002

“I have a wife named Nina.”

“Jerry and Nina.”

“Yes, Jerry and Nina.”

“What does Nina do?”

“Moves the couch from here to there. Flies to Basel to buy art. Moves the art from this wall to that wall. Flies to New York to buy the right lightbulbs to hang over the paintings. Hires the gardener, fires the gardener. Hires the maid, fires the maid. Makes the best damn Pomodoro sauce you’d ever eaten. Let’s see.” Jerry cracked his old, onion-shaped knuckles. He sounded as if he were made of wooden blocks, one always knocking into the other, knuckles and joints like the last few bursts of microwave popcorn. “Flies to Miami to visit her sister every winter. Never gets sick. Always takes care of you if you’re sick. Hates scary movies. Flies to Manitoba to buy hand-made furniture from a guy in a fishing village. Loves the color red. Writes thank-you notes, even if you only gave her a peony.”

On the coffee table, Jerry placed a red envelope with the letter M scribbled on the front. The red envelope stared at Marysa. It had been seven months since she’d seen one.

“And that’s her stationery,” he said.

“She knows what you do with it?”

“I tell her I write thank-you notes with them.”

Marysa looked at the envelope for a moment. Then she looked back outside and took a sip from her beer. She didn’t even like beer, but the drink felt communal, as if it were a language link between her and Jerry. You drink beer and you talk business. She did not want to be drinking beer and talking business. What she wanted was a strawberry milkshake and a book and a lamp and a thunderstorm covering the house with rain like wrapping paper. She did not want another red envelope.