On Not Weighing the Moral Turpitudes
of Common Man

by Channie Greenberg


I sigh as I watch Brenda’s winsome butt blur as she stomps down the street. Her jiggly belly, which protrudes over her jeans, is more alluring than a kiosk’s worth of cover models’ taut stomachs. Her slim, flaccid breasts are more beguiling than are the fleshy, well-taped counterparts of beauty-pageant queens. In short, my loved one is the most sumptuous of women. Brenda is an enchantress.

* * *

When we first met, in the university’s science library, where dated issues of biochemistry journals were housed, none of which had been copied onto microfiche or were available as PDF files, and where classic treatises on discursive analysis, whose pages reached all the way back to the 1970s, were stored, we smiled at each other and even removed our respective reading glasses. Brenda had been preoccupied with finding answers to her questions about ferromagnetic types of coupling in tungsten. I had been busy looking up arcane notes on Cicero’s commentary on Julius Caesar.

During that time, Brenda neither screamed at her house pets nor tried to lynch assistant deans; she was not yet pregnant. Before me, she had not ever bedded a man. Her former suitors had mocked her saggy bosom and broad thighs and had been repulsed by her ability to tabulate the spectral, static and dynamic magnetic properties of the Lanthan Series, inclusive, in tandem with sipping cola or eating fries. As a result, a few days after our hushed exchange among the bookshelves, our discourse about the possibility of our joining together on intimate discoveries caused my lady to blush.

We were speaking of sweat and semen while inserting nickels and dimes into the machines that would churn Brenda’s clothes. Lingering first over the launderette’s detergent dispensers and then over the displays in a nearby florist shop, we deigned to draw word pictures about scents and positions. It didn’t hurt our imaginations that, across from the purveyor of flowers, stood a dry goods shop complete with a soap “bar.” As we sampled those slivers of washing compound, I told my heart’s foil that I was greedy with a desire to deconstruct more than her sentences.

Thus, we found ourselves, clean linens and shirts folded nearby, on a fur-splattered comforter exploring a majority of prepositions. Brenda’s felines farted, but otherwise left us in peace. We repeated that delving into tactic semiology roughly twice a week, for about half of a year. Then, our tenses shifted.

Initially, Brenda did not apprise me of our pregnancy. Merely, when we passed each other on campus sidewalks, she broadcast solid rhetorical sensibilities or otherwise admonished me to bring her gold trinkets, bejeweled gifts or handcrafted letter papers.

At the time, I was guest lecturing for the Albright Humanities Series on possible ways and means for politicians to improve their communication. I was busy writing applications for funding, which would extend my labors to include campaign workshops and the like. For her part, Brenda was nose-deep in theoretical physics, being more enamored of what she could exact from nanometer-sized molecular systems than from her cats or from me.

Hence, after Brenda murmured across her ice cream-stained sheets that she was with child, I made a mental note to redouble my efforts to serve on panels at international conferences. Men understand that a pregnant mistress is the stuff of personal downfall.

A mere fortnight later, I recanted. My wife was a good woman and an expert mother to my sons. She was a tidy housekeeper and a decent cook, too. Yet, my spouse lacked Brenda’s swaying jowls and explosive personality. Said simply, Madge would be hard-put to provide useful predictions for systems of finite quantum spin. In addition, most often, my legal partner scowled instead of laughed when I punned about the verities of Wadsworth’s implicit rancor.

A goodly liege, I offered to Brenda that I would divorce my wife and take upon myself the greater portion of responsibility for urgencies such as a marriage license and blood tests. My valiantry was at least temporarily to no avail; Brenda was not interested in coupling and was even more dubious about maintaining our pregnancy.

In fact, she had no concern about whether or not I claimed responsibility for our offspring. As a product of 1980s graduate schools, my significant other had been tainted by the academy’s pejoratives, had become permanently bothered by the unchallenged social constructs of professors including but not limited to the use of the appellation “fetus files” for untested ideas, and the substandard pay with which female practitioners had to contend. Brenda was convinced that such artifacts portended how she would fare with a professorial husband.

More to the point, after whispering her news to me, my fair flower proceeded to kick me squarely in the jewels. She then grunted out the addendum that the other women on her magnetic molecule team believed that the dead ought to stay buried, and that males, especially the intellectual sort, came in only two shades of good; no good and good for nothing. Also, she rejoined, barrier devices ought to be regarded as unreliable.

As I knelt over and puked, the light of my celestial sky implored me to store my “good advice” within the confines of my office and to leave her apartment as soon as I could stand. Less than half of an hour later, I took my leave of that progesterone and estrogen-driven woman

Given our intertwined psyches, banishing me meant to Brenda more than expunging the former filling of my stomach before her cats could sup upon those toothsome bits. It meant, as well, sending a few of her academically borderline undergrads to dump gelatin in my swimming pool and to steal my sons’ candy allowance.

Although Madge interrogated both the elementary school’s crossing guards and the clerk at the drugstore, where my boys usually bought their weekly supply of fruit rolls and of chocolate-covered ginger, Madge garnered no clues as to the identity of the bullies. Per the pool, my wife made me clean it.

