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A Vicious Cycle

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I am lying here, patiently waiting for sleep. You haven’t been to bed in a while, my dear—what’s wrong? Can I help in any way? I just want to hear your breath—steady, perpetual—interrupting the still silence of our nightly slumber. I can’t sleep without you, my dear. You’ve been away before, for weeks at a time, even. Sometimes the dog will keep me company, but he snores and you don’t and I love that about you: even in sleep, you are gentle. I haven’t felt your soft touch in a while. It feels like decades, but it’s two years. Two years, six months, three days, in fact. But it’s okay, because your cashmere is still delicately folded in our closet, the perfume still embedded in the threads, casting faint whiffs my way when I carefully open the door every so often. I know, I know—I promised you I wouldn’t but sometimes it’s hard, Elaine. It’s like a closet full of memories, a place I can visit when it hurts just a little more than usual. I know I told you I’d be strong, that I’d be brave. I wish, oh I so wish, I could be as strong as you were, as brave, when that lock—that small, yet so significant lock—detached itself from your scalp. How I wish I could’ve been as strong as you. Barely a tear escaped your eye. You don’t know that I went to the guestroom that night and wept like a baby. I wept for you because I knew you wouldn’t. I wept for my own thoughtless self, for the fear of being alone, for growing old in a solitary life, having to live day by day, just my thoughts, my aching body, and me.

Well my body aches now.

I am alone and I am young and I am scared. Scared shitless. And I miss you. Oh, every day I miss you. I hope you know what you’ve done to me. You told me not to miss you. You told me to cope and let go. Well, Elaine, it hasn’t quite worked like that, because every time I find myself longing for your beautiful voice I so wish I could remember, or your hands, so fragile and feminine, all I can see is the sterile light, the hospital bed—the bed that held the shell of you. We were supposed to go on a honeymoon, fall asleep intertwined in one another’s arms, sit together drinking champagne on a beautiful beach somewhere, dreaming about what lay ahead. We were supposed to reach a milestone—have a kid, fight about carpet choices, paint colors, mortgages; we were supposed to fight about fighting. We were supposed to work it out and love each other, because that was the commitment we made. We were supposed to grow old together and do everything in between, but instead you did the first part last. I live in eternal guilt because I will always miss you. And by doing so, I will always be breaking the promise I made. Goddamnit, I just can’t help it, Elaine.

But if only I’d made you get tested earlier. I should have known it couldn’t have waited. I should’ve sensed the urgency in your voice. What the hell was wrong with me? You could’ve gone on your own, though. You didn’t have to wait. The doctor is a five-minute drive from our home. But you wanted me there, and I couldn’t see it. I had to go on that trip. You know how Jim gets. He’s a pushy boss. He just wants things done. But it could have waited. Why? What was wrong with me? Something so wrong that it drove me to do the one thing I’ve always tried not to. I picked work over you, though I didn’t realize it at the time. Still, though—I should have known.

You’ll never come to bed, will you, Elaine? Your side will be forever made, creased ever so slightly from the last time you slept there. I wish I could keep those creases from disappearing. I wish I could keep the smell of the perfume in the closet from fading so rapidly. I wish I didn’t have to disconnect your phone, so I could still call and listen to your voice answer on the other end, like you were still alive, still here, still going to listen to the messages I leave every day. When I go to dinner (and I seldom do), the stares are the worst. I can see the pity, blatantly plastered on the faces of the people staring at my ring finger, where our wedding band still remained, my disheveled hair, hollow face. If they would just leave me alone, if I could just eat my meal in peace. Yes, you b*******, yes. My wife is dead. Congratulations on solving the mystery—a ring, but a table for two set only for one. So sit over there, with your spouses, your families. You just go ahead and sit over there and eat your meals and drink your drinks and enjoy your laughter. But don’t look over at me, nursing a glass of red wine, picking at my meal, and suddenly experience sympathy for the poor man whose wife is clearly dead.

Well, come on Elaine. I’ve been lying here, patiently waiting for sleep, though I know it won’t reach me until you come to bed.



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ClarinetPower said...
Jun. 26, 2012 at 10:43 am
Wow.  If only I could write like you!
 
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