The Night of Magical Thinking

February 10, 2009
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'Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.'
-Joan Didion (The Year of Magical Thinking)
She walked into the apartment that was once so vibrant and riveted. The warm, deep red and orange floral wallpaper that jumped off the walls suddenly seemed very gray and shabby. The once comforting brown end table she saw upon walking into her duplex after work now seemed to give her a sick feeling in her stomach. She walked across the wooden floor and the beautiful living room that she so willingly allowed herself to become wrapped up in, now felt like a cold, grey prison cell.

The sunshine seeped through the windows, yet she did not find comfort in that. The bright sunrays somehow distorted itself into an evil irony. She felt that on this day the sun was laughing at her, it was laughing at what had happened.

She took hold of her fast moving emotions, and walked into the bedroom. She soon realized that it felt more empty and cold than the living room. The white queen-sized bed and its silken sheets looked lonelier than before. She put her hands on the sheets and felt nothing. Without him she felt nothing. She hesitantly took off her tweed jacket and went towards his closet where his clothes still hung. As she opened the closet to familiar looking objects, it was almost as if they spoke to her. His multi-colored assortment of ties comforted her, the scent of his cologne still clinging onto the small fibers of fabric gave her a warm feeling and his large loafers and oxfords giving off the smell of old, worn leather that she loved reflected a smile in her sad eyes.

She took one of his suit jackets off its hanger and smelled it. She could almost feel him. She put the coat on and lay down on the lonesome bed, putting her head on the untouched, sterile pillow and began to sob, hoping that if she kept the jacket on long enough, it would be his arms, and not the jacket, wrapping himself around her.

She lay down on the bed, tightly hugging the soft brown fibers, pulling them around her, hoping that if she held tight enough, they would become his hands. She began to think of the previous hours, riding in the cold ambulence after it had happened, having people ask her questions, asking her what her relationship was to him in the midst of all her worry. He just lay there on the gurney in the ambulence. Motionless. His lips looked pale as white snow upon an endless field, his normally olive colored skin looked icy and his gray hairs were not neatly combed back, but slightly askew, making him look unkempt. His hands looked limp and his button down shirt was crinkled and messy, being tugged and pulled to make way for the various needles and fluids that would perhaps give him at least a few more seconds of life. They arrived at the nearest hospital and upon stepping out on the hard concrete she could feel that the air outside felt as cold as death. He was pulled out of the abulence and she followed frantically, trying to keep up with the running paramedics until she was ultimately shut out of the operating room and forced wait inside the miserable waiting area for hours on end. It was an awful mint green that looked cold and dirty and the blue and green patterned chairs that were lined against the wall didn't look much cleaner. She sat her thin body down and waited with a feeling of sinking hope in her heart. She hated to feel out of control. The unknown was what she feared most, not knowing if he was going to be okay. She sat and stared at a sailboat picture wall, noticing the darkness of the painting. The sky was not a bright blue, but instead a dirty off-white color, with not a cloud in the sky and how the sea was black and intimidating. The sailboat looked calm sailing upon the sea, but at the same time, it looked as though a storm was on its way. She began listening to the sounds of the people next to her. Sobs. She could hear sobbing as a doctor came in to break some very bad news. She had hoped that that would not be her. She took her down jacket, wrapped it around her and leaned back her seat, trying to ease her quickening breath. Trying to assure herself that maybe everything would be okay, but moments later the doctor only came to approach her with a dismal look on his face.

Birdlike, the books on the shelves in the pale green room watch her as she sleeps, the dust particles like various watchful eyes upon worn leather-bound novels. A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis and The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion spied on her as she lay down. The has trapped her in her own thoughts, convincing her that if she keeps the jacket on long enough, he will come back. The jacket had already injected its sweet, delusional poison into her mind, making her vulnerable to believe that he will return soon, as if by magic.
She had awoken. The clock read eight o'clock and she had been sleeping for twelve hours. She was convinced that the events of the past day were only a dream. Still exhausted and weak from her deep sleep, she put her veined, dainty heeled-feet upon the soft, carpeted floor. The carpet made her feel light and hopeful as she stood up and began to call his name, hopeful that if she called loud enough, he would turn the corner, only to embrace her and tell her that they cured him. She started to search through every room; the colorful living room, the marble bathroom, the carefully decorated guestrooms, and even the neat and tidy maids room, calling his name in hysteria. The feeling of panic commenced and her eyes began to water and the more she searched, the more dismal and cell-like each room seemed, until she found herself back in the bedroom. She walked to the bed and put her thin, delicate hand upon her pillow and felt that it had been stained with her tears and realized that she still had his jacket on. Her heart sank again as she stared at her hand on the pillow, her hand that still wore the wedding ring he had given her more than forty years ago. She remembered their picnics in the park, their vacations abroad, the deaths they had suffered through and the years they had celebrated together and how in love they were with each other until the very end. She remembered the night he had proposed to her and realized that she was wearing the very same jacket he had on the evening of their proposal at that very moment. She sat down on the bed, smelling the jacket once more, trying to hold her tears back, worrying that if she stained it his smell might go away and she might ruin his chances of coming back.
She couldn't control her tears so she quickly grabbed a tissue from the tissue box next to her bed and she began to wipe her nose and face so that she could continue to smell and hold the jacket. Deep down knew he wasn't coming back but the feeling of hope had overcome her. She felt that if she left his things untouched in the apartment, he would somehow come back for them. There was so much hope inside of her that she almost felt as though anything was possible. She wondered that if she left his clothes in his closet, his toothbrush in the bathroom and his book about Franklin Roosevelt in his nighttable drawer, that he would come back for these things. She wondered if he would come back for her and she didn't want to miss his return. She got up from the bed and walked over to his neat, white closet to make sure that all his clothes were still in their proper place. She walked from the closet into the cold, marble bathroom, making sure that his toothbrush was still in the glass jar where he had left it the night before and then she returned to his side of the bed in the bedroom to make sure that his favorite book about Franklin Roosevelt and his reading glasses were still in the stark hazelnut brown wooden nighttable so that he could retrieve it without difficulty. As she opened his nighttable to see if his book was still there, she caught herself. She jolted up quickly, stopping herself from letting her actions feed off her delerium. She began to wonder if what she was doing was really going to bring him back. She caught hold of her breathFeeling calmer, she sat on the bed and wrapped the jacket around her, smelling it once more, hoping that she hadn't corrupted its pure scent by getting her tears or perfume on it. She slowly lowered her body and lay down on the bed once more and came to the realization that his clothing was the last tangible thing of his that she would ever have. Now she could only hope that he would visit her in her dreams.
As she lay on the empty bed, thinking of what had happened she began to fall into a deep sleep, dreaming of him. She saw a grey cemetery, the sky was dark and foggy, the trees were dead and black and the gravestone were lopsided and soiled with dead flowers springing up from the dirt. She saw a man in a long white robe, he looks as if he is preparing for something. He looks ready. He walks confidently amongst the graves, barefooted upon the black dirt floor and begins to disappear gradually into the fog, never to be seen again.

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