"The Night, My Wife, and the Detergent" by Kaori Ekuni
I want to get separated, my wife said. We gotta talk.
It was already 10 PM. I was tired. My wife and I are in the fifth year of our marriage, no kids.
You can pretend you don't see it, she said. But even if you pretend, this isn't going to go away.
Without responding, I continued to watch TV, but she turned the damn
thing off. What I was pretending not to see, what wasn't going to
disappear, I hadn't the faintest. Same as always.
I saw, as my wife stood blocking my way and glaring down at me, that her pedicure was chipping off.
“Oh, nail polish remover!”
I said. You don't have nail polish remover, so you can't take your pedicure off. That's why you're all upset, right?
My voice was half full of hope and half full of relief. My wife shook her head.
“So then it's those cotton balls. Even if I told you to use tissues
instead, you're saying you definitely could not use them, so it's 'cause
you don't have any of those cotton balls.”
She sighed - no, she said. That's not what I'm saying at all. I have
nail polish remover and cotton balls. I haven't taken my pedicure off
because I'm too busy. I just don't have the time to take care of my
Time. I give up.
I love my wife, and I wish I had her strength. But I don't know what to
do when she asks for things you can't get at convenience stores.
“Hey, listen to me. I really think we should live separately. I'm sure we could become really good friends.”
I was getting real sick of this. Can't she just leave it alone for tonight?
“About how many trash bags do we have left?”
As a husband, I decided to give my best to her. But the thing you need
to know about my wife is that she answers questions. Even when she's
angry, even when she's crying, if you ask her a question, she always
“How about detergent? Milk? Diet Pepsi?”
I listed off the things my wife needed in her daily life.
“Well, we have a lot of trash bags. As far as detergent goes, we only
have the bottle we're using now, but we have milk and diet Pepsi too.
But that has nothing to do with what I'm trying to say to you right now.
Please, listen seriously.”
I wasn't listening. I already had my shoes on and was at the door. Stop,
or, listen, or whatever my wife was saying at my back, I went outside
and headed to the convenience store. The windows in all the houses along
the way were lit.
The detergent my wife likes is in a pink bottle. There are several
brands with pink bottles, but it's the one with the pink cap as well
that's the lucky guy. I bought five of them. I bought diet Pepsi and
milk too. And trash bags and nail polish remover. And cotton balls. And
while I was at it, an onigiri.
The bag was real heavy. The white plastic bag rustled and crinkled in
such a way that I thought it was going to tear apart on the way home.
My wife looked miserable standing at the front door.
“Why would you buy so much?
The amount is crucial.
She sighs again as I pull out the contents of the bag one at a time. You
really don't listen when people talk to you, huh. Didn't I tell you we
already had diet Pepsi? And milk. And trash bags.
Then, she bursts out laughing.
“Why are you like this, honey? You don't listen to anything do you?"
She's holding the nail polish remover in her hands.
[From the collection ぬるい眠り, 2007, Shinchousha.]