Pardon me; my words are wet. They must slide through the tears I’ve grown tired of crying.
Tears that pool in the bottom of my stomach.
Sometimes I am afraid my words will drown. I am more afraid of being left alone without them, so I teach them how to swim. I teach them how to survive. My words are the only reminder of
who I once was before him, before us, before this. Wet words fall out every time I’m forced to tell this story for one audience or the next.
I remember we were once in love.
In the den, in my favorite chaise, ash fell from the log and I was swept back again to the beach on our honeymoon when black sand poured all over my body. We rolled around in our sin until the moon fled and the sun stirred. He wouldn’t even allow sleep to keep him from me. His laughter dancing in my ears as he picked fragments of the ocean out of my hair. We met and were married in the same season. No ceremony. Just us. Too young to know better and hopelessly infatuated with the idea of forever.
The sound of the newspaper would snap me back to the present moment whenever my mind went back to the beach. It’s rare he ever joins me here. Shadows danced off his face as he unfolded the paper in his lap. Delicate things were never meant to stay in his hands. It ripped at every turn until he became so frustrated he tossed it, crumpled, to the side.
It fell into a mess on the floor, reminding me of my own crumpled body that often waited for him in bed past midnight. Those midnights when his late arrival aroused me from my sleep.
While he was drunk on new perfumes, I waited for him to lie to me.
“Working late?” I asked one night.
The wheels turned around in his head until landing on a stoic yes.
Kisses on my forehead sealed in the lie. He turned away from me, annoyed I was still there.
He was a poor young man with dreams of medical school when we met. He stayed in our marriage because the thought of losing half of what he’d built scared him. He was no longer in love but ridding himself of me was too expensive. Me? I didn’t know where I would go if I wasn’t his wife. I stayed for love or what was left of it.
“Water, dear?” he asked nightly, handing me a glass. He wanted to silence me before any more questions made him face the mess he’d made of us. Tired of the game, I’d reached for the full pill bottle that stayed by the bed.
“Doctor’s orders after all,” he’d say.
I never had trouble sleeping until he stopped coming to bed. There he was, my harm and my healer, encouraging me to find rest from the hell he was causing me as he draped his white coat over the chair next to the clothes I’d pressed for him to wear the next day. So many midnights we played this game.
* * *
One day, while he was away, I walked softly through our home. Perhaps it was more museum than anything. Monuments of his accomplishments growing stale. Most times when he was away I had tea with our memories and mopped the floor with my tears. But not that day.
Hadn’t I tried to make it a home? Filled it up with passion and sacrificed my life on the altar of his promises of forever? All that I could have been, besides his loving wife, haunted me. I traded myself for him—a decision I will always regret.
My compulsive thoughts about a life I could have lived became intoxicating and soon I laughed out loud at nothing. Quietly, I lifted our wedding photo from the wall and smashed it repeatedly into the floor barely feeling the pain as I walked over the glass like a strange rite of passage.
* * *
He finally gave in to my request and came home at a decent hour to share the meal I
made. I poured everything I had into that meal. He devoured it without a word of thanks. After dinner, I tried to talk to him, again, about nothing and everything. His annoyance at my presence flexed throughout his body language as he stood up to leave the den in the middle of my sentence.
Eventually, he returned with water for me and scotch for him. Pretending to tolerate my presence was over now as he forced a smile while handing me the glass.
“It’s getting late,” he muttered while kissing my forehead and placing the water and pill into my hands.“Wasn’t this bottle almost full?” he asked.
I ignored the question. What did we become? I wondered. I stared into the fire for answers that I know I wouldn’t find in his eyes.
I looked up and smiled. He smirked. And we both returned our gaze to the fire before he walked to his chair across the room.
Sips of scotch slid down his throat as he thumbed through email. I stretched my feet out on the chaise, holding the water close to my chest, watching ripples form in the glass.
What will your last heartbeat feel like? I pondered, steadying my shaking hands.
“Your water, dear. Your pi...pill...pillss,” he said.
I nodded and lifted the water to my lips but placed the pill on the table. I watched him. Distressed at first and then slow revelation of what’s to come as I walked across the room to stand in his line of vision.
The last thing he’d ever see is what becomes of a love gone insane. Hooked up to an IV of hope for reciprocity as the agony he fed me all these years became poison in my veins. The water still shook in my hand. I lifted it to my lips but decide to water the plant by his side instead as a final act of defiance.
Who knows how long I stood there waiting for his last breath.
I smiled, his breathing slowed to silence, and I turned to face the fire.