Wet by Alex Behr

Editor Carrie Ivy, Editor's Choice, August 9th, 2017

"This Big D. Not the dick. The divorce."

Alex Behr Essay Nailed Magazine


A personal essay by Alex Behr

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My husband breaks a slat of the bed I grew up in. It’s a mahogany sleigh bed from the 1800s. The headboard is stained with handprint ghosts from our son’s dreams.

My husband sets up our son’s new bed and mattress. He let our son use a box cutter to slice through the shipping cardboard, and it slips into the fake black leather. A small gouge.

Say nothing.

I say something to the boy, the almost-teen, couched as an insult to the husband. He glares at me.

This is uncomfortable.

I go to my office, the third bedroom of the sad house. I have books and fabric scraps. I have dead friendships and active stomach bacteria. Famous people never email back anymore. Was I boring? Don’t answer. Don’t answer.


I have stained teeth and an undeniable love of cheese.

If everything is out in the open I can see it, until there is nothing to see after all. Rectangular shapes and colors. Is it moldy? A closet full of secrets—but why?

I have a bad gin headache and many unfinished projects. I can’t find Advil. Four coffee mugs and one espresso cup in bedroom. Fifty books I will never read. I have lost the sweetness, affection, lust, and pride in the other. I forget the pet names (but I remember). I give up the teasing (I transfer it to the cat).

I live with a polite stranger, a slob. I am a slob.

“Mealworms can be ground into butter. They taste like cow milk!” The top of my brain is pressing upward into my skull. It’s my fault.

This Big D. Not the dick. The divorce.

I cut off my left arm with nail clippers. It hangs on. I can’t snip the final pieces of dried-out skin.

The initial hurt: I saw it on my arm, too. “I’m in love with —.” A flap cut into the shoulder. The cuts extend on either side, forming a bloody jelly roll. Not till death. Till legal documents coming through the email.

At night, I tuck our son into his new bed. He tells me: “You and Dad are divorced on SimCity.” I was a grandmother on it, rocking the baby. That gave our son points. Now my boyfriend is my husband’s roommate, a black guy.

Soon our son never visits that game anymore. Digital limbo. Soon I will never be married to my husband except in nightmares.

Our son asks: “Is sperm white? Is it brown like poop? Or yellow like pee?”

I say: “Ask your dad.”

I cry in therapy. Divorce is violent. My husband. A nice person. Except when he swears. Except when he looks at me sobbing on the chair, on the rug. Anywhere. Our house is welcome to all tears.

Moths eat the felt pads inside the piano. Fleas jump on our son’s iPad. Maggots squirm inside the sesame seed jar. Their perverse dance. I destroy my liver. I grow a mustache.

Our adolescent son screams. Now he’s a toddler. Now he’s an infant. He is in the womb. He’s the cells that formed him. Does the egg scream when it’s pierced by the sperm?

The window doesn’t fit right in the frame. It’s an old house with a lot of potential. Where are those clouds I made of carbon dioxide words, my greenhouse gas of hate? Do they form steam in the bathroom? I am cold.

My husband drives to the dump with the futon stained with pee and tears. He tells me he wanted to drive off a bridge. Two days later he leaves the country for a year. My son and I spin in our rooms. Two months pass. Then: snow.

“Mom, come out.” The son, twelve, shirtless, in shorts and sandals. He runs into the night, now white, like a healthy uterus, its tissue open to life. Flakes cover the harm: the cat’s grave, the thorns. The suburban failure machine. I laugh at the son for his snow dance, his delicious chaos.

I make a snow angel. The metaphor fails. The son stomps it out. No angels here, so we raise our tongues to the stars: we taste what melts.

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Header image courtesy of Monty Kaplan.


alex behr writer essay on international adoption NAILED MagazineAlex Behr’s debut story collection, Planet Grim, will be published in October 2017 (7.13 Books). She wrote about her experiences with transracial adoption in April 2016, you can read it here.


Carrie Ivy

Carrie Ivy (formerly Carrie Seitzinger) is Editor-in-Cheif and Co-Publisher of NAILED. She is the author of the book, Fall Ill Medicine, which was named a 2013 Finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Ivy is also Co-Publisher of Small Doggies Press.