Waiting For You
She thought about how he kept promising that he’d ‘be waiting for her’ as he rotted away in the hospital bed amongst the machines and nurses. She lay on her island and thought about years gone by. Both of them lying side by side, basking in the glow, of the cheap halogen light bulbs. She hated those lightbulbs. She used to think he was just practical, she loved that about him. But he was just cheap-fisted. The things you love at the beginning are always the things that get on your wick at the end.
Her Island - well bed - was her favourite place in the world. It was ‘their’ favourite place in the world. Now he was gone, departed, deceased, left. She preferred gone. Left sounded like he had a choice.
They’d made things on this island, babies. Plans.
They sat huddled on the shore plotting the rest of their lives looking out at the rest of the world. Watching life go on around them. Now her cosy island felt desolate. She was a sole survivor.
He hadn’t died on this Island. He’d died on a different island. A metal island with wheels in a hospital corridor. The nurse who was supposed to be keeping an eye on him had forgot. Like a waitress who had forgotten to wipe a table. She didn’t think she had become bitter – she knew she had. She embraced it. Bitterness was easier than forgiveness.
At first when it was just them, they spent days on this little island, huddled together surrounded by a sea of clothes, takeout boxes and wine bottles. Just them and their island. People who were falling in love only needed a bed.
Gradually they had built the rest of the world around it. Bed side tables, wardrobes an old black and white T.V with a fidgety aerial and ornament’s that had become family heirlooms. The old black and white T.V that had been replaced and updated over the years and now there was a plasma 42 inch T.V attached to the wall.
It wasn’t always just her and him. Along came the children. Babies snuggled in between them. Then they became toddlers feigning illness and nightmares to share their parents island. Then they had gotten their own islands in their own bedrooms. In a blink of an eye they had flown off. They were never really that far away.
They’d had passionate sex on this island. Slow sex, fast sex. Trying too hard sex, or trying not at all. Good sex and bad sex. Then not so much sex, then just memories of sex. Sex was just a spark. It didn’t keep you warm all through the night.
They’re little Island hadn’t cost much. He had haggled the price down. He loved to haggle. Boot sales, department stores. She used to wish the ground would open and swallow her up.
A million people would walk past someone dropping litter in the street – not him. A million people would walk past a bunch of yobs swearing in the street – not him. A million people would walk past an elderly lady struggling with a hoard of shopping bags – not him. He was one in a million. For her he was the one in a million.
He’d nod off before they went up to their island, then pretend he hadn't. He was always the first to nod off. He was the first go.
There were freezing nights spent on this island. Chilly, teeth chattering, daring each other to get up first and make the tea. He always got up first.
The start of beautiful summer days huddled under the blankets, clinging to each other like they were on a life raft, hiding from the pushy sun.
It hadn’t been all beautiful skies and calm seas on this island. The shores had been battered by money worries. Infidelity (him not her) You either forgive or walked away. You never forgot! Breast cancer. (The left breast). The loss of parents. Hers and his.
There was always his side and her side of the island. Now he was gone and she was adrift, tossing and turning in the middle. She felt aimless. He was aimless. She didn’t know why they bothered having a toilet seat, she wanted to rip it off and frizz-bee it through the window half the time.
He snored so terribly. He used to snore so terribly. She’d lie awake on their island and wondered if that grating grunting sound was grounds for justifiable homicide. He hugged her too tight before they went to sleep. He used to hug her so tight before they went to sleep. She’d have to release herself from his grip like a contortionist slipping from chains.
Civilization kept calling but she didn't want to rejoin. The children, neighbours, friends.
Tables were so much bigger when they were just for one, bus seats were made for two, benches were made for two. The world wasn't designed to be be on your own.
The both of them had watched couples lose one half over the years. Some excelled with stubborn determination. Doing things they never would have done when their married husband or wife was alive. Cruises round the world or bloody tap dancing. Then there was the opposite. ‘He won't be far behind her…’ her husband would say shaking his head
She was angry he left her behind. He went somewhere she didn't. He went before her. If he left her for another woman she could be a victim and her anger could be shameless.
She tried to remember the terrible sound of his snoring. The thing that kept her awake most nights. Now these days she sobbed into her pillow, because she realised she couldn't sleep without it.
She sat on their island and opened the tub of pills calmly swallowing them one by one.
She started to feel herself slipping into darkness the blackness enveloping her.
She wondered if he would be waiting for her.
I think I’m doing pretty well. The healthy half of me knows it wasn’t my fault. It doesn’t try and remodel my raw materials into something more worthy. It studiously avoids the quicksand of memory. I’m on this path now and I have no choice but to keep going. I’m even beginning to think about other endings.
The waiting half isn’t much fun. She bleats on like that goat in Jurassic Park, staked out for the dinosaur. It’s pathetic the way it brings harm on itself staying in that surreal world. The world where the blue strobes cut the black sky into before and after. The one where I opened the door and normality got sucked out into the policeman’s mouth. What he said swallowed my life like a black hole.
