Of all the things I hate about Bethany, none is more irksome than her clomping.

She clomps around at all hours, each footfall landing solid on the hardwoods and reverberating throughout the house. She lacks the ability to move from one room to another with anything that even vaguely resembles stealth. There have been days when I haven’t even slid the key into the lock, exhausted from a long day at work, and I could already hear her trudging in a predictably useless circle—clomping from the entryway to the dining room to the hall to the living room and back to the entryway.


It’s insufferable. But that’s not her only insufferable quality.

There’s her voice, a wheezing whisper that grates on my last nerve with its gritty, torn-cheap-paper quality while simultaneously making it difficult to decipher even short sentences. There’s her hands, always cold and always clammy, reaching for me in the middle of the night because she’s lonely and she imagines it’s my job to comfort her. There’s her tendency to leave things—all things, anything—where it doesn’t belong, completely throwing off the feng shui of the entire house and forcing me to constantly clean. And there’s her general air of neediness. 

She’s a clinger, this one. Miserable if she’s alone for even a few minutes. Constantly invading my personal space. Seemingly incapable of tending to her own needs, even for a short period of time.

But none of it is as bad as the clomping.

I suppose it’s my fault, though. In a way, at least. I bought her those shoes. Those damn shoes. Those irritating, chunky, over-worn, maddening, out-of-date, too-big-for-her-feet, unexplainable, inexcusable, unnecessary, utterly impractical, GOD DAMN SHOES.

They were a birthday present. That’s on me.

She talked about them for weeks—the Doc Martens she simply had to have. A two-inch platform. Eight-eyed. Patent leather, but the vegan kind. (Like “vegan leather” is leather at all.) And I, ever the dutiful wife, bought them for her.

She squealed when she ripped off the gift wrap, her eyes going wide with delight. I smiled while snapping pictures—God forbid we should suffer any social experience without documenting and posting it. She gave me a hug and a kiss and told me she loved me and loved her new boots almost as much as she loved me before racing to the bedroom to nab a thick pair of socks and try them on.

I laughed, tickled by her childlike joy. Now I wish I could go back in time and strangle myself. What a fucking stupid gift. Those boots haunt me every day.

She never takes them off. Whether in jeans, a skirt, a dress or even her pajamas, they’re a constant accessory. They’re scuffed and worn and dingy. They probably stink, though there’s not enough money in the world for me to verify that suspicion. I avoid her as much as I can. There’s no way I’m putting my nose to her fucking feet. She’s wearing them right now, I guarantee you—marching around the house like Eeyore, her shoulders slumped, hardly speaking except for the occasional mumble, probably looking for me.

I’m sure she is. Now that I’ve said it, I can feel it. She’s looking for me. She’ll be my shadow when I get home.

The thought makes me want to vomit.

And I know what you’re thinking. Why don’t I just kick her out, right? I’ve tried. Jesus. You have no idea how many times I’ve tried.

It doesn’t seem to matter how firmly I state my preference. I can break it to her gently, explaining that our time is up. It’s over. It’s time to move on. Or I can tell her to go to hell. It doesn’t matter. She won’t leave. She refuses to leave. I’m starting to think she’ll never leave.

I’ll be 80, still listening to her clomp around, my old bones set on edge by the very thought of her sharing the same space with me, wishing still, with all my heart, that she’d just go away.

But she won’t. And I know why. It’s because she blames me. 

Which, look. From a certain perspective, it was my fault. I get that. I can see it. But her reaction—this refusal to allow the thing to just end—it’s too much. It’s entirely out of proportion to my mistake. 

It was a mistake. At least, I think it was. I’ve thought about that day so many times. If I had the option to live it again, I don’t know now. I might do the very same thing out of pure spite.

She deserves it. Trust me.

We were getting ready. She was wearing her favorite dress. The one with wildflowers all over it. And, of course, her Docs. We were crowded for space in front of the mirror. Neither of us wanted to use the guest bath, so we teasingly jockeyed for space in the master bath.

You know how couples are. Fights that aren’t fights.

We were playing it up. She pushed me lightly. I pushed back. 

She stumbled. The tub was full. She was holding her hairdryer. I reached for her, but couldn’t catch her in time. 

Splash. Zap. Gone.

And then, a week later, the arrangements made and taken care of, I heard it. The clomping. I always hear it. She’s always there. She never leaves. She’s never going to leave.


I’d kill her if I could. But I can’t. Not again. I’ve tried. 

No. This is my fate now, I suppose. To live with this—a memory without expiration. A mistake that refuses to fade. A stain on my home, on my life, on my soul. An impression, like a combat boot’s tread in the mud, forever pressed into my heart as it beats now in rhythm with her steps.


I loved her once. Now I hate her. 

My darling wife. My dearly departed. My punishment. My toll. 


I don’t want to go home.