Caleb Washburn The Neighbor

The first time my mother made love
with another woman, she did it
because of an unsaid bet. Because of a dare.
She let the neighbor go down on her
because of all the snide looks her then-
husband gave her every time the neighbor
came over drunk and flirted with her,
the way the woman's hands rested casually
on my mother's shoulder, and how
they'd squeeze her when the neighbor laughed,
like she was all those hands ever wanted
to hold. My mother wanted this,
she wanted her husband dead, and
she didn't spend a lot of time thinking
about the possible kinds of retribution.
Understand that my mother loves the way
Lot's wife stands like an exclamation
point in the desert at the end
of her story. She told me when I
was young that God would only turn
a person to salt for looking back
at Sodom if the city had nothing
left to give her; how could she have known
that I would later anger her by only
loving men? How could she know
how many nights I would feel myself
turn to salt for looking? the bitterness
of my tongue in my mouth swelling.
I hope she, too, had her head under
the blankets that first night, that she
hadn't been turned all spite, all anger
by her husband, but that instead she felt
herself in the moment of pleasure
from a tongue that wants to unmake
you. And the fact that she returned
at least a few times to her neighbor's
bed. Who is to say what real punishment is?
I find myself feeling the most sympathy
for the woman spurned, though, the neighbor.
God, she really was crazy about my mother.


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