Decrescence of Dignity: Alternate Ending
Martyn said to the man at the door, “Sorry, but I’m very happy at my current church.”
The man, who wore a lilac dress shirt with red-striped tie, said, “I’m not from any church, I’d like to sell you something.”
“Oh, great,” said Martyn, starting to the close the door. But he stopped when he heard the first words of the man’s spiel.
“Do women just not understand you? Does the fairer half have you feeling down?”
Martyn opened the door all the way.
The salesman continued, reading from the notecard, but Martyn felt a deep bond with whoever had written it.
“You’re a kind, responsible, intelligent, thoughtful man who isn’t afraid to bare your vulnerabilities, but women have unreasonable expectations, and the dating game is not for you.”
Martyn said, “A game still functioning by the rules of sexist gender roles!”
The salesman read from his notecard, “A game still functioning by the rules of sexist gender roles. But there’s another way. The world is full of women just right for you, if you just know where to look.” The man took out a catalog and snapped it open, still holding the notecard in one hand. “Like in this catalog,” he read. “Pick and choose between hundreds of nice, beautiful women who’d love to love you!”
Martyn invited the man inside.
“We’ve got Asians, whites, blacks, Latinas, Indians, redskins, you name it, we’ve got it.” At each word he flipped a page of the catalog, so there were Asians when he said Asians, whites when he said whites, Latinas when he said Latinas, Indians (from the sub-continent) when he said Indians, and when he said redskins, the same Latinas as before, but in feathered headdresses.
Martyn flipped through the catalog “And they all want to come?”
“They all want to come to America, and have a nice husband with a nice house like this.”
It wasn’t that nice of a house. It was an okay house. But maybe to someone from somewhere else it would seem like a mansion, and he would seem like a King.
“How about this one?” said Martyn. She looked like a Russian ice Princess, but also less intimidating than the others. Some softness around the eyes, and not so good looking.
“Katya, she’s a good one. You want Katya. She’s a prime card wife, she’ll cost nine thousand dollars.”
Martyn got his checkbook. He’d have to transfer a bit from his savings before midnight, but it wasn’t as if he did much with his money but save it.
The man licked the back of the check and smiled. “Money is great—we always need money, but we need something else from to it work.”
“My help getting her a Green Card?” said Martyn.
“A characteristic of the soul,” said the man. “It could be sorrow, guilt, excitement, pleasure, anxiety, humility…” he let it hang. “I can’t recommend enough the benefits of giving up one’s humility.”
Martin was as successful as sacrasm as he usually was. “Not my whole soul?”
“No, that’s your wife’s, we just take a small piece as part of our fee.”
Martyn said, “How about my dignity? You can have that.”
“Dignity is nice.” The man gave him the forms, so Martyn filled in “dignity” in all the blanks, then signed his name at the bottom. When he gave the forms back the man hefted them and frowned, saying, “It isn’t much.”
“Well, what did you expect?” He signed the marriage license.
Over the next three days, Martyn decided he’d been conned. It had been ridiculous to decide so quickly, without even checking. He didn’t know what’d come over him. He would’ve thought it was a dream except for the receipt.
The FedEx man rang the door. He had a large box with holes in it, and it was covered in postage stamps. Martyn said he hadn’t known FedEx delivered things with postage stamps. The FedEx guy said he hadn’t known either, and asked what was in it. Martyn said it was probably a crazy gag gift from his cousin Larry.
Martyn signed for the box, and once the FedEx man had left, dragged it in the house.
Martyn took the top off. There was a woman inside, crouched on a suitcase. She stood up, stretched, then took a notecard from her breast pocket and addressed him. “Hello, I am your wife, Katya, it’s a pleasure to meet you, I’m already falling in love. Stop, fondle husband’s cheek.” She looked up. “What is cheek?”
“What is fondle?”
“It’s like, pinch. Ow, ow, not so hard. Pinch softly. Rub.”
“So, you’re from Russia?” The salesman hadn’t actually said. But, Katya.
“…I hear it’s a bad place to live.”
He guessed that told him what she thought of Putin. He hoped their politics were similar. He couldn’t imagine being married to a NeoCon. He’d heard Russia was very conservative, so he might have to explain about homosexuality being okay.
He showed her around the house. She seemed pleased with everything, except that she shied away when he turned the TV on. He turned it back off. When he showed her the closet he put on a jacket, saying it was cold.
“So, I guess, I’ll get the spare bedroom ready, for uh, sleeping in.”
“Aren’t I sleeping with you?”
“Yeah, well, huh, we are married, yeah.” His palms sweated. “But, since we’ve just met, I don’t want to, want you to feel pressured, that wouldn’t-”
She fondled his cheek. “It’s okay. I won’t hurt you.”
They had sex that night. She seemed to know what she was doing, which relieved him, because he didn’t. She also promised to teach him how to kiss.
He noticed she had a tail, more like a bat’s than a monkey’s. He’d heard of that. A rare birth defect, and in India if you had it they thought you were a god. He didn’t mind at all. It made her cool, like a superhero. TailWoman or something.
He’d had a plan. He’d casually mention he was dating a Russian girl. He’d say he’d met her on a dating website, and the third date had just gone very well. In a week he’d upgrade her to girlfriend, and in a few months he’d break the news that they’d eloped and gotten married. That was the plan.
Actually, the first words out of his month at work the next morning were that he’d gotten a mail-order bride, and it was a great choice, and he recommended it highly.
The reaction was not positive. Sandra hid his coffee mug. Sally yelled at him. Anthony yelled at him but not so loudly. Julie gave him shit about how useless his last project was turning out to be. Everyone gave him busy work. But the worst of it was when Timothy glared, given that no one had known that Timothy knew how to glare. After that things were more subdued.
Till his boss called him in. She talked to him about personal choices, and how his personal life was his business and his business only, so he should think about it carefully.
He couldn’t get in any trouble for it, but in the business world making a positive impression was a must, and this had been very, very negative.
He’d had a speech he’d been practicing, purely for internal consumption. About how marriage had long been a sort of business arrangement, and that was perfectly okay—it was only the American fetishization of the transient experience of love that made it taboo. So he said the speech to various folks, but only parts of it. It wouldn’t come out right. He couldn’t stand firm and say it from atop a moral high horse. He sniveled and slimed and greased his way through the words.
It occurred to Martyn that he’d signed away his dignity to the salesman.
He went home and told Katya all about it. She listened sympathetically, and they had sex. As he rolled over to sleep Katya said, “Don’t nervy, it will be so better in the morning.”
Work the next day was great. Sandra wasn’t there—she’d been arrested for setting fire to a CVS. Julie had been diagnosed with cancer, and the boss had died in a car crash. Mr. Grapsnau ran down from upstairs and promoted Martyn on the spot, because the Finemeln deal had fallen through, and as a result, Martyn’s last project was suddenly a potentially quarter saving stop gap instead of a waste of time and money. He phoned Katya to tell her she was on her own for dinner, and stayed three hours late dealing with everything. Timothy said nice things and apologized for glaring the other day, saying it had been excessive.
He raced home.
He found Katya in the bathroom filing down her horns with a steel rasp. When she saw him she threw the rasp into the shower, and covered the horns with her hands.
“Are you from hell?” Martyn asked.
On her head, her hands balled into fists. “I am not to going back.”
So he threw her out of the house, not caring what the neighbors thought, or what her tears meant, or what she’d do alone on earth, because none of that seemed to say anything about him.
You see, he’d signed away his dignity.