Originally published here on Smart Girls Who Do It.
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The first person I ever killed was the man who would have been ex-hubby #2. If he had lived.
We were standing in the kitchen of the house I loved in the town I loved, after years in a house that was too dark and a so-called city I hated. It was a few days after he had said he wanted to separate. I had said I had no intention of waiting around 6 months, putting my life on hold while he figured out what he wanted to do. I wanted a divorce.
We were standing in the kitchen. I don’t remember what we were talking about. It didn’t really matter. I had a knife in my right hand. It was the knife I used for everything. A Sabatier from back when we were all buying Sabatiers. I’d had the knife for a very long time. I’d had the man all told for 20 years.
He had said the marriage wasn’t fulfilling. It wasn’t what he needed. Well of course not. It wasn’t really a marriage. It takes two people to be married, which of necessity means thinking of someone other than yourself occasionally. If he had put even half the effort into the marriage as had gone into his academic and musical careers, we would have had a chance.
We didn’t have a chance.
We were standing in the kitchen, the knife in my hand. I didn’t even think about it. I just walked over to him and plunged it into his belly. He looked surprised.
The blood made quite a mess on the kitchen floor. And I hate washing the kitchen floor.
It was my first run-in with the law. They didn’t even charge me. Justifiable homicide. I told them how I had taken care of him for 20 years. How I had taken him to the hospital again and again, saved his life by alerting staff to a blood clot headed towards his brain, cleansed and dressed the disgusting surgery site after yet another operation on his rectal abscesses. I spent weeks of my life waiting for him outside bathrooms, as the Crohn’s disease continued to eat away at him while he refused to “take responsibility for his own illness.”
Justifiable homicide. While he was thinking of leaving me, I was standing in the doctor’s office, holding his hand through yet another colonoscopy.
Justifiable homicide. When I was diagnosed with melanoma and called him with the unpromising prognosis, sure that he would join me at the surgeon’s office that afternoon, he said sorry, he had a committee meeting, he would see me at home that night.
Jews have a special respect for firsts. We make note of contrasts. Dark and light. Day and night. Weekday and Shabbos. Holy and holier and the holiest day of all. Not out of judgment as to which is best, but to heighten awareness.
We have a special prayer for firsts. I like to explain it in the context of the first strawberry of the season. Of course, we don’t have seasons for strawberries any more. This is the era of Get What You Want When You Want It. We have strawberries from California, from Mexico. Modern life means never having to say No Strawberries.
Except those aren’t real strawberries. They are big and red and exuding fruit pheromones. But any strawberry has only a defined amount of luscious strawberriness, and in these over-confident specimens that essence of delight is stretched thin, like frozen orange juice mixed with three times the required amount of water to make it go farther.
So think of a real strawberry. Small, ripe, fresh picked, warm from the sun. It’s your first one for the year. Stop. Look at it. Swim in its color. Float on its scent. Attention must be paid. Be grateful for this moment, for this pleasure, for this first taste of moist perfection like the first kiss from a man you’ve been waiting to meet for half a year.
And before you take that first bite, before that first kiss, there is this prayer, to remind you to pause and savor and be grateful.
Baruch ata, Adonai Elohèinu, Mèlech ha-olam, she-hecheyànu v’kiy’mànu v’higi-ànu la-z’man ha-zeh.
Praised are You, our Eternal God, Ruler of time and space, who has kept us in life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.
I didn’t say the she-hecheyànu before plunging the knife into what later, appropriately, turned out to be my husband’s colon. I said it afterwards, as he lay on the kitchen floor bleeding to death. I had taken care of him long enough. It was time he learned how to take care of himself.
So that was my first. It gets easier as I go on, though I’m smart enough to disguise them as accidents that can’t be connected to me. The guy next door who insisted on parking in front of my house. The woman in the 10 Items or Less line who was obviously counting 12 little cans of cat food and 5 bottles of soda as 1 item each. The Comcast installation technician when he finally arrived 2 hours late.
Oh yes. And all those personnel directors who didn’t hire me.
I don’t take rejection easily.