Sometimes Sam and I loved each other more when we were angry. “Day,” I called him, using the surname instead of Sam. “Day, Day, Day!” It drummed against the walls of the apartment like a distress signal.
“Ah, my beautiful lovebird,” he said. “My sugar-sweet bride.”
For weeks I had been going through the trash trying to find out whether he had other women. Once I found half a ham sandwich with red marks that could have been lipstick. Or maybe catsup. This time I found five slender cigarette butts.
“Who smokes floral-embossed cigarettes?” I said. He had just come out of the shower, and droplets of water gleamed among the black hairs of his chest like tiny knife points. “Who’s the heart-attack candidate you invite over when I’m out?” I held the butts beneath his nose like a small bouquet. He slapped them to the floor and we stopped speaking for three days. We moved through the apartment without touching, lay stiffly in separate furrows of the bed, desire blooming and withering between us like the invisible petals of a night-blooming cereus.
We finally made up while watching a chess tournament on television. Even though we wouldn’t speak or make eye contact, we were sitting in front of the sofa moving pieces around a chess board as an announcer explained World Championship strategy to the viewing audience. Our shoulders touched but we pretended not to notice. Our knees touched, and our elbows. Then we both reached for the black bishop and our hands touched. We made love on the carpet and kept our eyes open so that we could look at each other defiantly.