He thinks back to when it started. To when the walls began to surface around him, was it his sons 28th birthday? He couldn’t be quite sure.
The signs were there, the pains down the arm, shortness of breath, he knew almost 6 months before it finally hit him, yet he never did anything to prevent it.
He remembers dropping plates full of sandwiches and small rolls. He remembers them falling one by one down the stairs like a herd of lemmings, was it a herd lemmings ran in as they cast themselves over some nameless cliff?
A gaggle maybe?
What do you call a collection of suicidal furry animals apart from stupid?
The pain shot across his chest, the numbness inside his mind as birthday balloons swayed in the breeze and someone somewhere behind him screamed his name.
That was 3 years ago, yet it seems like only yesterday, the days meld into one giant ball of confused moments, so it was hard to pick out any one to dissect and observe.
Now just the living room was his world, his sanctum for the insane. He never realized just how dated the room was until he had nothing else to look at, the wallpaper had started to peel in the corner behind the TV, growing worse with every passing month yet no one noticed, he wanted to scream to someone, anyone to see it, to see just how bad it had gotten.
They never did.
Some times a tear would slide down his face and his wife would mop it up before anyone could see it.
They never knew she left him some nights to meet with a guy that smelled of cheap Alpine mist.
He remembered when he was a child, fishing with his father. Being woken up long before the sun was due to rise, walking along the rivers edge as an Alpine mist silently rolled past them, the chattering of the water, the smell of a fresh new day, he knew just exactly how it smelled and it wasn’t anything like that bastards aftershave.
He could almost understand his wife’s desertion, the pressures of looking after a living dead man day after day had taken its toll on her, sometimes he wished she would just put him in a home so he could die with some form of dignity, he wondered many days if he would do the very same thing if the tables were turned, live a new life while she rotted in a room in some nameless Hospital for people that couldn’t control their bowels or knew who their own children were.
The thing that broke his heart was the lying she did to their children, so many times came and went where they would offer to look after him so she could go out and relax with friends, what friends she had left these days, always would she say “Thank you but my place is with your father” Then off she would go racing up the stairs before they had even left the drive to meet her new lover.
To meet her new lover
While her old one rotted in a chair watching Nick at Nite of all things, he could never understand why she chose that particular channel, so many times he thought back to one of their many intimate nights, sweating and short of breath whispering sweet nothings into her ear and telling her just how much he loved shitty 80’s TV, but it escaped him every time.
He started to think it was revenge, revenge for all of those times he came home drunk after supposedly working late, white lies (he thought) were not made to hurt people, a slight bending of the truth nothing more, certainly not made to hold as a grudge years later, maybe he was wrong, she always took what he said personally it was just her way.
Most nights she would come home usually around 2ish stinking of booze and cheap sex angry with him for soiling his freshly washed pajamas, what did she expect? He sat there most nights for well over 6 hours after being forced water or some foul tasting crap that the Doctors said would help. Help with what? He was a dead man, his lungs filled with air his eyes moved from left to right, everything else was lost.
Sometimes she would collapse on the floor in front of him and cry, cry like she did when her parents had died.
He had seen her cry in many forms over the years, he got to know each one intimately, the ones he caused by his own selfish doings, the ones where their children told her they hated her and she believed them, and the one time when her parents died.
It was guttural, so basic you need not ask what happened, you knew by the sound alone, totally heart shattering sorrow of loss never to be found, he cried when she did it, he screamed inside begging her to look up and see his tears, to share her grief with his, even though as a couple they were by now so alien to one another.
Grief is grief, one of the few commons all humanity has that links them together, yet not once did she look up into his pleading eyes, not once to see the tears pouring down his own weathered face.
She would get up; her head down almost as if ashamed and silently leave the room. In a panic he wondered if she would leave Full House on (it was a marathon running) but at the last minute she would switch it off and leave him in darkness, leave him in peace.
He wondered every night as to what was worse, sitting in the darkness alone or listening to her cry upstairs in their bed alone, or the days his family watched him die that little bit more, never once being able to hold them, talk to them or tell them how much he loves them, it kills him sometimes when his grandchildren are forced to kiss Grandpa hello or goodbye, he listens to them say how he smells funny or how he scares them.
