First, he attacked porgies in the seaside restaurant.

Tonight, red snapper would be his victim. A whole fish, consumed with consummate care. As one who only recently eats chicken off the bone, I watched in morbid fascination, shuddering as he defied death with each morsel. How different we are! How can he devour his meal without fear?

His response to my evident anxiety and unspoken inquiry: “What about when you eat lobster?”

My reply: “Lobsters are simple creatures, easy to dissect; there’s only the risk of shell shards while pursuing the innards. Perfectionism protects me as I make sure to slice both tails and claws into tiny pieces. “

We sipped chilled glasses of Riesling, toasted ourselves and our sunset views. Alienated labor, fiscal austerity, and inherited wealth have made this Caribbean interlude possible. We are considered lucky. It’s true.

After dinner, we walked across damp sand to our beachfront condo. Waves rolled in and out. We hold hands, but I am rewriting “Howl” in my head: “I have seen the best marriages of my generation disintegrate…” Yet we endure. Is it habit and codependence? Could it be loyalty and love?

On this enchanted evening, I have forgiven offense against body and soul. I have accepted disappointment and surrendered to the impact of independent marital variables beyond one’s control: disease and untimely death. Yet, somehow, I resist demoralization. Perhaps it is time for a new short story or collage? Should I create an assemblage entitled “Husband in a Box?” Or am I setting myself up for another round of cosmic punishment?

A pride of feral cats guided us back to our lodging. Have other American visitors, in a spirit of imperial hubris, tried to smuggle one of them home? As we unlocked our door, they melted into the darkness. Their strange American couple has returned safely. Feline Mission Accomplished.

My husband flipped on the lights and turned on his computer. Eventually, we will say some kind words and kiss goodnight.

Sleep eluded me. Perhaps blame can be assigned to the expensive sweetbreads I ordered at Le Piment, instead of the modest, grilled fish endorsed by my husband? Yes, the sweetbreads with morel mushrooms were delicious, maybe too delicious; I’ve had more pleasure than I’m used to and, thus, am aware of what I have settled for. Dead brains have become food for thought.

I slid open glass terrace doors. Cool breezes tapped my naked shoulder and I shuddered to attention, a mortal transmitter reaching upward for starlight. A garbled signal akin to Radio Free Europe bleeped across Orient Bay, as a gravelly voice insisted that I make our fallback rendezvous. Dots and dashes of Morse code linked past and present. Bougainvillea swayed violently. There was a whiff of cigarettes, a trail of ash upon the metal balcony, gruff whispers furiously caressed my throat…

“You needed to leave him for yourself. Not for me!”

“You left me. And then you died!”

“I didn’t mean to. You stayed married. Have you meant to?”

“I don’t know. You decided to leave me.”

“I was too old and sick for you. You deserved better. It took all my strength to let you go.”

“Did you miss me? Did you wish for what might have been?”

“Yes, on both counts. But I’m older and wiser than you.”

“So, you knew best?”

“I’d like to think so. I wanted you for a lover, not a nurse watching my manhood slip away. There would never be enough good days. I had to hurt you. Otherwise, you would not have left. ”

“I still miss you.”

“I know. My time with you was a taste of Heaven.”

Windswept shrubbery fell silent. As always, he has the last word. Like a good little girl, I returned to my silken bed and the man snoring softly within it.

In the morning, butterflies rose from tangled vines and hovered above our lagoon. Before the sunstroke of midday, there will be a quick trip to the supermarket for more wine and cheese. My husband shall suggest walking laps in the pool. During the afternoon heat, we’ll nap shielded by swaying palms. Later, he’ll have his novel and I’ll have mine. Later, we’ll pour chilled glasses of rose and briefly recall olden days of courtship, when we read the same novel at the same time. Clinking glasses on our tiny balcony, we’ll acknowledge the early, idealistic promise of togetherness that we have failed to keep. Shortly after six o’clock, I will change into a fresh linen sundress. My husband will telephone Le Piment and make reservations for yet another seaside dinner.

When all flesh has been stripped away, what is left? His life, my life, the bones we haven’t swallowed, and the bones we’ve saved.