impotence

She was shaking with anger by the time she got home. She'd already replayed the scene in her mind half a dozen times; it skewed slightly more to her favor with each revisitation. She stewed memories of his apathy and aloofness until they had dissolved, broken down to the basics in her black-and-white thought. Bad. He was a bad man. And now they'd given themselves over to the powers of her interpretation: apathy had become willful cruelty; aloofness, hatred. It was essential to load up her pen with as much venom as possible - it made composing the letter much easier, and much more satisfying.

She dropped her keys and bag in the cold, empty kitchen, and stalked to her writing desk in the office. She lowered herself onto the hard-backed chair, straightened her shoulders, and lifted her chin. Hers was important work. The most important, in fact.

Finally, she opened the single drawer. It slid forward on the grooves with a soothing, smooth hiss, a whispered promise of revenge. Together we will right this wrong, it said. She lifted a single page from the stack of clean white paper, and pulled her favorite pen from the cup on the desk. The pen spoke to her, too, as she made the first stroke. Its angled metal nib scratched pleasingly, reassuringly across the page. Yes. This. This is the only way. They don't know. But you do. You know.

It didn't take her long. It never did. It was formulaic, and familiar enough to her that she only paused to find words that would fully convey how badly she'd been wronged. She told herself she wasn't embellishing. She believed herself. She told herself she was helping him. She believed that, too. 

When she was done, she lifted the sheet to what was left of the late afternoon light cutting through the office window. She tried to ignore the dust twinkling in the sun, stifling thoughts of the hours of drudging housework that stretched out before her. She silently read what she'd written, her lips mouthing the words, and occasionally murmuring aloud a phrase here or there: Dear Santa...a bad man...unfair...so mean...you understand...forgive him...don't take him off your list...he knows not...

So absorbed was she in her efforts that she didn't hear her husband come in the front door, call her name so softly that it seemed unwilling, and finally appear behind her in the office doorway. He watched her without interruption, because there was no point. It was a conversation they'd had a hundred times. She wouldn't be dissuaded. And since it made her feel better, he figured there was no harm. He'd just sneak back in later, when she was busy with the baby, find it, and quietly dispose of it like all the others. 

He turned to leave just as she started folding. That was the part that made him saddest. That was the part that was hardest to watch. She took as much notice of his departure as she did of his arrival. She had to focus to get the lines right. Symmetry was everything.

---

He waited until he heard her bathing the baby. Sounds floated down the stairs to the family room, where he sat reading the newspaper, his shoulder muscles gnarled into manifestations of the day's myriad stresses. Splashing. Infant gurgles. His wife's voice, singing and cooing to their child. He set the paper on the sofa beside him, rose, and walked into the dark office. He didn't turn the light on; he didn't need to. He could see it sitting on the floor near the desk, a bright white feat of childish engineering - of fruitless, angry geometry - sitting in a pool of moonlight. It was a lonely coin in a dried up wishing well. It was a gavel banging in an empty courtroom. It was dead and useless where it had landed, after she'd walked to the farthest corner of the office, squinted and bit her lip in concentration, carefully lined up her arm, and sent it sailing across the room, where it had tapped impotently against the glass of the closed window before hitting the ground.

Physics had gotten the best of it.  

He bent down and picked it up, looking it over appreciatively. She'd gotten better. The folds were razor-straight, and the plane's construction was complex. It was unlike anything he'd been able to make as a child, that was for certain. His wife's words crept out onto the wings, branding the aircraft with her indignation and righteousness. ...such a hateful man... He didn't unfold it, though. He knew he'd hear the story later, and that he'd have to emphatically agree that she'd been right, no matter what he secretly believed. The man crumpled the paper into a ball and tossed it into the trash. 

Before he left the office, he stood for a moment in the light beside the window. He ran his hand over the smooth wooden patina of his mother's writing desk, clear and empty once again, patiently awaiting its next mission.

He sighed deeply, feeling sadness wrap itself around him like a straitjacket, and went to join his family upstairs.