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One-Person Tent
One-Person Tent

Z. Hanna Mahon

The therapist recommended we stop using Google for a week and start posing our questions to each other instead. All of them. Said this would help with the distance that we had each written about in our intake forms.


“Not knowing,” she said, pushing her glasses back up her tiny nose, “can be sexy.”


how not knowing sexy, I texted my husband as he sat next to me on the subway ride home. I waited for a tilty shoulder look but he remained a mound of coat and hat. When he started typing, his puffy coat pushed against my pea one.


what do you do when your wife doesn’t love you anymore, he sent back.


jack, I wrote in response, can we please give this a try.
                                                

                                                              
The next few days weren’t sexy, but at least there was something new to pay attention to—mainly the itch to Google and the pain of not being able to scratch.


actor detective show rapist girlfriend real life age, I texted my husband while he was asleep next to me. Followed two hours later by: insomnia symptom cancer thyroid lupus.


The next day at work I sent the following:


fatigue mid-thirties periperimenopause
how much spend baby shower gift

song “la la dee dee la la do”
song la la dee dee la la do “and you cried and you cried and you cried”

“chris evans” “chris pine” chris with big arms
excel freeze top row more than one row
googling addiction
attention spans research brain chemicals


I got no responses or googles in return.


“Jack,” I said that night, as he heated up his leftover borscht and I assembled my salad of mustard greens. Our hallway kitchen made it impossible for our bodies not to touch.


“I know,” he said back. He put his finger into the pink soup. “Give me time.”
 

***


The next morning, after sorting through my boss’s receipts and sending several googles to my husband about median age median salary woman assistant america and two years quit job too early, I received his first search:


hardcore furry porn


I couldn’t believe it. I laughed out loud and quickly googled back:


when husband is into furries tips


why is my wife eating out of a dog bowl, he replied.


husband furry or not, I sent, mixed messages what he want.


The bubble popped up that meant he was typing. Watching the ellipsis ripple inside that soft pillow, imagining the eager fingers that egged it on, was suddenly the most erotic experience of my life.

     

When his bubble disappeared, I waited another few minutes before going back to work. I held the phone to my third eye. I looked at it. I picked at the grey gunk clogging its holes. Later, when I used the bathroom, the thickness of the wipe reminded me of what we’d lost.


I didn’t send my husband any searches the rest of the day, but I didn’t Google anything either. I had the sense that as soon as I did, that would be it.
 

***


The next day we went to his sister’s baby shower. On the train he read a book on his crotch and I looked around at all the people, wondering how they each decided to invest in their particular coat.
When we got to his sister’s door, my husband turned to me, the first time that day.


“I haven’t told her about what’s going on,” he said.


“I won’t say anything,” I said back. “She’s your family.” He looked at me with so much pain for a second that I almost clawed at his face. But then we were inside and one of Beth’s friends was stuffing balloons inside our shirts so we were pregnant, too.


“Trouble at work?” Beth asked when we were alone together by the snacks, lifting her Pepto-Bismol-like drink toward my husband. He was standing by the Pin the Poopy Diaper on the Dad Station and staring at the floor. Pastel people were bunched up around him, making exaggerated gestures with their hands.


“Not sure,” I said back, eyes still on him. The balloon was making my stomach itch. I took a sip of my drink.


“It’s so fucking annoying when he gets mopey like that,” she said. “I don’t know how you put up with it.” I shrugged my shoulders. She rubbed her belly. Her husband came over and rubbed her belly, too, putting his cheek against hers and whispering something soft into her ear.


ways to cheer up a mopey husband, I googled while we were back on the train, another sad attempt at nudging out a response. His phone buzzed. He didn’t even pull it out of his pocket to look.


Later, while walking the dog, a text did come in: we need garbage bags.
 

***


I met up with a friend at a nearby bar that night. She said things about last straw and better for both of you. Things she’d said many times before.


“But what if, if I just figured out how to—” I started to say, leaning in close to her, my fourth beer wet in my hand.


“Girl,” she interrupted, leaning in toward me, too. “You’re his wife, not a doula for his pain.” She looked at me in the eyes for a long time after that and I looked back.


“I really have to pee,” I told her, eventually, with my cheek pressed against hers.


On my way to the bathroom, I realized that what I really needed was to go home right now, and walked out through the back employee door into the cold, the wind mean against my face.


I pulled out my phone as I walked. No messages from my husband. I opened my email, too, just in case. Nothing there. Suddenly I felt very sick and bent down on the grey cement. The dark street was pulsing to the beat in my ears. I closed my eyes.


When I looked up again, Google was open on my phone.


The bright homepage showed a small woman in white standing beneath a bushy tree. GOOGLE was spelled out above the tree in blinking pink stars. My heart started pounding in a way that made me hold my hand to it. I took a breath and then clicked on the image with my thumb.


A results page opened up. I felt sick again and bent back toward the ground. It wasn’t a real search, I told myself, I could still take it back.


I clicked on the first link.


The woman in white was a Polish social worker. This would have been her 110th birthday. Google thought this was worth celebrating. She spent her life helping those in need and tending to her sycamore trees. I loved Google and I loved the social worker, too. I needed to be closer to her.


social work career path, I typed. For a moment I paused. The cold spread from my bare fingers down toward my palm.


I pressed go.


The results came up, as they always did. I didn’t need more than that. I breathed in the hyperlinked headings and then started my next search.


top social work schools, I entered. Followed by:


where buy sycamore seedss
etymnology sycamore
mulberries taste
how submit images google homepage artist
art classess nyc
easy to learn hobbies
how old too old start rock climbig
hiking groups near me
camping gear
one-person tent

 

***


I got home late. My husband was still awake, sitting on the couch with his book in his crotch. The lamplight was aimed down so I couldn’t see his face.


“I need to talk to you,” I said, dropping my bag and coat in a heap.


“You’re drunk,” he said, without looking up.


“I used Google,” I said. I could feel his dark shape get still.


“Guess that experiment didn’t work,” he said, eventually. His tone was a scared person trying not to be.


I walked over to him and moved the lamplight onto his face. There was nothing new there. I sat down next to him.


“I’m done, Jack,” I said, rubbing my face to make the cold go away. “I’m really done this time.”


“No,” he said, and then he was grabbing for me in the dark, pulling me toward him. When I stayed limp, he got on top of me, straddled me, used his hands to make my face look at his face. I tried to look away but his hands wouldn’t let me.


Stop, I said, but it came out as tears. I squeezed my eyes closed. I couldn’t look anymore. His body was so heavy on my legs. He was breathing such jagged breaths. He let go of my head, fumbled around in his pockets, and when I opened my eyes, his phone was in front of my face. how to make your marriage work, it said in a new blue message beneath all the rest.


how to be a better husband, he typed and shoved toward me again.


how to be the best husband
how to make your wife not give up
please don’t give up
oh god
please don’t give up


I turned off the light.
 

Z. HANNA MAHON is a writer living in Washington, DC.