In memory of Marilyn French (d. Saturday 2 May, 2009)
"Absolutely not," Norm said.
"Norm, poor Samantha!"
"I feel very very sorry for Samantha" he said solemnly, "but I'll be goddamned if I'm going to lay out my hard-earned money to help that creep Simp."
"You wouldn't be helping Simp. He doesn't even live there now."
"He owns the house, doesn't he? It would be different if I thought he'd ever repay it, but from what you say, he's a loser and a stupid bastard, and I'd never see that money again."
"Oh, Norm, what difference does it make? We have plenty."
"That's easy for you to say. That money comes out of my hide."
"What do you think I do all day? What have I done all these years? I work as hard as you do."
"Oh, come off it, Mira."
"What do you mean, come off it?" Her voice rose wildly. "Am I not an equal participant in this marriage? Don't I contribute to it?"
"Of course you do," he said placatingly, but there was an edge of disgust in his voice. "but you contribute different things. You don't contribute money."
"My work enables you to make that money!"
"Oh, Mira, don't be ridiculous. Do you think I need to you to do my work? I could live anywhere, I could have a housekeeper, or live in a hotel. I support your way of life by my work, not the reverse."
"And I have nothing to say about how it's spent?"
"Of course you do. Don't I give you everything you want?"
"I don't know. I never seem to want anythng."
"Do I complain about your bills for clothes, or the kids' music lessons or camp?"
"I want this, then. I want three hundred dollars for Samantha."
"No, Mira. And that's the end of it." He stood up and left the room, and in a few minutes, she heard the shower running. He was going out to a meeting that evening.
She stood up too, and only then did she realize her whole body was shaking. She held on to the back of the kitchen chair. She wanted to pick it up, she wanted to race pstairs with it and smash open the bathroom door and crash it down on his head. She glanced at a carving knife lying on the counter, and imagined picking it up and stabbing it into his heart, stabbing it over and over and over. She was breathing in little gasps.
She felt that he had eradicated her. He was annoyed that she did not understand her powerlessness. How had it happened, that he had all the power? She remembered the evening she had sat in a rocking chair deciding to die. She had power then. The power to die, anyway. She felt that she could not fight him. She could not give that money to Samantha without his permission. Yet somehow if she didn't that would be the end of something. She had allowed him to close out her friends from their life, and that had shrunk her, but if she allowed him to do this, she would really be eradicated. But she could not move.
When he came back downstairs dressed freshly to go out, he glanced at her standing in the kitchen.
"I may be late, so don't wait up," he said in a normal voice, as though nothing had happened. He pecked her cheek as he passed her and went out the kitchen door to the garage. She though of running out and locking the garage door, forcing him to sit in the car breathing in carbon monoxide. She was astounded at the images that were popping into her head.
One of the boys came tearing into the kitchen. "Hey, Mom, the Good Humor man's here, can I have a quarter?"
She turned on him like a vindictive fury: "No!" she shrieked.
She had fallen asleep when the boys came bounding in crying out at her, "Mom, you didn't wake us up! Mom, we're gonna be late!"
They were running around grabbing books, yelling at her and each other.
"We didn't even have breakfast," Normie said reproachfully.
She sat and looked at him. "You never eat it anyway."
He stopped and blinked at her. He recognised some change. But there was no time to pursue it, and they took off to run the mile to the bus stop since obviously she was not going to drive them. She sat there with a nasty smile on her face, then got up and fixed herself some coffee. Afterward, she took a shower and dressed and took her checkbook and went out to the car and drove to Samantha's house and handed her a check for $350. "A little extra to tide you over," she explained. "Actually, I can't explain, but it's for me, not you."
She entered the amount and recipient in large letters in their joint checkbook. But Norm did not mention it, not ever.
Marilyn French, The Women's Room, 1977.