I don’t dwell on that. I tell myself I’m lucky you’re alive, it could have been worse. But hard as I try, some days I can’t believe that. I watch you inhabiting my husband’s body and I know I’m living in a zombie film. Ironically it’s worse when you impersonate him. Like just now when you laughed at your new carer spilling your food. She’s mortified but you laugh again and again until she finally smiles. I think of how you would have handled that before, gently teasing her until it felt like nothing. But before no one would have had to feed you.
The waiting half over-powers me. She says you laughing is your first toddler steps to empathy. She actually thinks you’re going to come all the way back to us. You just got lost inside in the crash so all we have to do is wait for you to resurface. She’s wrong, of course, the self-help books state how important it is to accept you as you are now. To love you today not for who you used to be but I can’t do that, neither of my halves can. We fell in love with a giant and we’re living with a sweet runt.
She kids herself and I hate myself for being so hard, for knowing there is no better future. I think you either get a long time with someone small or a short time with someone as king-sized as you. Another silly belief. Perhaps I should divide myself up into hundreds of notions like balls of mercury running across the floor after the barometer shattered. Maybe one of them will contain a way of dealing with this, a belief to make life bearable.
You are, and you aren’t, you. More than half of you died in the accident. The sensible thing to do is to walk away from your remains but she won’t stop waiting for you. You weren’t the only one torn in two.
Featured Entry by JC
I’ll never forget our first meeting. I was coming out of the supermarket and struggling with a laden trolley. Its wonky wheel hit the sloping gutter and pulled me off balance. The whole thing was toppling until your tanned, muscular arms reached out and stopped it. How my heart fluttered at your dimpled smile. When you offered to wheel the beast to my car I readily accepted though I could have managed from that point. We started talking about the items in my cart. You were curious about the extravagant food. I waved the list I’d been given explaining that I was shopping for my sister’s party tonight. She and my other sister were busy getting their hair and nails done and the groceries were last minute additions they wanted. Instead of asking when I’d be getting my hair done you said you hoped their hairdresser was as good as mine because she’d made me look like an angel. That was when my heart stopped fluttering, and melted.
The few short weeks leading to our marriage went by in a whirl. You treated me like a princess – infinitely precious and fragile. I luxuriated in your cotton wool, thrilled to receive such attention for the first time in my life. It wasn’t until the honeymoon that I finally felt the need to come up for air. Activities abounded on our tropical island. On the first day a waiter smiled at me and I kissed away your wrinkled brow. When our surf coach complimented my technique I laughed at your scowl, imagining those shows of jealousy to be your funny way of expressing your love. But that night you punished me for flirting.
Over the next two weeks whenever we ventured out together we went arm-in-arm. Others chuckled indulgently but I knew by then that such an arrangement isn’t always romantic. You frequently went off to swim and enjoy yourself, instructing me to stay in our room and watch TV. I didn’t dare disobey.
Shortly after returning from our honeymoon I found I was pregnant, and the joy of growing a new life inside me lightened the dread that was taking hold. The days became filled with prenatal exercise videos, sewing, crocheting and cooking healthy meals from the groceries you brought home. I loved the cot you chose but wished you’d let me go with you to buy it. You insisted I not get overtaxed. I didn’t see how the occasional visitor would overtax me but I’d learnt not to argue.
Your little punishments became more frequent. For arbitrary infractions you found ingenious ways to inflict pain without leaving marks. I tried desperately to please you – keeping the house spotless and laundering your clothes exactly as you liked. When the baby finally arrived I thought my heart would burst with joy. Our little girl was so beautiful. I hoped that fatherhood would mellow you, and for a while it did. But then the baby got colic.
She couldn’t help her crying. Really she couldn’t. I would have taken her for walks outside to free you from the noise but you wouldn’t allow it. What were you afraid of? Showing a less than perfect baby to the world or having a runaway wife? You needn’t have worried about the latter. I was completely in your thrall. I still melted when you turned on the charm and treated me tenderly. But when our intimate moments were interrupted by the baby I would hold my breath. I’d always been the outlet for your suppressed rages but suddenly I began to fear for our child. I was right to be afraid.
She’s not in the waiting room with me. A baby hasn’t learned to hate, doesn’t need revenge. This place – some on Earth might call it limbo – is only for those like me who are waiting for someone. I’m waiting for you. Turns out heaven and hell aren’t quite the way the religions paint them. Those who have done no harm and who seek no justice, never see a world beyond death. They rest in peace. But the spirits that ache for revenge come here – to the waiting room. This is where we ponder the ways we will deal with those who eventually come to us. I’ve devised a marvellous repertoire of ‘treatments’ for you. Many stem from the things you did to me but the worst will be variations on what you did to our daughter. Your ‘hell’ will last as long as I want it to. Only when my passions are finally spent will I allow us both to rest in peace.
So, my dear. Enjoy what’s left of your short corporeal life. Your death will be long. I’m waiting for you.