“Dead skin flakes,” she exclaimed, out of nowhere, as she were shouting her last words from a nightmare upon waking, “the answer’s dead skin flakes!” “The answer to what?” “The answer to the end of Merchant of Venice,” ignoring the faint exasperation in her wife’s response, “how they’d eventually be able to pay off the debt owed to Shylock at the end of the play, dead skin flakes. They’d just have to save up enough dead shed skin cells.”
Alice did her best to not let her eyes out of her head then and there, of course. “It’s a metaphor, Marian.” Marian was a genius in science and math, taught biology at the community college, had a doctorate from a good school and everything but she could be incredibly literal-minded. “It’s a metaphor for the way things can make sense in the arbitrary constructions of the law but be cruel and unreasonable and morally untenable on a human level. You’re not supposed to…”
“Yes, I know that,” Marian responded, “but that doesn’t make the literal question any the less interesting.” Alice was a performer, a bit of a trust-fund baby, she’d gotten a state grant to take experimental theatre upstate to a junior college for the summer, staging an all-female production of ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDERSTERN and so on. Her mind swam in the figurative, in the space between meanings, in the liminal and luminous, though on the other hand, she could barely balance her checkbook without her wife’s help.
“Maybe, blue-eyes, but it misses the point.” Her pet name for her, of course. “We get to make our own points, that’s my point, if the mechanism isn’t interesting, no one’s going to care about the metaphor. You may have the best wine in the world, but no one will buy it if you put it in filthy old bottles. And the bottle to that holds your wine of law’s cruelty is interesting too!”
They met late that spring on the campus when Alice moved up to stage her show while Marian was still grading finals. They met in a coffee shop just off the quad, in passing, by accident, and while they were both beautiful, Marian, her striking blue eyes, Alice, fire-haired freckle-dappled, these kinds of conversations were why they really connected, the way their two differing ways of seeing the world recharged each other’s minds, that was why they fell for each other.
Marian of science, farmer’s daughter who’d never seriously dated a woman before they met and Alice of words, banker’s child who’d known boys got all the best toys at Christmastime but were nonetheless icky from the age she was three. By the next summer, they were already married.
“The average human sheds one-point-five pounds of skin a year,” Marian concluded, “they could play off Shylock in nine months if they saved everything properly.” “I love you,” Alice laughed, “you goddamned weirdo.” “Freckles,” Marian smiled, “you’re pretty amazing yourself.”
Last updated March 30, 2019