“The Difference Between Bent and Broken” Tsahai Makeda

The Difference Between Bent and Broken

He came inside of her, but having her tubes tied meant that he could without any worry. She already had kids and whatever was hers, he felt, was also his.

“Are you going to stay tonight?” he asked.

“You know.” she said.

She dismounted him and went back to the bed. He climbed in after her and pulled her close to him. They were silent—for everything that could’ve been said was said in what they did. His willful control of her body as she succumbed to his power, it made her want to cry. It made her want to stay.

“I want to.” she said. She shifted her body to face him in the bed and they stared at each other, their breath synced.

There were things that she wanted to say to him. Things that she needed to say. Had to say. The bevy of thoughts crowded her mind like a train station at rush hour. Packed in, each one fighting for place, with the buzz of it low and heavy. The emotion rose in her chest and pressed to burst forth, but her mouth wouldn’t cooperate and she choked on what she felt.  Her cell-phone was on the nightstand next to the half finished apple turnover that they shared moments before. It vibrated with fervor and urgency.

“Don’t answer,” he said, “it’s him, isn’t it?”

“It could be the kids.” She reached over him and picked up the phone, resting her bare chest on his—as foundation, for support.

“It’s never the kids love, you know it is never the kids.” He cupped her face in his palms and kissed her on the bridge of her nose just between her eyes, long and soft. “But I get it.”

She looked at her phone and the bright screen confronted her with force. It was him. Her husband.

The phone felt heavy in her hand and he could see the weight of it—the heaviness of what it said pulling her down, and so, he took the phone out of her grasp and placed it back on the nightstand.

“I’ll have to go soon.” she whispered.

“I know,” he said, “but maybe it will be for the last time.”

 

 

* * *

Savannah Roberts was in her kitchen making dinner when her husband, Kyle, came home from work. The meatloaf had been cooking for thirty minutes already and she was washing the string beans when he came through the front door.

“Van?” Kyle hollered as he closed the door. Savannah did not respond. “VAN? That you in the kitchen?” He placed his sweater on the coat rack and went into the kitchen. Savannah was at the sink so that her back faced him. “Savannah Lynn Roberts,” he declared, “didn’t you hear me calling you?” He moved in close to her, wrapped his hands around her waist, and kissed the hollow cove where her neck and shoulder met.

“I don’t like it when you call me that.” she said softly. She shrugged her shoulders and slid out from his embrace. He obliged.

“Come on Van. Really? Since when?” He walked toward the living room while he removed articles of clothing—his tie, his cufflinks, his socks. “Are the boys home?” he yelled.

“They’re not home.” she said cooly.

“Again?” he replied. Aggravation oozing from his tone. “It’s a school night Van.”

“Kyle.” She turned the water off at the sink and stepped into the passageway so that he could hear her clearly. “I’ve never, EVER, liked that. You know it. I say it to you every single solitary time.” She went back in the kitchen and placed the pot of greens on the stove. “You do it all the time, and all the time I ask you to stop.”

Kyle snickered, walked back, and stood in the kitchen’s passageway. “Tell me one single time you’ve asked me to stop.”

“I just told you not four minutes ago.” she sighed heavily. “See Kyle. This is our problem. You don’t hear me. It’s like what I say doesn’t matter to you.”

“Oh boy,” he said with exasperation and flung his hands in the air, “here it comes.”

“That’s exactly what I’m talking about.” She turned the stove down to low and sat at the kitchen table.

He stood between her legs and palmed her smooth face in his calloused hands. “Va—Savannah. Love. Can we not do this tonight? For all that is peace and football. The game’s gonna start in an hour.” He kissed her on her forehead and as he moved toward the bedroom, he chuckled and yelled back at her, “Good talk…Van.”

She watched him shuffle to their bedroom as his laughter echoed through the hallway. Her chest burned with anger as she glared down the empty space. It mimicked how she felt inside. She had enough.

 

* * *

She set the table for the two of them to dine together, and placed everything with force and weight. The hard clank of the plate, cup, and fork resonated through the entire house. She plated each of their portions earnestly and sat at the table with her arms folded. She waited for Kyle to join her. Her cell phone alerted her to an unread message, she smiled slowly and enjoyed every word that she read.

“That the boys?” Kyle pulled his chair from the table, sat down, and started eating.

“No.” Savannah put her phone back in her sweater pocket. “It’s Ted.”

“Ted?” Kyle looked up from his plate. “Who’s Ted?”

