Perpetual Motion

by Jared Levy

My wife Margery has a disorder so unique that it’s named after her. Her tongue sticks out of her mouth. Cataracts encase her eyes. Her skin is wet and smooth. She no longer speaks.

The doctor says there is no harm in reading to her, so I do, often. I’m currently reading her The Tao of Pooh. Margery loved that book. So did I. Now it feels sufficiently at her level.

Entropy acts according to entropy. Here I am. At night, when Margery is settled, I write, scribbling about life’s frustrations creating more frustrations. Some call this a vicious cycle: the circle renewing itself. I see potential.

I take Margery to the dentist. Three more teeth have to go. She grinds them in her sleep. The dentist recommends that she wear a protective apparatus. I’m embarrassed if I could be embarrassed. I silently take the script and limply shake the doctor’s hand.

Introduce the love story: I’m in grad school. I feel inferior, as I often do, because I didn’t get into an elite program. Instead, I’m at a distressingly small school, all mantras and cutting edge status quo.

I wear a bushy beard. My particular aesthetic is plain colors. Most of the grad students share this dress.

I have an off campus apartment with dusty, wooden floors. I cover the space in antique Oriental rugs. I frame a picture of Raphael’s School of Athens. Here, being classical is radical.

I quit marijuana, which was essential to my working habits. Now I smoke a pack a day.

This is all crap. This needs to be plot-driven. This is just listing the events of my life. How about this: before Margery was my wife, I decided to kidnap her. We would drive west and keep going until we hit water. I would bring the few things we needed. We’d travel light. I wouldn’t tell anyone, because if it went well, we’d collect her inheritance as ransom and scram to the Mexican border.

I didn’t kidnap her: I asked her out on a date. We went to a local Chinese restaurant. She drank three Heinekens and picked up the check. She invited me back to her apartment. She put on Cat Stevens and undressed before I could judge the fullness of her bookshelf. Only after making love did she disclose a few small truths: that she often cried in her sleep; that she brushed with soft bristles; that she loved a visiting professor who said she was brilliant before leaving the school. Three years later, after graduation, we were married.

Alternate love story: whom do I love? The dental hygienist? The pharmacy worker? No. The librarian.

I check out many books, many lying on my nightstand, causing me all manner of pain. But the woman at the library: we trade looks. She’s like Margery before the deterioration: bright and sensible. I lust for her, but I’m paralyzed by thought. There’re too many obligations, too many forces that control my life.

But goddamn: the librarian. What’s new and interesting about that? Nothing. There’s little there. It’s all crashing down and the pipes explode and flood the library. She’s sopping wet and I see the shape of her breasts. She stares fiercely at me. She knows that life is a repeated pattern of chaos followed by meaning making. I have no chance.

The final troubles began so serenely. Lunch laid out on a plaid picnic blanket, supreme bliss: me and Margery on a warm spring day. But at that time it was an achievement to get her out of the house. Her nails dug into the couch, and she looked at me, terrified, silently saying, “Please, no, not this day,” the density of her feelings like rock.

I coaxed her out of inertia before we got into a fender bender. The man whose car we hit had no insurance and he didn’t want to report the accident. His foot nervously tapped as I explained the importance of notifying the police. Margery, in the passenger seat, sucked the flavor out of a mint, her silent revolt against the day’s plans.

There was traffic going to the park. In desperation, Margery stripped naked. The pharmacy was closed on Sunday or else I would have picked up her medication. Instead, there was a bookstore that I visited while Margery raged in the car. A million ways for things to go wrong and only one way where I got a book and she didn’t claw up the upholstery.

Waves crashed against the beach. Me, the poor adjunct professor, and her, the wife he married for money, learned to love, and who, years later, began mental degeneration, which, at present, was near complete.

Sitting on the picnic blanket, I looked into her dilated black eyes and thought about how things could have gone differently. I could have been a financial analyst; I could have been a geographer.

Margery stopped making sounds. Her hands violently clasped the blanket and then went limp. I yelled, “Is there a doctor?”

No one answered.

Now I write about perpetual motion: movement sustained without external force. The world acts on me, pushing me forward, and the idea is so potent, I can’t let it go. The whole thing is running and I’ll never touch it again. It exists in constant motion.

Or I can close my eyes and make this go away. Then there’ll be darkness, sound without meaning, stillness to cradle my heart, silent yet begging for life.

I miss Margery. I miss our conversations. I miss my home.

For me, there is no end, only perpetual motion.

Jared Levy was born in Philadelphia, but raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia. After receiving a BA in Philosophy from Bates College, he worked as a paralegal and freelance writer in New York City and then a learn to swim coach in New Zealand. Back stateside, he teaches and writes, occasionally for Interview and the Bowery Presents’ House List. This is his first published short story.