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 you, before us. Wet words fall out trying to wash away the silence as we settle into the den after dinner.
For a moment, I remember we were once in love.
“I love you,” I say.
I smile, you smirk, and we both turn our gaze to the fire crackling softly in the fireplace.
Ash falls from the log and I am 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. You wouldn’t even allow sleep to keep you from me. Heavy laughter echoed in my ears as you picked fragments of the ocean out of my matted hair while my nails dug deeper into your back. Sometimes I miss your laughter and your sweet, empty nothings.
The sound of the newspaper snaps me back to this moment. Shadows dance off your face as you unfold the paper in your lap. Delicate things were never meant to stay in your hands. It rips at every turn until you became so frustrated you toss it, crumpled, to the side.
It falls into a mess on the floor, reminding me of my own crumpled body that often waited for you in bed past midnight. Those midnights when your late arrival aroused me from my sleep. While you were drunk on new perfumes, I sweetly begged for you to lie to me.
“Working late?” I asked.
What to do with love that won’t leave? You roughly touched my shoulder with vexation as if wondering why I was still there. The wheels turned around in your head until landing on a stoic, “Yes.” Kisses on my forehead let me know it was a lie.
“Water, dear?” you asked, handing me a glass. You wanted to silence me before any more questions made you face the mess you’d made of us. Tired, I reached for the pill bottle that stayed full by my bed and struggled to remove the top.
“Doctor’s orders after all,” you’d say.
There you were, my harm and my healer, encouraging me to find rest from the hell you were causing me as you draped your white coat over the chair next to the clothes I’d pressed for you to wear tomorrow. As I fell into a medicated sleep, you joined me on the bed and whispered goodnight. So many midnights we played this game.
One Monday, while you were away, I walked softly through our home. Perhaps it is more museum than anything. Monuments of your accomplishments growing stale as your...habits...put dents in our savings. Perhaps it is me who is stale. Most times when you were 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 your promises of forever. I chewed heartily on that indigestible bullshit. Apathy 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.
“Freak accident,” I said when you inquired about the bloody glass that greeted you in the hallway.
Tonight, you finally gave in to my request and came home at a decent hour to share the meal I made. I try to talk to you, again, about nothing and everything. My words are still attempting to swim. Your back is full of annoyance, as it strains your shirt’s fabric when you stand up to leave the den in the middle of my sentence.
The fire continues to burn in your absence. Eventually, you return with water for me and scotch for you. Pretending to tolerate my presence is over now as you force a smile before handing me the glass.
“I love you too,” you mutter while kissing my forehead and placing the water into my hands.
“Water, dear?” you say.
What have we become? I wonder. I stare into the expensive glassware for answers that I know I won’t find in your eyes.
I smile, you smirk, and we both return our gaze to the fire.
Deep sips of scotch slide effortlessly down your throat across the room. I stretch my feet out on the expensive chaise, holding the water close to my chest, watching ripples form in the glass.
What will your last heartbeat feel like? I wonder, steadying my shaking hands. I imagine what it’s like to hold your heart and watch our love run out of you one squeeze at a time.
“Your water, dear. Your pi...pill...pillsss.” you say.
I nod and lift the water to my lips yet your stutter makes me hesitate. The slow drawl of your words as your body becomes heavy. Distress and then revelation of what’s to come as I walk slowly across the room to stand in your line of vision.
The last thing you’ll ever see is what becomes of a love gone insane. What choice did I have? Stepped in a love that is loyal to madness. Hooked up to an IV of unmerited hope for reciprocity as the agony you fed me all these years becomes poison in my veins. Removing the empty pill bottle from my pocket, I curl it gently around your hand and place it on your chest. The water still shakes in my hand. I lift it slowly to my lips but decide to water the tall plant by your side instead like a final act of defiance.
Who knows how long I stood there waiting for your soul to leave before noticing the plant I watered slowly begin to grow heavy. A secret making its way up the roots turning the lush green to brown. Fear rises in my chest and I clench the glass so hard it cracks a bit. Your eager voice rings in my head as the depth of what could have been turns my blood cold.
It echoes louder as that "water" sucks the life out of our plant. Then out of nowhere wild laughter spews out from deep in my belly.
I smirk, your breathing slows to nothing, and I turn to face the fire.