“He writes our curriculum. You wouldn’t know him.”

“Hmmm.” Kyle turned his attention back to his food and stuffed a mound of mash potato in his face. “So what is it with the boys tonight. Jace have practice or something?” He talked with his mouth full—and open. That disturbed Savannah more than being called the name of a motor vehicle but she would never tell him to close his mouth or speak when he was done chewing. She wasn’t his mother and wasn’t going to raise him into the man that he should have already been. Kyle lacked couth and he was absolutely unapologetic about that–he was borderline proud.

She looked at her plate so she could avoid watching Kyle eat as if he had no training. She didn’t eat her food though, but rather pushed the mashed potatoes from one side of the plate to the next, occasionally swirling a string bean around her mash potato whirlwind. “There isn’t any practice tonight Kyle. They’re at Scarlett’s. They’ll be back in time for bed.”

“Scarlett?! You know I don’t like them going over there Savannah.” He slid his chair from under the table.

“I’m Savannah now, huh.” she mumbled under her breath.

“What’s that?” he looked at her firmly.

“Kyle. We need to talk about something.”

“That woman runs her house like an arcade, come as you like, do what you like, whenever you like. I don’t want our kids around her kids.” he said.

“Kyle. Are you hearing me?”

“I’m going to go get them.” he started up from his chair.

“KYLE!” she shouted, and did not move in her seat.

He stopped where he was and stared at her.

“Kyle, please.” she pleaded gently. “Sit back down. I need to talk to you.”

“Van, it can wait twenty minutes, can it not?”

“Hear me now or not at all.” she said.

“What’s going on?” He sat back down and pushed his plate forward and rested his arms in the space. He was annoyed. “What is it?”

“I’m leaving you.” she said, and the tightness in her shoulders subsided. She relaxed back into her chair and took a bite of the mashed potatoes.

“HA!” Kyle laughed. “You’re on a roll tonight, huh Van.”

“Kyle—“

“Ohhp! I’m sorry—Savannah.” He stretched the vowels in her name like taffy. “Just what in the hell is going on here?”

“I don’t want to do this. Not anymore.” She sat in the chair and crossed her legs, her tone stayed even and mellow.

He stared at her in disbelief. “You’re serious.” Kyle laughed. “Where is this coming from? I mean, I’m confused. By this, you mean, this marriage? This life we’ve built?”

“You built it, Kyle.”
“Oh no no no, you’re not gonna do that! YOU DO NOT GET TO DO THAT!” He stood behind the chair that he sat in moments before and clutched the back so tight that the chair rattled and scuffed the floor when he talked.

“I get it. I get that you’re confused and mad and you want to say mean, hurtful things to me. And that’s okay. I get it.” she said.

“So wait. Let me get this straight here,” he paced and turned in a small circle behind the chair. He shook his head vigorously. He was shocked. He was blind-sided. He was pissed-the-fuck-off. “You send the kids away, make dinner, pick at me, tell me you’re leaving me, and now you want to psychoanalyze me?” He laughed a monstrous and deep laugh.

“I just want you to listen for once. I just want—no, I need you to hear me.” she said.

He swung the chair around so that the back was in front of him and slammed it on the ground. He sat with a thud and placed his arms around the chair. “Floors all yours—VAN!”

“I want to say that I’m sorry that this is going to hurt you. But I’ve been hurting myself for the past three years by staying.”

“Do tell of just how hellish its been for you to stay home and raise our sons while I work my ass off to pay for this house you live in and that car you drive. Please, continue.” Kyle chuckled just loud enough for his sarcasm to cut through his laughter.

“You’re an amazing father, Kyle.” she acknowledged.

“You don’t say!” he scoffed.

“You’re a shit husband!” she stated.

“Alright, now we’re getting somewhere.”

“Our entire marriage has been about you. What you want and when you want it. Sex is about you, our money is about you, even how the house is decorated is about you. It–this has been about what Kyle wants and how Kyle wants it. You never consider me and that’s become so familiar, and I let it. You don’t see past yourself when it comes to this marriage and I’m selling myself short by staying in it. You don’t love me,” she said with certainty, “you love the idea that you conjured up of me. And it’s not totally on you. I went along for the sake of the boys. But I’m dying here. You suffocate me and I don’t like who I am when I’m around you.” Her cell-phone vibrated in her pocket. She reached in and silenced the alert without taking her phone out.

Kyle stood up. “You’re fucking around!” he jeered.

