By the time I'd turned fifty I'd already undergone two life-changing decisions. The first was to stop jay-walking. I'd seen an old man at the corner of 12th and Church shuffling from one end of the sidewalk to the other, his rheumatic legs in clear protest. I was pumping hard at the breaks to avoid him, and rolled down the window to tell him to get the hell out of the way. I spoke kindly, of course. I said, "You'll get run over!" The old man gestured crudely and oddly—middle finger twisted like a long, dead twig—and continued shuffling in that dangerously slow fashion. I rolled my window up, sealing myself from the noise outside, and waited for him to finish crossing as fellow drivers rebuked me through their car horns, either because I had just shouted at an old man, or because I was now all but parked in the middle of the street. The incident reminded me that at some point that you can be too old, too slow, and too senile to keep taking risks such as this. The second life-changing decision was when I decided to kill my husband.
The realization came to me one day when he was in the shower. I was perched on an armchair in the living room, holding a magazine and tapping my foot; it was already 11:00 p.m. and I wanted to sleep. I imagined him to be washing his toes and flinched: he had this habit of sitting on the shower floor and running a bar of soap between each one. They say that all families are dysfunctional, and that we should somehow embrace each other's eccentric preferences or pastimes. Along with his unconventional shower habits, my husband's eccentric pastimes included collecting historical rifles; it wasn't until that moment that I realized that one of my eccentric pastimes would be shooting them. Please don't misunderstand. We had been married for thirty years, and thirty years ago he thought I was sane, and I, likewise, believed I had married a sane man. That was before our son's suicide, before the failed therapy, before our pending divorce. By that time every one of our little habits contributed a nuance of revulsion. I lifted the old M48 Mauser rifle from its display case in our den. I think it was some sort of masculine complex of his, but he refused to keep any of his rifles empty, which only furthered my desire to end him. This one was well taken care of, dusted, regularly polished, and kept under warm lights away from the humidity. I fired a shot, feeling the body of the gun slam into me, firm and warm. Along with the gunshot, a desperate yelp reverberated throughout the house, and I heard the clump of footsteps in our hallway making its way toward the den, my husband yelling something indiscernible. But even as I pointed the barrel directly at his gaping mouth, it was clear to me that he was never truly aware of my intentions.
After that, there wasn't much life changing left. I suppose you could count the skills I learned: how to neatly dispose of a body when you live in a crime-free neighborhood, what to tell the neighbors who wonder aloud, and the brands of stain remover that really get the blood off. Those are skills you can't pick up in school. Once my husband was gone, I missed him much less than I'd expected. There were moments, I'll admit, like the time I found the bathtub crawling, almost writhing, with spiders that had come up from inside the drain. However I did end up killing them, so I can firmly state that a husband is in fact an expendable household item. When his lawyer came looking for him I told him rather ruefully that he'd had a mid-life crisis and run off, and that I'd take care of everything. I'm afraid my performance was a bit too theatrical in my anxiety. I was never very good at lying, but for his expense, the lawyer was never very good at legal matters, so whatever his suspicions I doubt that he would have actually said anything. The biggest problem was coping with the feeling of a rather large, unoccupied house. Had our son actually lived to graduate high school such emptiness would have been less prominent. But for the past three years or so, my husband and I chose to occupy different halves of the house, each residing in separate wings, minding our own affairs until it was time for dinner and sleep.