Incident with Salsa (CW: domestic stress, blood)
I had no idea I could bleed like that. All that blood I wasted from my foot on a sliver of the salsa jar I didn't break. I had only cracked the fridge before it crashed at my feet, all twenty ounces in a pile of onion and pepper and tomato pulp. The door's top shelf had collapsed under the weight of salad dressings, a can of soda water, and this enormous salsa jar that my husband, not I, had placed there. All the other plastic or thicker glass jars and bottles remained intact. Salsa was the only collateral. That, and streams of my blood.
I had bandages. I had rubbing alcohol. If I didn't act soon, I'd need a doctor to stitch the cut. But first I had to clean up the mess before my husband came into the kitchen.
All the while, I never encountered my husband. There he sat: past the dining room, in the den, sprawled on the couch in a corporate news trance. Whatever the pundits were going on about must have been louder or more interesting than a crash in the kitchen. By the time he returned to the fridge to grab another beer, I'd left no immediate evidence besides the lingering salsa stench and a missing shelf.
This blood, thin and watery, dripped down the tub as I balanced on the edge and bent my knee in half a lotus, crouched and pressing thumbs to heel to reveal enough glass to pull it out with tweezers. The blood flowed and I feared my husband would burst in and think I sacrificed our relationship and my life to a razor blade. The losses would likely occur to him in that order.
And why, exactly, did I prioritize his comfort over removing the glass? I must point out that I wasn't afraid of his violence but of his fear, the way it would spread across his face before it conquered his body. His frown at how this is what had become of his evening. The pursed lips of his perceived failure when he saw me in the midst of all that blood. His deafness when I told him it didn't hurt that much. The tension in his shoulders at the possibility of waiting all night in an emergency room. The way his chest would broaden when he banished me to the bathroom to take care of myself while he cleaned up my mess.
And that was my true fear: that he'd view the salsa incident as a mess that I, not he, had made, even though all I did was open the fridge door and it was he who'd crammed the salsa jar onto the heavy broken shelf. No, there was no way I was going to let him resent me for his mess and my bleeding.
An hour later, when he grabbed his beer and noticed the missing shelf, he called to me, now in the bedroom bandaged and reading an article on my phone about all the tourist villages near Lake Atitlán recently smothered by lava. My husband yelled, not angrily, through the house: "What happened to the fridge?"
"I'm sorry," I called through the hallway, unable to face him. Not after I fell victim to my impulse to apologize for something that wasn't my fault. But I couldn't stop. "I broke the shelf."
"No you didn't," he said calmly, now standing in the doorway. "That shelf was cracked. I noticed it the other day."
I limped to the kitchen and he stood over my shoulder as I tried to align the cracked plastic of the shelf to the cracked plastic of the fridge. But no matter how hard I tried, I could not see where to glue it, saying, "We can glue this back, probably."
"We still have two shelves underneath," he said. Not we can just call the super.
"I'm sorry," I said again. "I wasted the salsa." I actually said this, and: "Watch out for the glass."
His shoulders tensed as he glanced around the floor for slivers. When he found one, he grabbed the broom and swept without a word, but his breath was heavy with all the resentment I'd tried so hard to avoid.
"Maybe we should get the vacuum."
"I got it." The tension in his shoulders dissipated as he ruminated that broken glass requires two sweepers to find all its slivers. How the second sweep must come from a new perspective, one that will find all the pieces the other had been blinded to while they were sweeping.
He must have missed the splotch of blood, which I noticed two days later, on the edge of the kitchen mat. It reminded me of the lava in the photograph from that article I'd read, which had reminded me of all the blood I'd wasted cleaning up after my husband. How, if I hadn't wasted it, the blood would still be traveling through my whole body, fighting whatever disease I had that kept me in a perpetual state of apology.
This is what I think of now when I step on small slivers of glass that neither of us had caught with our sweeping. They show up once in a while, and so do other spots of blood, which are so brown by the time I find them, they more resemble smudges of mud. I lick a piece of paper towel and the spots come right off the linoleum, and now two sources of my DNA cling to the white fibers. When I do this, the blotch returns to red and looks like all the blood I haven't wasted, the kind that bursts from my skin as it rushes to clean my wounds. Love looks like this, I suppose. Love looks like all the molten lava within me, waiting for the right explosion.