“What?!” Her shoulders stiffened. “What are you talking about?” She shifted in the chair.

“You…are fucking…around!” With each pause in his speech, he took a step closer to her.

She stood up to meet his approach. “Whether or not I’m fucking around, it holds no bearing to what I am saying to you right now. THIS!” she slammed her fist on the table, “THIS RIGHT HERE is our demise. You don’t even hear me!” With urgency, she rose and headed to their bedroom. Kyle followed her.

“Oh I hear you alright. That’s the fourth time your phone went off in the twenty minutes we’ve been sitting here. You didn’t even look at it.” They reached the bedroom and Savannah went in their closet and pulled items of clothes from their hangers. “Who keeps calling you?” he yelled at her. Savannah put the clothes in a duffle bag. Kyle stepped in the closet and pulled her out by her arm.

“KYLE!” she shouted. “GET OFF!”

“Give me your phone.” He snatched at her pocket but she jumped back and got her bearings.

“You’re being ridiculous. Stop it!” she barked at him.

“What’ve you got to hide, huh. Give it to me!” He lunged at her and she screamed.

“KYLE!” She held both her arms up motioning for him to stop where he was. She took the phone out of her pocket, “Here you go,” and handed it to him.

He didn’t take it from her. He watched her and his eyes began to fill with tears. “Savannah.” He let out a wail and fell to his knees and grasped at her legs. “Why are you doing this to us, Savannah?”

She reached underneath Kyle’s arms and guided him back to his feet. She looked him in his eyes and said, “I want to live, Kyle, that’s all it is. I want to feel alive.” She motioned him toward the bed and he sat down. She sat down beside him. “You should want to feel that too.”

“But…I…I did.” He muttered. “With you, I did.”

“No Kyle. We didn’t.”

He wiped the tears from his face and turned to face her. “You can’t tell me what I feel.”

“You’re right. I can only tell you what I feel and I feel like I have turned into someone other than myself. It’s killing me. I can’t stay here. I can’t stay with you.” She went back in the closet and continued to pack her duffle bag.

“Where are you going? What about the boys, huh? Did you think about them?” he asked her.

“They’ll stay here.” she answered him.

“Now I know you’ve lost it. What kind of mother leaves their kids, huh? What kind of woman does that? Tell me. So she can find herself.” His tone was sarcastic and full of pain.

Savannah stood at the frame of the closet door and folded her arms. “The kind of mother who thinks about the disruption to her children’s lives, that’s the kind. Moving them out of the only home they’ve known since they’ve come to this earth would be catastrophic to them. On top of the notion that they’re parents are getting a divorce.”

“Who’s going to take care of—divorce?!”

“I’ll be here to help send them off to school in the mornings and here until they go to bed. I just won’t sleep here. And yes, I want a divorce.”

“You need to go, now.”

Her phone vibrated again and they both looked at each other.

“Go ahead,” Kyle said, “answer.”

Savannah answered it and never took her eyes off of Kyle. “Hey…yeah…yeah I’m fine…just getting a few more things and then…okay…I’ll be out in a few.” She disconnected the call.

“Who was that Savannah?”

“Ted.”

“Ted from work? Ted, I-wouldn’t-know-who-Ted-is? That Ted?”

“Kyle.” She picked up her bag and started toward the kitchen. Kyle followed behind her.

“You are fucking Ted, aren’t you?” He quavered.

She dropped her bag in the hallway and turned to face him. “Yes Kyle, I am fucking Ted.” She stood there and stared at him but he didn’t respond. As the tears streamed down his face, Savannah sighed, picked up her bag, and walked out the front door.

Artist Bio:
TSAHAI MAKEDA
WRITER. TEACHER
Tsahai Makeda is a storyteller. She also
knits blankets and drives her kid to
soccer (sometimes they fly). She
spends her days teaching young
scholars how to be amazing
people/writers/thinkers/doers. At
night she writes and reads and writes
some more. She’s currently working on
her debut novel and a collection of
short stories. Some of her work will be
forthcoming at breadcrumbsmag.com.
She holds a BA in English/Philosophy
from SUNY New Paltz and an MFA in
Fiction Writing from Sarah Lawrence
College. She was born and raised in
Brooklyn NY and now resides at the
foot of the Catskills with her husband
and two of her three young humans.
Instagram: @TheTsahaiMakeda
Twitter: @TheTsahaiMakeda
Email: TheTsahaiMakeda@gmail.com
Phone: (845) 699 – 1693

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