Home > Who Do You Love

Who Do You Love
Author: Jennifer Weiner





I don’t answer. I shut my eyes and hold my breath and hope whoever it is will think I’m not here and go home.

Knock knock knock, and then my name again. “Rachel, are you in there?”

I twist myself more deeply into the sheets. The sheets are fancy, linen, part of the wedding haul, and they’ve gotten silkier with every trip through the washing machine. I pull the pillow over my head, noting that the pillowcase has acquired a not-so-fresh smell. This is possibly related to my not having showered for the last three days, during which I have left the bed only to use the toilet and scoop a handful of water from the bathroom sink into my mouth. On the table next to my bed there’s a sleeve of Thin Mint cookies that I retrieved from the freezer, and a bag of Milanos for when I finish the Thin Mints. It’s spring, and sunny and mild, but I’ve pulled my windows shut, drawing the shades so I can’t see the members of the mom brigade ostentatiously wheeling their oversized strollers down the street, and the forty-year-old guys with expensive suede sneakers and facial hair as carefully tended as bonsai trees tweeting while they walk, or the tourists snapping selfies in front of the snout-to-tail restaurants where everything’s organic and locally sourced. The bedroom is dark; the doors are locked; my daughters are elsewhere. Lying on these soft sheets that smell of our commingled scent, hair and skin and the sex we had two weeks ago, it’s almost like not being alive at all.

Knock knock knock . . . and then—fuck me—the sound of a key. I shut my eyes, cringing, a little-girl’s game of imagining that if you couldn’t see someone, they couldn’t see you, either. “Go away,” I say.

Instead of going away, my visitor comes and sits on the side of the bed, and touches my shoulder, which must be nothing but a lump underneath the duvet.

“Rachel,” says Brenda, the most troubled and troublesome of my clients, whom I’d been scheduled to see on Friday. For a minute I wonder how she got into my house before remembering that I’d given her grandson Marcus a key the year before, so he could water the plants and take in the mail over spring break, a job for which I’d paid him the princely sum of ten bucks. He’d asked me shyly if I could take him to the comic book store to spend it, and we’d walked there together with his hand in mine.

“Sorry I missed you,” I mutter. My voice sounds like it’s coming from the bottom of a clogged drain. I clear my throat. It hurts. Everything hurts.

“Don’t worry,” says Brenda. She squeezes my shoulder and gets off the bed, and I can hear her moving around the room. Up go the shades and window, and a breeze raises goose bumps on my bare arms. I work one eye open. She’s got a white plastic laundry basket in her arms, which she’s quickly filling with the discarded clothing on the floor. In the corner are a broom and a mop, and a bucket filled with cleaning supplies: Windex and Endust, Murphy’s Oil Soap, one of those foam Magic Erasers, which might be useful for the stain on the wall where I threw the vase full of tulips and stem-scummed water.

I close my eyes, and open them again to the sharp-sweet smell of Pine-Sol. I watch like I’m paralyzed as Brenda first sweeps and then dips her mop, squeezes it, and starts to clean my floors.

“Why?” I croak. “You don’t have to . . .”

“It isn’t for you, it’s for me,” says Brenda. Her head’s down, her brown hair is drawn back in a ponytail, and it turns out she does own a shirt that’s not low-cut, pants that aren’t skintight, and shoes that do not feature stripper heels or, God help me, a goldfish frozen in five inches of Lucite.

Brenda mops. Brenda dusts. She works the foam eraser until my walls are as smooth and unmarked as they were the day we moved in. Through the open window come the sounds of my neighborhood. “The website said Power Vinyasa, but I barely broke a sweat,” I hear, and “Are you getting any signal?” and “Sebastian! Bad dog!”

I smell the city in springtime: hot grease from the artisanal doughnut shop that just opened down the block, fresh grass and mud puddles, a whiff of dog shit, possibly from bad Sebastian. I hear a baby wail, and a mother murmur, and a pack of noisy guys, probably on their way to or from the parkour/CrossFit gym. My neighborhood, I decide, is an embarrassment. I live on the Street of Clichés, the Avenue of the Expected. Worse, I’m a cliché myself: almost forty, the baby weight that I could never shed ringing my middle like a deflated inner tube, gray roots and wrinkles and breasts that look good only when they’re stringently underwired. They could put my picture on Wikipedia: Abandoned Wife, Brooklyn, 2014.

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