The husband knew he was broken when he kissed his wife goodbye and left for work. He felt the crack the night before, on the back of his thigh where the wife didn’t notice, where it was hard for even him to see. Twisting at a cruel angle, he squinted into the bathroom’s full-length mirror to see what it was. The crack, like a stress fracture across a dinner plate, was thin and crooked and pinched a little when he walked.
But every day, a new crack. A jagged lightening bolt across his right shoulder blade, one below his left knee. The crack on his forehead was the most conspicuous, and he caught his wife looking at it during dinner. Looking, looking away. She didn’t say anything, but left a tube of KrazyGlue on the bathroom vanity for him.
Still, he cracked when he walked the garbage down to the curb, and when he stuck the electric bill into the mailbox, and when he sat on the toilet to take a dump.
When the wife cracked, it happened all at once. A sudden shattering like dropping an egg. Her cracks all radiated from one spot just below her clavicle. Unlike his, hers looked like a spider web, or a cracked windshield; every crack related to all the others. A solitary trauma that was woven together piece by piece, year by year, until it sprang from inside her.
After the wife shattered, the husband found her crying in the corner of the garage. She couldn’t find more KrazyGlue. Had he used it all?
After that, they sat together at the kitchen table every evening and smeared glue into each other’s crevices. They experimented with putty. Caulk. Tile grout. In a moment of desperation, the wife stapled the skin of her legs together. She used the stapler they kept in the husband’s home office, the one the color of a fire engine. Her blood was just as red.
While he slept, the wife listened to the husband crack, a high, whiny sound. She tried and failed to remember their life before. She couldn’t remember the first time he held her hand while he drove them to dinner in his rusting Cutlass, the one that bucked at every red light. And she couldn’t remember their house when they bought it, when it was empty of furniture. Some nights she wondered where her memories went. Were they lost in the cracks?
They kept their blinds drawn while they tried to fix each other, but nothing held them together. The wife tried needle and thread. Twine. She duct-taped her middle like a girdle.
The husband bought a nail gun. It was the first he owned. He kept it in its box in the garage where he told himself it was a last resort, but the wife found it one day. She laid a bath towel on the tile floor and set the nail gun next to it. She ran an extension cord from the outlet with the dim nightlight.
The husband thought of lazy Sundays. Of televised football and cold beer; the hum of the mower when he cut the grass, leaving a diagonal pattern. Those days were gone; replaced by ones filled with the constant binding and mending of bodies.
We shouldn’t— he told the wife when he saw the nail gun and the towel and her desperate face. But it will hold, she promised as she lay on the towel, her fingers linked over her belly. If we do it right, it will hold.
Kristin Kozlowski lives and works in the Midwest US. Some of her work is available online at Longleaf Review, Pidgeonholes, Occulum, Flash Frontier, and others. She’s currently (and always) working on a novel. If you tweet: find her @kriskozlowski.