NEGOTIATIONS by Adrienne Marie Barrios

Marriage, /merij/, noun: a series of negotiations. 

At least, inside her head, it was. She had these little rhythmic mantras to keep from fucking it up, like my plate is on the left, or the left tray goes on top. She’d repeat it to herself, over and over again, like someone with OCD stuck in a tick—Left tray goes on the top. Left tray goes on the top. It wouldn’t do to burn one half of the muesli. My plate is on the left. My plate is on the left. It wouldn’t do to give him her sandwich; he hated mayonnaise. 

These negotiations, these little balancing acts, like bargaining chips between her stomach and her mind, her feelings and her general day-to-day life. Everything she ever did came down to one of these negotiations. These haggling sessions. 

I’ll just take one more scoop of veggies. My plate is on the left.

But then I’ll have more veggies than he does.

I didn’t eat lunch, and he ate his sandwich and apples, like he does every day. My plate is on the left. 

But he might notice that my burrito is bigger than his.

Well, I’ll keep my veggies, but he can have the extra piece of bacon. I did make five, after all. My plate is on the left.

Yeah…

Better put a couple bell peppers in his. My plate is on the left.

That’s better.

My plate is on the left.

Always, these negotiations. Always weighing the potential outcomes, sussing out what might happen if she did this or that. If she chose what she wanted. If she put herself first. If, for once, she defied his unspoken demands.


Adrienne Marie Barrios is a writer and an editor. She writes about mental health and relationships, the interplay between the two and the external world. She edits novel manuscripts and short stories, both independently and for Magnolia Press, and is currently writing her second novel. She is a frequent writer in residence at L’ATELIER Writers. You can find her online here.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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