The white cup had been sitting on the table, a leftover dish from breakfast. It was the one with the black and yellow logo from a company where she used to work.
Who was drinking from it, him or me, she thought, but couldn’t remember. It didn’t matter now anyway.
The fight had been one of those lingering ones. You know, the kind that contained residue from previous fights, things said long ago that were never truly dealt with. All of it contributed to the explosion that eventually happened.
She couldn’t even recall what started it, what they were arguing about specifically. She just remembered the anger, that they were both mad and yelling at one another.
Then he picked it up. The cup.
Things seemed to slow down after that, as the cup came toward her. She swore that she could see the logo clearly as it went past her head, just before it hit the wall behind her.
Was he trying to hit me and missed? she thought.
Even now she couldn’t be sure.
Silence filled the room. Shards from the cup lay at her feet, some of it in her hair. The look on his face was one of triumph at first, then anger, then maybe … sorrow.
It was too late, though. She was already imagining her departure, and he knew it.
She didn’t yell, didn’t throw anything back at him. She merely walked into the bedroom and began packing.
This feels right, she thought. It’s time for me to leave.
This wasn’t an impulsive decision. It was a long time coming for a relationship that had been deteriorating for years. Yet even with all the arguing, she was still willing to work through the difficulties. But he threw a cup at her. He’d never hit her before. But the threat was always there, wasn’t it? she thought.
He followed her into the room, “Sorry,” he said, but it sounded hollow. “Please talk to me. Don’t pack. Give yourself time to calm down, then we can talk.”
“Me get calm?” she said. “You throw a cup at me, and then tell me to calm down?” She couldn’t believe he’d said that.
Still she wasn’t screaming. Things were escalating fast, and she just wanted to get out of there before something else came careening toward her head.
“I just mean —” He stopped. What did he mean?
She continued to neatly fold her clothes into the very large suitcase, the one they rarely used. But it was the perfect size for the “See ya later” kind of packing she was doing.
He was watching her pack and seemed to be growing more panicked with each article of clothing she placed in the suitcase.
He took a pair of jeans and a t-shirt from her. “Stop — stop packing for one minute and listen!”
In grabbing the items, her wrist twisted. It was accidental, but it was too late. This time she did get angry and swung at him with her other arm, landing a punch on his left eye.
He was filled with so many emotions, sadness, confusion, but it was the anger that won out. She’s willing to throw away ten years for one mistake, he thought. Not remembering there were ten years of many mistakes that culminated in a simple white cup being thrown at her head.
His eye stung, and then all of it became her fault. He grabbed her by the hair and dragged her out of the room. Not exactly the start to any kind of reconciliation.
“Let me go you fucker,” she screamed. “Let me go!”
“Shut up bitch, you hit me!”
There was a chorus of bitches, and fuckers, whores, cunts, and assholes. Enough to finalize the end of a tumultuous marriage. Oh yeah, this was definitely the end.
He accused her of overreacting, while she kept saying, “You threw a mug at me!”
He’d forgotten that, or rationalized it, or convinced himself that she made him do it.
“Let … me … go!” she yelled. And he obliged by cupping the back of her head in his hand and shoving her so hard that she careened into the wall — just like the mug.
She felt the blood gushing out of her nose and knew instantly that it was broken, and the realization broke something inside of her. She was more angry than she could ever remember being. All those years of letting things go. All the times she said sorry just so they wouldn’t fight anymore. All of the fucking times he was an uncaring selfish asshole. All of it welled up inside her and she flew into a rage, like the green fleshed Hulk of comic books.
She turned to look at him, her face already bruising from the broken nose. “Hon … please, I’m sorry, but you —”
But me, she thought. That’s what he always did, turned his faults into my mistakes. She ran towards him, her arms raised, her hands like claws. She was screaming, not words, just sounds, that was all she could muster. It took him by surprise, and he fell backward, his arms protecting his face, as she rained down blow, after blow.
She was crying, and swinging, but then he was able to get the advantage, flipping her over on her back, now he was on top … he was in control.
“Why do you do this,” he screamed at her. Saliva hung from his lower lip and fell on her face. His eyes were menacing and dark; she didn’t even recognize who he was as he placed his hands around her neck and began to squeeze.
She stared at him, but there was no fear in her eyes. This was because she had it in her hand already, had grabbed it as he tossed her over. He would kill her, she knew this. She always knew he was capable of it, but he had no idea that she was also capable of ending his life.
It was a piece of the cup, the one that started it all, and the shattered remains of it would save her life.
He didn’t even realize what she’d done at first; his hands were still clamped around her throat. Then he felt the blood squirting from his neck. Bullseye! Give the lady fifty points; she hit an artery.
Blood, his blood, spilled all over her face and the white sweater she wore that day. Figures I’d pick today to wear white, she thought.
Finally, he let her go, and she crawled away, gasping for air. He fell back choking on his own blood. He was trying to say something, “Help,” or maybe her name, but he couldn’t; it was too late for that as well.
She sat there, rocking back and forth, staring at his limp and lifeless body.
“Where did we go wrong?” she said to him. His empty eyes just stared at her. He would never be able to answer that question.
But she realized that there wasn’t any one event, or one specific moment that led them to this point. It was just the gradual deterioration of a relationship, almost imperceptible to the naked eye.
She stood up, straightened herself as best as she could. She knew it would get hard from here. She’d killed a man; her marriage was over, but the aftermath was only just beginning.
She was covered in blood, his and hers; the piece of mug that saved her life was still clutched tightly in her hand. She set it on the table and dialed 9-1-1.
“9-1-1 emergency, how can I help you?”
The voice was surprisingly pleasant and calm.
Something about it unnerved her. After what had happened how could anyone ever be so calm? The whole day flooded back, in a wave so great she knew there was no way to stop it.
“Hello?” the voice on the other end said.
That’s when she set down the phone and began to cry, a long hard cry that didn’t seem as if it would ever end.