The Missing Wife published in Broken Pencil Winter 1999
Larry J. was someone I’d say was very ordinary except for his jet-black hair. It was thick and shiny. He drove a ‘58 Chevy but only on the weekends. He sold computers. Our knowledge of each other came during humid summer nights, sitting on his porch, listening to crickets and dogs.
“I’m concerned about buttons”, I said one evening.
“Yes…how are they made, who makes them, where do old buttons end up?”
It was easier to talk to his wife. In fact, she picked me up at the hospital following some minor surgery on my right knee. During our ride home, I suggested that she change her hair style. She said she would consider it. At Christmas, I had them over for drinks. We exchanged gifts. But the next year, we didn’t.
When Larry’s wife disappeared, it confirmed my feeling about the situation. When the police questioned me I confessed to the crime of loving Larry too much.
I tried to break into Larry’s home so that I could sleep in my own bed. This time the police arrested me and drove me to the local hospital where I spent the night.
“How are you Mr.P.?” The nurse was an older man, steel-gray hair, wire rim glasses.
“Please, call me Debbie.”
He gave me a flirtatious look even though I hadn’t put on my face. I used my fingers to brush back my hair, a mix of a wig and my own. “You will be amazed at how pretty I can look.”
He put his finger to his mouth to silence me, then turned around, his white running shoes squeaking on the polished hallway floor.
I sent for my things but was disappointed when a grey vinyl bag arrived containing a man’s electric shaver and white cotton underwear.
I called home to correct the mistake.
“Whom do you think it is?”
The phone line disconnected. I called back and got a busy signal.
The police arrived at the hospital the next day.
“My husband sent you, didn’t he? He’s trying to prove something by this isn’t he? Does he want a divorce...there are no children...I don’t know what the point to any of this is?”
“Mr. P. this is a very serious matter...a woman is missing and her husband and family are deeply upset.”
I looked at the woman detective.
“How would you like it if I insisted that you were a man?”
For a brief moment, I saw hope in her eyes.
The other officer was staring off into the distance, already bored with me.
She answered, “We’ll have to search your house.”
“Go ahead. I’m sure Larry will let you in.”
That afternoon I was taken into a conference room filled with doctors, nurses and medical students. I was asked to sit on a wooden stool at the front. They had allowed me to wear a nurse’s uniform and makeup.
“Here is my bank book...my driver’s license.” I stood up and waved them at my audience. There was a murmur throughout the crowd. I looked more closely at the photo ID on the driver’s license. God, I thought to myself, I’m a good-looking woman.
I handed these items to the doctor in the first row. They were passed around as I explained my side of the story.
I sat back down and crossed my legs. I smiled at my audience and waited.