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Bout de Souffle
Out of Breath
Fox Trot Ballad
Great. Another stain. Another smudge of lipstick.

I gently rub my thumb over the dark, incriminating red lips on the left shoulder of my husband’s blue pinstriped shirt left in the hamper from days ago. I really ought to confront him about it, but I can’t bring myself to do it. It’s not that simple. The marriage is my security.

Most nights he comes home, he seems so dazed. Completely out of it. Is what he does really that mesmerizing?

I’ve been trying different ways to get the lipstick off his clothes. Regular washing just doesn’t work. I search online for a solution. People seem to agree that blotting the smudge with alcohol and carefully massaging in dishwashing detergent with a finger before washing should really work.

I’m doing this right now.

On the radio is some old American classic, “Guilty.” On the television is the news, France 2, the national station. Over the clarinet interlude, I hear the reporter discussing the recent flux in organized crime. Over the first muffled old verse, I hear the reporter discussing the political unrest in French Guiana.

Maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong,
Loving you, dear, like I do,
If it’s a crime then I’m guilty,
Guilty of loving you.

I put the clothes in the wash. Now I’ve got nothing to do for the 50 minute cycle but watch television.

That’s what you do when you haven’t got a job and your husband is out doing whatever he does to make money. This week is a business trip to Algeria. Your only option is to clean the apartment. Rearrange the sock drawer. Wash the lipstick stains out of your husband’s shirts and ties. You do all this with a television blaring in the background. At least you’re keeping up with news at the same time. You hear reporters talk about mafia crime lords, cocaine rings in lower Paris, mysterious strings of murders. You hear the newsman talk about a coup in French Guiana, parties like the Union for a Popular Movement and the Walwari Committee, names like Jose Dorcy and Christine Taubira-Delanon. What this has to do with you, you don’t know. There’s got to be something more to this, you start to think.

But this political babble keeps a mind off of what’s really happening.

It’s when I take the blue pinstriped shirt out of the wash that I realize none of the little household tips I read about removing lipstick ever work. This is the third attempt at a solution. The red smudge is fading more and more. Blurring, still spreading. I can no longer tell if it was a pair of lips in the first place. Really, I don’t remember.

Hah, what if it wasn’t lipstick?

I think about how my husband has been acting rather odd lately. Coming home in silent delirium, he completes his set of default actions. Rather normally, too normally, hanging his overcoat in the foyer, gingerly climbing the stairs, shuffling down the hall, leaving his shoes in the corner by the chair with his watch set on the bureau, tie over the back cushion, on and on. He’s like a zombie, acting but not thinking, ripping into the throat of a victim because of an undying urge, but the mind is elsewhere. I wish I knew where his mind was each night.

Hah. What if it wasn’t lipstick?

Breaking News on France 2. The leader of the newly established and instated Union for a Popular Movement party, Jose Dorcy, was assassinated while on a yacht from an unknown location on shore in French Guiana. Investigators suspect political motives. Well, that usually seems to be the case with politicians.

Assassination. Mysterious string of murders. Political unrest. Flux in organized crime. Jose Dorcy is famous for his strong anti-cocaine exportation stance. A sound clip: “I will not tolerate the illegal drug trade to and from overseas.” The Walwari Party and its close ties to the Radical Left Party in France. All of these facts, just blurred in the background as the stain in the blue pinstriped shirt blurs with each wash.

Hah. What if it wasn’t lipstick?

What if my husband came home with blood on his shirt?

I do a quick search for household tips on removing blood from fabric. Dab the stain with hydrogen peroxide. Let it sit for a minute, then dab with a towel soaked with cool water. Then wash.

I’m doing this right now.

I’ve got a 30 minute quick-wash cycle. My love, my marriage, even my sanity could be jeopardized depending on the outcome of this half hour. While the machine fills with water, I hear the reporter discussing the possible link between drug trafficking and the assassination. While the agitator agitates away, I hear a crackly but famous French classic. And when this half hour is over, if it is indeed blood and not lipstick, the stain will be gone.

Si tu n'étais pas là
Comment pourrais-je vivre
Je ne connaîtrais pas
Ce bonheur qui m'enivre

And then I might have a bigger problem to deal with.

It’s all coming slowly together in my head. And I don’t want it to.

Say my husband comes home every night, almost always with a new bloodstain on his shirt. He’s gone the entire day, and when he comes home, he seems depressed. Unmotivated. Out of it. He is all too vague about his job. He votes liberally. He doesn’t like discussing the mafia. In fact he turns the television off when something is mentioned. The mafia, the blood, the politics.

The business trips. Algeria, Lebanon before it. Switzerland, the United States, Japan, and the list keeps going. I’ve never gotten a souvenir. I’ve never even been invited. “They’re business trips. If you want a job with the company, I suppose I could pull some strings,” he says sarcastically. His coming home and going out are as mysterious as the motives behind the assassination of Jose Dorcy. “Besides, you’re expecting. Why start working now?”

How convenient for him! I wouldn’t be able to do anything anymore. Keep the mother occupied at home with the child so the mob hits can continue.

It’s all come together. He’s a hitman. It’s all making sense. The unsettled territory in south French Guyana, that’s where they produce the cocaine that shipped to the Parisian drug rings. That’s how the mafia wins their income, and throws bribes to the political left to keep their supporters in power, keep the exportation laws unchecked.

That’s why my husband had to kill Jose Dorcy.

That’s why I’ll never get a souvenir from Algeria.

The laundry is almost done and I’m waiting anxiously for that buzzer to go off. Ah, there it is. I dig in. This is it. The moment of truth.

The red smudge is still there.

I toss the shirt back on the ironing board, and return to my computer. I need to find another tip on how to remove lipstick.

Everybody chases rainbows,
Looking for a bluebird blue,
Most of us in time find rainbows,
Funny, dear, what love can do.

If I don’t get this lipstick out of his shirt, my husband is going to figure it out. He’ll know I’ve been wearing his shirts. I need to get my mistress’ lipstick out before he notices it tomorrow morning.

i remeber this you showed me this a long time ago. still good.
» your_in_safe_mode on 2006-06-24 04:30:15

I'm not sure if that's supposed to be a story, or a slice of your life. Either way, very well written.
» Praetorian on 2006-06-24 08:40:35

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