Brenda’s attempts at terminating the romance we had sewn together and at signing off from me altogether left me damaged. Suddenly my soul was bereft of the singular instance of creation, which, more than any fruit-laden tree, bright sunrise, or soaring bird, had brought me happiness.

Ill with compensatory motions, such as eating new bonbons and drinking old bourbon, such as receiving four-handed massage, and such as buying up much of the inventory of the local haberdashery, I remained adrift. What’s more, no pretty coed or loyal bloodhound pup could make up for my missed lovely.

While I fawned over select Internet sites, watched the grass grow and tried to understand why most “great literature” focuses, to some extent, on adultery successful or otherwise, Brenda gestated. The more replete with hormones she became, the less alarmed she seemed about shatterering the well-being of others.

Rumor, as was circulated in the faculty dining room, held that my little chicken was single-handedly destroying the careers of half of the members of the College of Science and was, via spiteful postings in professional newsletters, both print and electronic, embarrassing other important persons.

Brenda’s coursing body chemistry, allegedly, had even caused her to be excused from the review board of American Molecule. Specifically, the good professor, her heart aflutter and her cognitions compromised, suddenly seemed unable to prepare even a rudimentarily acceptable critique of others’ industry.

Reliable sources claimed that the publication’s chief editor had asked Brenda to attempt nominal acknowledgments of her colleagues’ research before slashing their findings. When my core’s desire couldn’t or wouldn’t abide by that request, she was relieved of her position.

Around that time I tried once more to court my darling. I had witnessed my mother’s passage through the pregnancy of my ten younger siblings, and believed, based on that evidence, that Brenda’s state was both temporary and accidental. It was less that my dear heart meant to disdain eminent scientists than it was that her expanding fundus was creating havoc in her brain. It would be wrong to abandon a beloved when she was loopier than sugary cereals.

Therefore, I had no compunction about using my key to her apartment or about laundering her bathrobe and bunny slippers, cooking a two-gallon pot of miso soup and dusting the figurines above her piano. My heartfire’s ability to employ her cerebral assets or to continue to assist junior members of her discipline were as nothing if her self-care continued to be neglected.

Brenda was not pleased with my machinations. Upon finding me stroking her cats while humming a sonata by Rimsky-Korsakov, she spat at me, hitting me skillfully in the face. She hissed that she would work to bring me to early retirement and demanded that I immediately hand over my copy of her apartment’s key.

I begged to stay around long enough to clean the pots and to empty the litter box. My marchioness turned her radio to a frequency of static and then tossed each of her porcelain statues into a wastebasket, from a height that insured they would shatter. Thereafter, she ripped up a complete jumbo pack of toilet tissue and scattered those bits throughout her salon. She poured the contents of a carton of milk, whose expiration date had already become suspect, all over the chair in which I used to nap, too.

I counseled myself not to despair. Rather, I tucked the hand soap back into its dish, folded the rag I had used to dry some cutlery, bundled up the bag of spent kitty clay, took my hat and overcoat out of the hall closet and quietly shut Brenda’s door behind me. Months passed before I again was able to bask in the luminosity of her face.

By then, my former gal pal was perceptibly thick with child. According to campus gossip, she was continuing to link causalities together in “creative” ways. Her dean tried to mitigate the ends of Brenda’s actions by sending my flame on an unscheduled sabbatical, but was confounded by Brenda’s showing up at her lab four days per week anyway. That my adorable physicist had morphed into a creature so incapable of acting according to social norms and so powerless to understand the consequences of her behavior had me fantasizing, for a full five minutes, of sending her home to Madge for discipline.

Regardless, a few weeks before her due date, Brenda’s waters broke. Though her department secretary mentioned natural causes, I still wonder whether or not one of Brenda’s weaker-minded peers tipped measures to insure that my much adored one would suffer a C-section. The graduate assistants working in Brenda’s lab remained tight-lipped about such an eventuality. As for her department mates, they groaned upon hearing her name, but elsewise admitted to no depravity.

As it was, Brenda birthed a healthy baby girl, whom she immediately handed over to the hospital authorities for adoption. By the time I arrived at her bedside, equipped with daylilies, her favorite type of cinnamon-sprinkled doughnuts and good coffee, she was willing to show me her scar. Six weeks later, after her ob-gyn okayed her return to regular ambulation I separated from Madge and moved in with Brenda.

* * *

These days, I putter around our hedgerow’s posies and grow as fat as those felines who insist on sitting on, rather than next to, the dining room table. My prime reason for living invented no account for that period when she was a tad taxing, insisting instead that there is no reason why the resources of the few ought to be mustered for the good of the ingenious. Males, in Brenda’s esteem, still rot.

To wit, she deleted the file in which she recorded the apology she wrote to her department chair, shreds unread all new issues of American Molecule, and gets more NIS funding than whole campuses worth of scientists combined. Academics, she purrs, as she fingers my chest hair or sings all manners of nothings into my ears, harbor an unfortunate inability to adjust their expectations to suit the needs of pregnant women.

I shush her when she speaks that way, being careful not to sound the scold. Her glamour, from her pimply face to her abundance of adipose tissue, still allures me. Madge got the house and the boys. I, on the other hand, acquired a fragile blossom whose otherworldly mentality ought never to be compromised by the moral turpitudes of common men.


Copyright © 2012 by Channie Greenberg

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