He dies each time they say it, he wished his children would stop bringing them over, yet he cursed God every time they left, loving him that much less, the old man that never moves, that guy in the photos that smells like piss and shit, he tries to talk, to tell them all he had done before the stroke, that he wasn’t always like this! Hell, listen to your father! he has tried to tell you so many times.
Yet every time his wife for better or for worse always came and packed things up, going on about dredging up old history and boring the kids.
His eyes locked with his sons once and his heart skipped a beat, as she put away the photos telling their grandchildren some tall story or another, their eyes locked.
His son nodded.
Nothing was said.
That was all he needed to do.
Hope filled his heart for the first time since the stroke. Hope. It was such a small word for something so strong, it was as if his son gave him permission to die, an understanding that he was in a Hell no Priest could ever conjure up.
Maybe it was all in his head.
Sometimes as he sat in urine soak pajamas going from hot to freezing cold he would drift back to when his children were born, one boy and 2 girls.
The oldest never comes over anymore, he respects that, how could you not? Why the Hell would you come to a place that depresses you? If it affected you that much why bother?
He understood, and loved her that much more for never coming back. He remembered the last time she came, an argument between mother and daughter, about how he was not getting the medical help he really needed, harsh words were spoken then all fell silent, she ushered herself into the room and knelt beside him, whispering her loves and goodbyes, she saw the tears, she wiped them away with the same tissue she used for her own, then she was gone, his beloved Lucy. Their first born, the first to go, the first to be cut from their mothers clothe.
Why did his wife keep so steadfast to him being at home when all it did was create a prison that was slowly killing her?
He could never understand why.
He let his mind wander to better times.
He remembered cleaning in the kitchen with his mother, he was around 12 or maybe 13, they were laughing and cleaning while his father watched sports on TV, quite a dull everyday action, yet it was different, so different he took it with him until his dying days.
There was an atmosphere in the room, one he remembered well. Looking out of the kitchen window over the fields, the waving motion of the wheat had begun to quicken as a storm in the distance picked up gathering speed and making its way towards them, playing with his mother while washing dishes as they sang songs and cleaned the evenings dinner plates off the table.
He believed it was the pure innocence of the moment that kept it alive, he hoped his children had something similar from him to remember long after he had passed, sadly he doubted that it was true, times change, and innocent moments are lost forever more.
If he could laugh there were times he would, right in his cheating wife’s face, while in the darkness, on her knees crying begging sometimes for release, never knowing or even trying to find out if he ever felt the same as she did, both kept prisoner by a moment years before.
He wondered sometimes if she thought as he did, of better times, the picnics the Christmas mornings when excitement was so thick you could carve it like a dark brown roasted turkey, the childish screams of excitement at finding the toys they had asked Santa for just several weeks before.
Did she think of the vacations they took to Europe? Sitting in the sun staring at the young bronzed men, turning red when she realized he knew she was watching them, he would tease her about it all the while feeling betrayed, not in the physical sense like now, more the “I don’t really give a damn that I’m checking out other men in front of you” he never made it a point to look at woman with ample breasts or very short skirts, sure he checked them out, he was after all a guy, he just never made it obvious to the point of upsetting her, never making it an issue, she always had that uncaring way towards his heart and it was the one thing he disliked about her.
After 3 years of sitting in a chair and watching Alf from start to finish and knowing Cheers word for word he knew that life was not going to get any better, so he began shutting down, at first even he didn’t realize what he was doing, his son catching his eye seemed to be the beginning of the end.
He was ready to die.
He was ready to let his wife cheat without cheating, ready to let her run along the beach with her bronzed Adonis.
He was ok with that, with her finding another lover, maybe another husband, he doubted by the smell of the Aspen cologne her moron lover was wearing. He was what most liked to call a “Player” a heart will be broken and it wont be the players, he knew it, even after sitting in a chair for 3 God forsaken years he knew it, his scent was to attract not to posses, it was for the kill for the allure.
