I Hate Mary (exerpt)
Written by Charlie Cottrell on Friday the 2nd of July 2010
It is a peculiar feature of dining with my wife,
Mary, that at some point during the course of the meal you will be presented
with the sight of a small fragment of food stuck right into the very corner of
her mouth. In the early days it was one of those things about a lover that you
notice but politely ignore, like morning breath or the fleck of spit that lands
on your face during an enthusiastic conversation. Now I look out for it. A part
of me shudders the moment that she picks up her cutlery because I know it's
going to happen: mouth-hinge food-effluent. It could be anything, milk,
omelette, pasta sauce, it all sticks there. When it's just the two of us, it's
revolting; in company it's mortifying.
At our friend Jack's birthday meal, we
had barely started eating when I spotted it. This time it was mayonnaise. A
greasy, gelatinous blob nestled in just where her top lip met and became her
Once I'd clocked it I couldn't stop staring at it.
I stared at it and she stared back at me like I was going crazy. This didn't
help. Part of my passionate distaste for this dinnertime horror was my refusal
to believe that she couldn't feel it. It became a personal insult to me, like
she encouraged it on purpose to humiliate me in front of our friends. It made
other people feel uncomfortable, too, I was sure of it. The night of Jack's
birthday Mary talked (obviously) while the rest of us watched, gagged by
politeness as the mayonnaise blob glistened shamelessly, catching the light on
its journey up and down, up and down, on her great flapping jaw. Next to her,
Jack's wife, Elaine, dabbed politely at the corner of her own mouth to try and
provoke some subconscious mimicking gesture on Mary's part, but it didn't work.
The blob had won out, the rest of us just had to deal with it.
Under the cover of the visually
impairing mood lighting I positioned my head at such an angle that by closing
my right eye I could completely obliterate my wife from the group. This had the
secondary perk of giving me a full eye-view of the delightful Elaine. Seeing
these two women side by side was like watching a living manifestation of the
extremes of human evolution. Looking through my left eye I regarded Elaine,
poised, genteel, elegant; her hair swept up in a flawless chignon, a single
string of pearls draped around her neck, gently kissing the shapely protrusion
of her collarbone. Switching to my right eye brought Mary back into the
picture; hair noticeably greasy at the roots, a few wayward strands pulled out
from her bun by the clasp on her bracelet that travelled wildly through the air
on her unnecessarily flamboyant gesticulating hand; unpainted fingernails of
varying lengths and to round off the horror, the vitriolic mayonnaise deposit.
I opened both eyes and looked at the two of them together. It was at that
moment I realised calmly and with absolute certainty that I hated Mary.
realisation had dawned during the entrée, the rest of the evening did not look
too promising. I tried to start a breakaway conversation with Jack but every
time Mary caught wind of it she'd shoot me a disgusted look like I'd just taken
out my old fellah and flopped it onto the table, so we all continued to sit in
silence whilst she yakked on. Every once in a while she'd pause to shovel in
food so as to keep up with those of us that were left with nothing to do with
our mouths but eat and make appropriately timed "mmmm”ing noises. Sometimes
Elaine and Jack looked at me, sympathy visible on their perfect faces, which
made me hate Mary even more. Sometimes they looked at each other tenderly. That
made me hate them.
We had been
married for fourteen years. Not long enough to feel like we'd achieved
anything, not short enough to think that there was anything better to come.
Looking back over those fourteen years I'd estimate that I'd hated her, at
least in part, for twelve. The first two years were great. They really were.
Then the little annoyances started to surface. Nothing major. Nothing romantic.
Little things, like mouth-hinge food-effluent, her inability to coordinate
clothes, in fact her lack of interest in personal aesthetics at all. When we
first met I liked that she was fresh faced and full of beans, not like those
other girls at college who were always fussing over their hair and makeup and
fingernails. But as the years went on she stopped looking like the carefree
girl next door and started to look like the weird woman from the car-park by
Tesco. She started to fill out; her hair, untouched by professional hands grew
wiry and wild and cried out for proper colouring. Her opinionated outbursts,
once the highlight of her feisty appeal, grated as she added cause after cause
to her relentless battle for worthiness. One time I got into a car crash on the
motorway. It was a proper pile up, a pretty big deal. The five cars immediately
in front of me had concertinaed into each other. I had swerved into the central reservation but the airbag
and sturdy German engineering saved me from anything worse than whiplash and a
write-off. The first of the survivors, I had to sit there as fire-teams cut the
lifeless bodies of the five other drivers out of their mangled vehicles. Four
hours later they had cleared the debris enough for the rest of us to go home. I
was driven back by a sympathetic tow-truck driver called Brian. On the way home
Brian had to stop for petrol and picked me up a coffee from McDonald's for my
nerves. When I got home Mary was waiting at the door for me. She looked at my
pale face, the wrecked car being unhooked from the tow-truck and the coffee cup
in my hand. "We're going to McDonalds again are we?” she said.