she’s just the apparition of a person. the leftover energy she leaves in a room. he’s one step behind her, floating through the smell of her perfume and conditioner. lipstick stains on his shirt and strands of hair left on the floor are memories. she packs away clothes into suit cases and old grocery bags. makeup and old pictures. he gives her everything. he wants it that way. but she doesn’t. she doesn’t take the furniture, the art, the flatware. she says it would be like living in the same house, just somewhere else. but he doesn’t want it either, because it will remind him of her. it holds her smells, and fragments of memories become palpable when he sees them. the only logical thing to do is give them away. that’s what he will do tomorrow. get rid of everything else that isn’t his and isn’t hers. that will take up an entire day. one entire day of the insurmountable existence he will live.
she leaves a brightly lit trail everywhere she goes, and he stops, and watches it. as she moves from the living room to their bed room to the bathroom. he sits down, every movement she makes is a movement closer to her being gone. he sits there and swallows this thought like a jagged piece of ice.
dust settles in the corners of the rooms, behind the dressers and the bed. where he’s sitting now, he can see a collection of it behind his armoire. the amalgamation of their hair and dead skin. the only children they can make together. he lightly digs at the scratches in the wood floor with his nails. it’s a constant reminder of how things age naturally. he remembers when they first bought the house, the floors were brand new, everything was brand new. now it’s not. everything is outdated and old. the floors scratch and wear down, revealing imperfections. the walls accumulate nail holes, the windows become cloudy. everything in this house ages. besides them.
she walks into the room holding a framed picture. she looks at it for a moment, smiling. then she looks over at him and shows it to him. it’s a picture of himself, from before his aging plateaued. the photographers at the time were experimenting with multiple negatives of pictures and they could create portraits of people holding their own heads. as if they were decapitated. the picture cost his parents two cents, his father thought it was funny, his mother not so much. the picture is black and white, the corners chipping and faded.
she lays the picture down on the bed and comes over to the floor and sits with him. she just sits, she doesn’t say anything she doesn’t move.
he has to clear his throat twice to find the words
“is that everything?”
“yeah, i think so.”
they sit there looking straight ahead
“so, where to now?”
he wants to imagine this is hard for her, hard for her to leave here. this has been her home for a hundred years, and he has been her home for even longer.
she says with a sigh
“from here i have to drop the rest of my stuff off and then go buy a new mattress.”
he motions towards the bed.
“why don’t you just take ours?”
“robert, we’ve talked about that.”
“i know, but just so you have something to sleep on tonight. then tomorrow you can get a new one and throw the old one away.”
“that seems like a lot of moving just to have a bed to sleep on for one night.”
robert shifts down so he’s lying on the floor
“i was gonna get rid of it anyway, thought maybe i could trick you into hauling it away for me.”
patricia looks down at him
“and you’re going to sleep… on the floor?”
“yeah why not, the wood is comfortable, good for my back.”
he looks up at the ceiling and the little dust particles floating in the sunlight. he imagines the sun heating the dust until it burns up and disappears and he feels envious of it.
“i’m going to leave the bed for you.”
which is now just one more thing for him to do, tomorrow.
he looks up at her and she’s still looking at the room.
what a beautiful luxury he has taken for granted. just to be able to look at her. her eyes are golden. strong. fierce. she keeps him grounded, leveled. in their life, they never had the looming inevitability of death following them everywhere. without that finality it’s easy to get lost. she keeps him found. she is the person that would look for him.
but when she walks through that door, he won’t have that anymore.
he has to bite the inside of his cheek.
his sinuses tingle, and the tears well up in his eyes and he bites harder.
“so, what are you going to do now?”
“probably, just the same types of things we used to do, i’ll just do them alone now.”
she sighs, building up the last bit of strength to say
“no, don’t do that.”
“don’t be weak. you’ve always been tough, and you always have to be tough. even when i’m not here."“
the words melt the floors, seep through the cracks and scar the earth.
you have to be tough.
he says, with the tears coming now
“i’m just tired. i’m so fucking tired.”
she sighs again
“i know. i’ve been tired for a long time now.”
she laughs slightly
“it makes me envious of the dead.”
she looks down at him, and can see the tears drip down the sides of his face.
“we can’t rest. we know that as a fact, we can’t. so we have to stay occupied.”
she looks back up at the wall
“eventually you’ll look back and the days will be gone, and it’ll hurt less and less and you’ll find someone new. you’ll think back on me and what we had and it’ll be some distant memory.”
she turns back to him
at first his pain comes out as a laugh, but it quickly turns into more tears.
she pulls his face towards her, pinching his head between her hand and thigh
gravity is pulling him towards her lips
they’ve forbidden now, his molecules are attached to hers and as she walks out his body disintegrates. the door closes and the strings snap and his body floats freely for a moment before it crashes to the floor.