Love is unpredictable. It need not be argued. But however warned they may be against love’s idiosyncrasies, who would have guessed that Bob and Dora might ever be husband and wife ? They had been for two years indeed, and no cloud had yet shaded their marriage. One sunny morning of July, Bob woke up and found nobody in his bed. Nobody in the apartment, either. Bob was simple-minded, even for a mechanic, and did not think for a second that his wife might have left him. He opened the fridge, stated that she was not there either, poured a glass of milk as every morning of his marriage, had a shower and prepared to go to work. Dora had to be somewhere, anyway. He put on a jacket – the smartness of which, he had always thought, could impress the customers – and a pair of shorts, considering the heat.
Now the moment he closed the door, Bob had the intuition – who ever said intuitions were a woman’s thing ? – nay, he felt instantly certain that Dora was at the Harpers’. The Harpers were Bob and Dora’s upstairs neighbors. They were taking vacations that week, and they had left Bob and Dora the key to their apartment. Bob tiptoed up the stairs and stealthily tried to turn the handle : bingo ! the door was not locked. He opened it noiselessly. Dora was sitting in front of an unusually, unaccountably, unfathomably modern-style aquarium, smoking, and gazing at the blue and orange fish strolling past. Dora was not a simple woman. She had moods. Somber moods. Reflexive moods. Touch-me-not moods. Moods his husband feared like the devil and never really understood.
“Boo!” She startled. She had not heard him coming. She was obviously in a bad day.
“It’s not funny. You frightened me.”
“Ooh… Sad little Dora… Wanna ride on Uncle Bob’s knees ?”
Dora smiled. Bob had a knack for making her smile, even when she absolutely did not feel like it, and had resolved not to, even when she sulked. He mistook it for a surrender and kissed her lips. However she hardly returned his kiss. It clearly meant that he was not to try again.
“I was thinking about the jellyfish…” she said, as though it explained everything.
“Jellyfish ?” Bob asked, perplexed, and looked at the aquarium.
“A jellyfish stung me when I was ten. I still have a mark on my back.”
Bob could not see any connection at all with the present situation. One thing was sure, this empty apartment, which was not theirs, made him feel terribly horny all of a sudden. He started beating his fists on his chest – which he considered the archetype of virility – and answered in a very preposterously cheerful tone :
“Ooh, ooh, I’m a dangerous jellyfish, and I’m going to bite you if you’re not a good girl!”
“That’s a gorilla you’re mimicking, Bob. And besides, you’re being preposterous.”
No, Dora was not funny today. Although she had said it with a nice voice, Bob could not help feeling unjustly humiliated. He seized an object haphazardly – a video cassette it happened to be – and commented:
“Wow! Awful tastes they have, haven’t they ?”
“Yes, Bob. But I’m really thinking about those jellyfish… Do you think they’re animals ? They’re made of more than ninety percent water… And why do we call them fish ? Do you never wonder that sort of things?”
“Er… No, not often.”
“Maybe that’s why I love you. Now go to work, I don’t want you to be late.”
“Yep honey, you’re right. I’d better go.”
He took his tool case, made his way to the door. Before going out, he added, in as jocund a tone as possible:
“Good day, my little starfish!”
Dora spent the good part of her day thinking about starfish, and if they were stars, or fish, and whether they walked or swam deep down in the sea…