• Matadors

    Lea Carpenter

    Summer 2021

    The first time my husband slipped a gun under his pillow, it didn’t bother me. I thought, This is just what happens. I thought, Let him line the garden with grenades if that’s what it takes. For him to get better. And I also thought, It will pass, it has to. I wasn’t into judgment, even though it never bothered him to judge me. People say equality is what matters in a marriage but that’s not the case, is it. What matters is respect. And for him I had respect for days. I knew he would never aim the gun at me.


    “When the matador senses the bull is tiring,” said the American, “the matador makes his first move.” It was my first night in Spain. The only thing I wanted to look at though was him. How he lit a match. How he opened a car door. How he held back and let the rest of us perform, as if we were actors in a film he was directing. He was so unlike anyone I had ever known. He was the opposite of my husband who, like the bull, always had to occupy center stage.


    My husband was a warrior, too, and a scholar; he loved history, art, architecture, ideas. When we met, he was exactly what I needed. Which, in retrospect, is ironic. Irony takes time to take shape. I was old-fashioned. I was traditional. Above all, I was eighteen. Eighteen feels old when you want to have a baby before turning twenty-one, when that’s your only option. The wedding was quick, twenty minutes at a registrar’s office, no glamour or depth. After, we ate chicken salad sandwiches on a bench in Hyde Park, which felt perfect. He promised he would love me forever. It rained.

    Lea Carpenter is the author of the novels eleven days and red white blue. She is working on a story collection, Nine Boyfriends 2019, as well as a new novel.

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