by Ilana Masad
Dif.fus.er (ca. 1679) 1: one that diffuses: as a: a device (as a reflector) for distributing the light of a lamp evenly b: a screen (as of cloth or frosted glass) for softening lighting (as in photography) c: a device (as slats at different angles) for deflecting air from an outlet in various directions 2: a device for reducing the velocity and increasing the static pressure of a fluid passing through a system
There is little to dissuade Troy. All the cards are in his hand, extra aces up his sleeve, a poker face to rival the sphinx prepared for the occasion. The planning is complete, the hours of thinking thought, the trial and error tried and erred. Troy is ready. Ready or not, here Troy comes.
The problem is Troy’s wife, Jennine. Jennine is problematic. She’s French, which Troy thinks was the first indication that he was making a mistake by marrying her. He’s wary of the French because their mouths can make shapes that his can’t. He calls it the ee-you-ex. The eux face. Jennine will make it when she’s on the phone talking to her parents in Canada. Not French, asshole, she always tells him when he introduces her. Quebecois. At least say French-Canadian. Troy thinks it’s all the same.
Jennine walks in on Troy the morning of, carrying a plate of eggs and bacon and a glass of orange juice. She places the food on the lawnmower, because Troy is kneeling on a blanket spread with all his gear, and there’s nowhere else to put a plate of food that isn’t the floor. Jennine doesn’t like the floor. Jennine has problems with the floor. Especially in the garage. It’s dirty, she says. Why are you always playing in the dirt? She never says merde, which frustrates Troy. He forgets that she’s French most of the time. French-Canadian. He wishes she’d say merde so he could remember.
Troy tells Jennine that the food is fine on the hood of the lawnmower or on the floor or anywhere, but Jennine says, No, Troy, it’s not fine on the floor. It’s the floor. You do not eat off the floor. Troy rolls his eyes and Jennine snaps. She turns the plate over slowly, deliberately, letting the eggs slip down, the yolk running across Troy’s equipment, the bacon clattering onto it and breaking. I’m leaving now, Jennine says.
Not moving, Troy waits until she closes the door to the house behind her. He can’t eat the eggs but he lifts a piece of bacon from the blanket and blows the dust off. He puts the bacon in his mouth and crunches. It’s good, cooked just like he likes it. This is something Jennine excels at. Jennine has no problems with bacon.
There is egg on his things. The yolk is dripping, but the plopping sound never comes because the blanket soaks it up. Troy watches the droplets and admits that his concentration is now completely broken. He wonders if Jennine is actually leaving. He pulls a handkerchief out of his back pocket—it is immaculately clean, white, belonged to his mother—and wipes the egg off the lead pipe in front of him. He addresses his explosive materials forlornly, telling them they will have to wait for another day. He’ll blow up the place where he works, the place that he hates, another day. He’ll wait for a time when he can concentrate better, when Jennine isn’t being so problematic. He doesn’t want to miss one moment of screaming coworkers running out of the plastics factory, his manager’s white fluffy hair on fire. Troy smiles, reflecting on all the people he hates. He considers them lucky, having been spared this long already.
Troy gets up, knees creaking, and surrenders. He cannot act while Jennine is upset with him. He cannot move forward while she is threatening to leave. Not threatening anymore; leaving, right this second, the front door slamming shut and surprising him. He curses the garage door for being stuck and hurries back into the house, hoping that if he runs after her car for a block or two, she’ll stop, turn around, and come home to him.
About the Author:
Ilana Masad is a queer Israeli-American fiction writer, essayist, and book critic. Her work has appeared in StoryQuarterly, Joyland, The New Yorker, the New York Times, Washington Post, LitHub, and more. She’s the founder and host of The Other Stories, a podcast featuring new, struggling, and established fiction writers. She spends too much time on Twitter @ilanaslightly.
Image via Wellcome Collection (cc).