A Pithos is a Wife is an Empty Jar

Marjorie is a Clockwatcher. She sits in a room and watches the Clock. Its face is round and flat. It is white in the middle and brown around the edges.

Marjorie watches the Clock and remembers.

People come to see her work. They clamber over the hours spilling down her dress, past her feet, staining the floor, and they fall on their hands and knees. Grasping. Clinging to seconds, days, piling up as much as they can carry in their arms. Marjorie doesn’t mind. She has so much time to spare. They are uninterested in the rest, abandoning cognizance in their pilgrimage for eternity. And when they leave, they often lean close, fat, salivating lips on her ear: great work. Great work, Marjorie. She never sees their faces because she must watch the Clock, but their lips sound puffed and pained, their choked out words wet with grief.

Marjorie has been here before. Maybe many times. Watching the Clock hang upon these little white walls, remembering everything it sees. And there is so much to see. She watches as men learn to cleave wives from their sides, to do their bidding and service their needs. The men become Husbands, imbibed in ignorance, and each possesses a Wife. But Wives grow limpid and mother dissatisfaction in one another. They teach each other what it means to raze, and Marjorie watches still, as Wives learn to cleave heads from their Husbands’ bodies. As humankind learns to bury, and forget, and begin again.

The next time, Husbands are smarter. They expel Wives from their gullets, so they are only regurgitated men in disguise. They walk like Wives and talk like Wives, and possess the cruel Heart of a Husband. And everyone holds it in their chest like a vice, beating a rhythm that is impossible to forget, one that ticks, and ticks, and ticks.

Marjorie is born in the morning. She knows this because the Clock strikes eight and she is anew, revitalization at the sound of waking. She is not a Husband nor a Heart of Husband. She is a Clockwatcher. She is the last all-gifted Wife. Born of mourning and shaved heads. Marjorie belongs to everyone who claims her under matrimony, and under the watchful eye of the word, grows bare and long and rots.

The room is not quiet. There is a wailing in the walls, a sound that stretches further and further with each passing minute. Where there is sorrow there are tongues, and fat lips, and Clocks. Incessant crying fills the room, but Marjorie doesn’t mind. At the end, her jaw is worked and tired, her throat red and raw, but someone has to do the job. The Clockwatcher doesn’t just watch with her eyes. Her fingertips, too, stand at attention, clawing years under the nails, seeing and remembering. Watching men become monsters and monsters become gods.

Someday, Marjorie will be asked to leave. She will scrape her chair on the floor as she pushes it behind her, stumbling as she rises, unsure of how to use bones and flesh and knees. Her first Uncertainty. She will feel it in her stomach, like a child. Pushing time out of her womb, from where it has crawled behind a rib and made a home. Everything that ever was staining the inside of her thighs. When it leaves, she will be allowed rest. She will no longer be their Wife, and knowing, remembering, will have cast her aside. People will lick her clean, Husbands and their Hearts, and she will be able to watch; she will see faces that are more than mouths, and they will prod her for hours, and it is rest but she will have never felt so tired.  

But that is not now. Now, Marjorie is watching. She sees how there once was water, remembers the feeling of it on her toes. Lapping. And there used to be something else, too, not people as she knows them now to be: far smaller and with less limbs, only one mouth, practicality foregone for gentleness. There was a man who loved her. Not as a Wife but as a woman. He spun her around in the sand, and traced words unto her back, and loved her, and loved her. She doesn’t mind that this is someone else’s memory. It hardly matters. Marjorie remembers for the both of them, all of them. Feels it in the way that no one else could. 

Marjorie is a Clockwatcher. She sits in a room and watches the Clock. It is just reflective enough for her to make out her likeness in its surface. She has a round, flat face. She is white in the middle and her hair falls around her face like rain, coloring her brown around the edges. She watches the Clock and she watches herself, and she remembers it all. Hers is the only claim to knowing.

Marjorie relishes the fact that she has no lips.

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