Route 7 Review

Issue #  2015

 

MARK BRAZAITIS

 

Fractions

The day of their anniversary

was one part sunshine and three parts rain.

She had, at most, a fifth of the love for him

she’d had when she’d walked down the aisle,

divided evenly between her guests and his.

No—she’d had a third more people.

Two of her ex-boyfriends had watched her speak her vows.

Sometimes she thought she would have been twice

as better off with either one of them.

 

It was unwise, he thought, to marry

someone whose family had ten times

more money than his.

Summers when he was growing up,

his family used to drive

to Myrtle Beach from Muncie,

spending the night half way, more or less, at a Motel 6

outside of Charleston, West Virginia.

Meanwhile, she and her family vacationed

in the South of France.

She married him knowing he would earn

one-fourth of what her two ex-boyfriends made

as lawyers.

She told him it didn’t matter. You couldn’t put a price

on love.

 

But love was only part of the equation.

It might have twice the value of money,

but it wasn’t one hundred percent of what

made a relationship work.

Long-term compatibility, which consisted

of various components—at least three thirty-firsts

of which was politics—

was crucial, at least as crucial as love.

And the way he dressed—the way he literally wore

his proletariat, power-to-the-people philosophy

on his patched-up sleeves,

was at least one-sixteenth of the problem.

One of her childhood friends, when she met him,

thought he’d come to fix the toilet.

“He’s cute,” she said after blushing over her faux paux,

“in a half-Soviet gulag, half-grunge rock

sort of way.”

 

He’d thought about spending half a year’s salary

on her anniversary gift,

but instead he’d bought her flowers—thirty dollars—

only a fifth of what he had in his wallet

because he figured it didn’t matter anymore;

she’d made up her mind,

and he’d need a miracle and a half

to convince her to stay.

He used to wonder at her expressions,

how, Janus-like, her face

could hold two opposite emotions at once.

Half-serious, half-whimsical;

half-sarcastic, half-sincere;

and, so often when they made love now,

half bored.

Today he might have read a fraction of regret in her face

if he hadn’t found it too painful

to look at her.

He’d been married before. It had lasted three years.

After this, he’d be oh-for-two. His wife was an accountant,

but he didn’t need her to do the math.

They’d done it together,

and after exactly five years—

one-fifteenth of his projected lifespan—

it added up to nothing.

 

Mark Brazaitis is the author of six books of fiction, including The River of Lost Voices: Stories from Guatemala, winner of the 1998 Iowa Short Fiction Award, The Incurables: Stories, winner of the 2012 Richard Sullivan Prize and the 2013 Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award in Prose, and Julia & Rodrigo, winner of the 2012 Gival Press Novel Award. His latest book, Truth Poker: Stories, won the 2014 Autumn House Press Fiction Competition. His book of poems, The Other Language, won the 2008 ABZ Poetry Prize.

Brazaitis’ writing has been featured on the Diane Rehm Show as well as on public radio in Cleveland, Iowa City, New York City, and Pittsburgh. A former Peace Corps Volunteer and technical trainer, he is a professor of English and the director of the West Virginia Writers’ Workshop at West Virginia University.

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