A Short Story by Alice Clark
Written using the suggestion "You learned to go unnoticed behind a lamppost."
Originally featured on 01-24-2011
As part of our series "The Benefit of Doubt: Stories Written to Explore Domestic Violence and Abuse"

When you have children, you intend to love them. You expect that they will have needs. That they will be incompetent for a very long time. You knew this when you created them, when you signed on for this. One day I saw the man that would be my husband kneeling by small children in the park, tying their shoes and I wanted to let him have his own children. That’s why I did this.

When your spouse starts to rot, it is a slow process. One that you will have to watch, but you didn’t consciously sign up for this part. In the beginning, there is so much youth, rosiness on the wedding day and effortless sex. There is money and a lack of stress and you have your life and you can walk. It’s easy to ignore the inevitable. I should have married younger, not an older man. Mediocre marriages sometimes just don’t end. And if you marry an older man, the worst comes faster.

When my husband started to rot, I couldn’t watch. First it was difficulty with his shoes. I would tie them for him and he’d pat the top of my head. Then he could no longer dial a phone. Food would fall from his mouth during dinner. He started to smell musty. Later, he became bed ridden, waiting for me to provide his everything, but it’s difficult to put this much effort in. I go on because my own gullet is a sickening reminder that though I am behind in this, my time is coming. My own hands have lost the strength to build anything new. This is where I am.

Our children come by and we pull it together for a few hours, wanting to be people, to be adults. We swear at each other when they leave, mocking each other in parodies. We each remember what the other doesn’t. He tells me I am losing my mind and I tell him to stop drooling down his paralyzed chin.

Everything sags. The expression lines that I have watched move in his face for years now, are lifeless permanent marks, a mosaic of fallen pieces. I tuck him into bed every night. We argue and then he wets himself. I let him sit in it.

He resents me as well. He reminds me that I am not his true love. That this should have never gone on as long as it has. I tell him that no one loves him. Threaten to put his useless body into a home. He likes his stuff so much that this terrifies him. He doesn’t like change. I put him in the lift. Set him in the tub until he trembles. Then we talk. We agree that we can’t fix this.


I put his fat, lifeless body into bed again. His body pools in puddles. I cover it up, tired of looking at it and meeting its needs.

In the kitchen today, my daughter told me that I was a good woman for standing by Dad for so long. I told her that I don’t have a choice. No one loves me either. She didn’t reply.

Read More By Alice Clark

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