoyed. Why did he have a problem with her hair? They shared the same bed, the same shower. Her hair had to be in other places in the house, yes? What was his deal?
Before asking, she mentally replayed random moments they both shared. Fred did tend to not use the same hairbrush as her. He never initiated a cuddle-in-bed moment that would bring his face into her hair. He always had to have his pillow, never hers. And his own hair: it was very short on the sides, wavy and black and thick on top. She’d find his distinctive hairs in the same places as her own. It often looked like a red-tinged beast battling a black-furred rodent when she cleaned the grate of the shower drain.
Tina suddenly realized that she always cleaned the drain. He never did and she now realized that it was because of her hair. He was helpful in other areas of the house but Fred had never attempted to clean anything where her hair might have landed. She imagined seeing her hair on the floor, weeks from now, surrounding by dust bunnies and dried pasta.
In a bizarre moment, she grabbed up another breadstick, broke it in half, and stabbed it towards his chin, attempting to get the stray sauce that still lay there, unnoticed, unannounced. He jerked his head back, looking very surprised. “What the hell?” he shot out with his hands upraised. He looked angry.
“What’s wrong with my hair?” she asked, the question sounding more like a swear, like an invasive interrogation technique.
The anger bled away from his face to be replaced by shame. Fred broke eye contact and folded his hands into his lap. Silence ensued. Tina didn’t like that. She pushed her own plate away while still subtly tasting her leave-in conditioner.
When no answer came forth, she sighed, clenched her jaw, and stood up to clear her plate. Fred didn’t make a move. She went into the kitchen and set the plate against the counter. Then she picked it up and set it down again, more firmly, the sound echoing in a definitive manner.
She stood at the counter, near the sink and felt her teeth grinding, her nostrils flaring. But she couldn’t place why it bothered her. Her husband of nearly two years had a personal preference. She thought back to that night they had met, over poker. Cassie had gotten up to get more salsa and she had jokingly asked if he thought Tina was prettier than Cassie. He only smiled wide, nodding briefly and blushing all over. Except on his earlobes: they stayed truthfully cool and he excused himself as Cassie came back, staying in the bathroom for longer than a casual piss.
Tina presently cooled down when she realized that her hair had been much shorter back then. She only recently decided to let it grow out and wasn’t used to styling it just yet, so she usually kept it in a ponytail.
Fred was still sitting in the dining room, alone. She hadn’t told him she’d be growing her hair out, but why would she? He didn’t own her, or her hair. She actually grew more angry by the thought, with heat crawling into her cheeks and prickling her neck. Tina suddenly felt very uncomfortable in her own skin, in her kitchen, in her house.
In the next moment, she found herself with a pair of scissors. Her free hand went to the base of her ponytail and before she knew what she was doing, she made a jagged cut. She looked down and behind her as small clumps of red hair hit the floor. She slammed the scissors down on the counter, next to the plate of angel hair spaghetti, and gathered up what had come off. She rounded the corner into the dining room and threw the hair at Fred. It landed in his face, some in his mouth, and she thought he might start crying.
He sat there and she stormed out, got in her car, and left. As she rolled out of the driveway, she swore at herself because she didn’t grab her purse or anything. She didn’t know where she was going anyway. Just driving. She had to be away from him for a while. It was almost like, in not accepting the breadsticks, he had revealed that there was something about Tina he simply didn’t like. Possibly even hated.
And she truly didn’t know how she felt about that.
She didn’t listen to any music: just drove. In no time, she was back in her driveway, looking at the garage door and nothing else. Tina wanted to go inside the house but hated not knowing what was to come. She still tasted of her conditioner. It was definitely not meant for angel hair pasta.