I make dinner alone. My husband offers to help. I tell him I do not need it. A daughter wraps yarn elephants at the kitchen table. Another chatters about ancient battles with a friend in another room, studying.
I slice the red peppers first in strips, listen to the sluicing noise, thin decisive cuts. I cut piles of slimy chicken while rice steams in the background, occasional lid bounce.
I wonder if we are too much together. He is always home; I linger at work longer than I have to. I can’t find the parts of me anymore, where my sentence ends and his begins. We are frayed edges, underlying tension bubbling.
How I want to turn to him and express anger. How I never do.
I skip the side yard and go right to work on the stairs. Start at the back door. The concrete steps are dimpled with damage, last year’s salt boring holes into the smooth surface. The gray painted porch steps in the front are slick with rain or snow, untextured gloss paint. The pressure-treated steps that lead down to the road are splintered and lean toward the road, ready to go.
I am working alone, I think, but then he comes around the corner and we work together, neither of us speaking. All our moments are edged with the yellow feeling of this. We clear the driveway together. I pull the car back into the slot and go inside the house.
I used to listen to the tilts and turns of my parents’ voices from other rooms. I scattered, always retreating to my room, stashing my body away behind a bed, in the corner of a closet. Always make yourself invisible.
They were often angry. Their anger was loud, red, a wall.
I was in the house alone with them, my older siblings escaping to restaurant shifts and after-school track.
I was the youngest, easy to leave.