“Open the box,” said Henry.
“You bought me something?”
“It seemed like you needed a little pick me up. Last night you were saying the pandemic was making you feel hopeless. I thought this would help.”
The box was the color of brown craft paper and it was tied with natural twine ribbon. It smelled like patchouli.
Marissa hated the scent of patchouli. It reminded her of a faux hippie girl named Star who had stolen her boyfriend during sophomore year of college.
She opened the box and there lay a gray stone with the word HOPE inscribed on it.
“The salesgirl said you just hold the rock in your hand, focusing your mind on things that bring you joy while massaging it.”
“Wow, well…this is pretty cool. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. I’m going on a run now, wanna Netflix at 9?”
Henry kissed Marissa on the tip of her nose.
When he left the house in his olive Lulu Lemon running shorts, Marissa called her best friend Nica.
“Henry gave me a rock that says HOPE.”
“Oh my god, those gray ones right? The ones that say things like LOVE and GRATITUDE. Are they even real rocks? I’m sorry, that gift couldn’t be less you.”
“I know. And I feel like a horrible person because I don’t feel grateful. Whenever Henry buys me a gift I feel like it shows that he doesn’t really know me, like he doesn’t pay attention to who I truly am and that feels so shitty.”
“I totally get it. Like last Christmas when he bought you plaid, flannel pajamas – I wanted to strangle him.”
“Oh I forgot about those. I ended up wearing them all winter because what am I going to do? I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.”
“Marissa, maybe you need to hurt his feelings. Maybe you need to scream ‘this is who I am! I need you to really see me.’ Feeling seen is all most of us want anyways.”
“You’re right. Why are you so damn wise? What are you and Jen up to tonight?”
“It’s date night, so we’re trying out that new Mexican restaurant downtown. Hopefully the tables will be spaced out. I’m not comfortable eating inside restaurants yet, but Jen really wants to go and we’re vaccinated, so…”
“You’ll be fine. Have fun and give my love to Jen.”
“Will do. Enjoy your rock tonight.”
Marissa put the HOPE rock on her desk in her office, then took a shower and applied a charcoal mask.
“What happened to your face?” asked Henry dripping sweat on their bedroom floor.
“It’s a charcoal face mask, it helps to clear out the pores.”
“You know that’s all bullshit right? None of that stuff actually works. It’s just skincare companies taking advantage of womens’ insecurities,” Henry said as he peeled off his drenched running gear.
Please stop talking.
“Do you mind not taking off your sweaty running clothes in the bedroom? It smells up the whole space,” Marissa said from her side of the bed where she was relaxing.
“You’re in a mood tonight.”
Marissa couldn’t stand the smell so she went downstairs, grabbing a washcloth and towel from the linen closet on her way. When it was time she wiped off the mask with the warm cloth, then followed with a splash of cold water. She dried her skin and inspected herself in the hallway mirror. Her pores looked smaller and clearer and she felt good. What the hell does Henry know about charcoal face masks anyway?
She poured herself a glass of Pinot Noir and settled on the couch with her new book, “H is for Henrietta.”
“Are you going to read that whole series about witches?”
“I don’t understand what you like about those books.”
“I don’t understand what you like about the war books you read.”
“Where’s your HOPE rock? Aren’t you keeping it with you?”
“Um no, it’s on my desk.”
“Well you can always grab it if you need it.”
“I will, thanks.”
“Do you want to watch that new documentary about the opioid crisis?”
“Not really, life is upsetting enough right now.”
Who is this man? What is wrong with him? Why did I marry him?
Henry poured himself a glass of wine and sat down on the couch.
“What about Justin Theroux’s new show on Apple TV?”
A quarter of the way through the first episode, Marissa asked:
“Why didn’t we try harder to have children? I feel like we gave up too soon.”
“Can we just watch the show and discuss this later. Not that there’s anything to discuss, we’re better off not having kids – the world is a disaster.”
Marissa got up and opened another bottle of wine, even though the first one was still half full.
“That’s a really expensive bottle, why are you opening it?” Henry asked, his voice tinged with irritation.
“Because we’re living in a fucking pandemic that’s never going to end so why not drink the good stuff?!”
“You’re spiralling. You need your HOPE rock.”
“I hate that rock! You should know that I would hate that rock, you’ve been with me for ten years. I feel like a cardboard cut-out wife that you just project things onto. Like you think your wife should like HOPE rocks and plaid pajamas and rock climbing and Patagonia and cheap wine and fake diamond stud earrings and being childless and being pet-less. But I’m not that person. Why don’t you see me? Why don’t you want to see me?”
“Just because it’s a pandemic doesn’t give you the right to lose your shit. Get it together. And if you don’t like something, speak the hell up. How am I supposed to know that you don’t like Patagonia jackets?”
“Because I read British, French and American Vogue magazine every month. Because I’ve dressed beautifully every day of the pandemic instead of wearing sweatpants. That’s why you should know.”
“I can’t talk with you when you’re this emotional. If you want to calm down and have a rational discussion after the show is over that’s fine, otherwise I’m putting the headphones on.”
“Put them on then. I’ll read my witch novel and maybe I’ll find a spell that I can cast to turn YOU into a freaking HOPE rock.”
And hour later Marissa was in bed, still reading “H is for Henrietta” and still fuming.
Henry came into the bedroom and lay down.
“I had a vasectomy when I was 28. I’m sorry. I never wanted children.”
Marissa felt her face morph into “The Scream” by Edvard Munch.
“When we were first dating you told me you wanted two kids.”
“I lied; I was in love with you.”
Marissa opened her bedside table drawer and took half a sedative.
“You shouldn’t take a pill, you’ve had wine, you – “
Marissa shot Henry a death stare.
“Okay let’s just go to sleep. We’ll talk in the morning when we’re fresh. We can’t let this pandemic tear us apart. I just read an article about how Covid stress is causing the divorce rate to skyrocket.”
Marissa didn’t answer. Applying her favorite Dr. Haushka lip balm in the dark, she was thinking about the time she told Henry that she liked the names Olive and Ryder for their children and how he had agreed enthusiastically.
“I know I just told you something shocking and you have every right to hate me right now. But just know that I lied because I was scared of losing you. I love you Marissa. I’m just as in love with you now as I was ten years ago. And I’m sorry about the HOPE rock.”
Marissa applied more lip balm.
“I know we’re childless, but we don’t have to be pet-less.”
Marissa was starting to dose off, her mind tranquil like it had been glazed with marshmallow fluff.
“We could adopt a cat.”