It wasn’t a scent that would drag you back into the past filling your stomach with butterflies, it was something that would slide across your senses like a snail leaving its trail of guilty pleasure on your mind, something you quickly washed off in fear of others seeing and calling you a whore.
He was saddened that his wife could fall so easily for such a cheap shot, even under the current circumstances she was a hard nut to crack, not someone you could easily throw the wool over, maybe it was old age, maybe it was having to deal with a living corpse, he wasn’t sure which it might be, it didn’t matter in the end.
She would leave him soon, all alone. To run away with the Aspen scent guy, he accepted it, he almost understood it, hell if he were able and the tables were turned maybe he would be sleeping with cheerleaders and buying the car from his youth he had always desired.
He knew that wasn’t true, a cliché at best.
A cringe worthy attempt, nothing more than wanting to live in a Hollywood niche, trying to make a sad life that much more interesting, where people would talk about you at parties and for one small moment you would be famous within your small little world.
Yet his world never had any problems, not any that needed a cheerleader saying “Like” every other word could cure, he loves his wife, he loves his children… well he loved his wife, once. What stands before him now with tears and words of hate is a mask, a façade of the woman he first met, as he is now also.
Two crumbling foundations, once the life line of their children and friends, now just a shell, a giant log that had burnt throughout the night leaving a blacked husk that if you were to poke it with a stick would crumble into ash leaving nothing but memories and blackened hands.
The last time he saw his wife he knew.
Aspen scent had dumped her, for whatever reason it never really mattered. He was gone and as she cried on the bottom stair, so was she.
For what that little bastard was worth he kept her alive, for as long as she had some form of love he had his wife.
Now it was gone.
He never wished for this to happen, he never wished to only have the ability to watch and nothing more. He wondered most nights as Roseanne screamed some form of white trash advice to her love lost sister, just what the hell did he do to deserve this?
She knelt at the stairs, no more tears were left and her eyes became dry… bloodshot sunken and lost, she looked at him from time to time almost it seems as if she half expected him to jump up and start laughing at her, slapping her about the face calling her a whore.
Nothing happened, for a moment she was gutted that it was just so, that maybe, just maybe he could get up enough emotion to move his arm and hit her, scream at her, call her the whore that she thought she had become.
He sat as he always did. In a prison, silent never judging, he wondered if she knew just what it was his body had created for him, he hoped she knew he held no ill for her actions.
Never once hearing a thank you from his dried dead lips, she tried not to look him in the eyes, that stopped the day she met the Aspen man, the guilt too much for her he guessed.
Who can blame the soul after year upon year of torment?
The soul can.
The guilt seemed to be drowning her now, it was as if she were replaying every time she had sex with her lover and enjoyed it, the passion the excitement those empty words he whispered that now made her feel the fool, the old hag who’s number you might find on a toilet door in some nameless truck stop.
She walked into the room, almost without a sound if not for those silk stockings making a swish swish swish as she came towards him, eyes dull, makeup smeared, streaming across her face, she kissed him lightly upon the lips, leaving the slight taste of cherry and sex.
“I’m so sorry, so sorry”
Turning she went upstairs and cut her wrists in the bathtub.
He listened to her cry; he listened to her die, mind bursting to race up stairs to help her, to hold her one last time, knowing he could do nothing in his human prison.
As tears rolled down deep grooved cheeks he knew she was gone.
He wondered what his children would think, he wished his wife had cleaned up the mess she had left behind, then he realized that it didn’t really matter, to hell with the world, to hell with aspen man and anyone else, she was a prisoner, no different than he, she just had the advantage of being able to scream, being able to do something about it. Sitting there he wept like a newborn, knowing she was more fortunate for being able to say
He closes his eyes wishing to die, wishing to be with his wife as the clock ticking away the seconds on the mantel tells him he still hasn’t crossed over.
As every second echoed throughout the empty house keeping him alive within his prison without walls, he could do nothing more but cry.
Cry and think of better times.
In the darkness a kitchen fills with the smell of fresh baked bread and an on coming storm, the grass in the distance rolls in time with the wheat as the dark clouds race towards them, somewhere in the darkness a mother laughs with her son.
As the ticking of a clock grows still.