Ferryboat Rides

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She would not tell her husband about her other man. He said, “Honey, come to the front here, by the bow.” That sort of thing, that sort of lexical insertion—defining words while using them—was one of the things that could annoy her about him. Not to mention calling her ‘Honey’. Dear, Babe, Sugar Plum, when did these ever become okay to use instead of a woman’s name? As if she did not have one, was not “Linda,” and could be called by any of these terms of generic endearment. “I’m down here,” she shouted back, up the stairwell, to the deck. She wasn’t going. “Okay!” he said. Had she been with the other man, she would have gone. She knew that. He was the sort of guy who had taken her to the Island, lit a match behind the cup of his hand when the ship was chugging along, spread his fingers, and when it was blown out whispered in her ear, “I am not the fire but I am the smoke.” Then let the burnt out match fall. But most men, she knew, will go on telling one story their whole lives. And this story they will apply (and they will repeat) to any woman in it. All of them. Rachel also knew, as the ferry was leaving the mainland, that the fate of women was to accommodate themselves over and over to the different men in their lives. To be the same to them. They kept figuring out and adopting themselves to a man’s script. Different demands. Different beds. Different meals. Same plug-in for the men. Different app for the woman. And these became, like ancient memories, though typically silenced, the stories women kept to themselves, sometimes dozens of them. They could keep a whole boatload of them. If necessary. She braced herself for the short, forty-five minute ferry ride, a ride she missed taking now with her other man, and the things he had said to her.

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