IF I HAD TO PINPOINT one thing in this world that really throws me, it would probably be the fact that you can wake up one morning and things will be the same as the previous morning, and many mornings before that, but by the time you climb back into bed that following night, your world can be turned upside down. This is the one fact of life that I struggle to grasp.
This morning I woke at seven thirty. I turned to watch my wife while she was sleeping. I traced her face with my fingertips; the straight bridge of nose and swift curve of cheekbone…the dark sweeping lashes. Then her eyes opened slowly - dream-glazed, and she kissed me with rose lips. We got up and dressed for work and then we drank coffee at the dining room table, the way we did every morning.
Now suddenly I find myself awake at a strange hour. It is two thirty-five in the morning and I am driving home. My cheeks are tear-stained and my hands white and taut as I grip the wheel in a mixture of what I believe to be confusion, anger and rigid fear. Sylvia was pronounced dead at two-twenty. I was there when her soul departed. The numbing sound of the life-support machine is etched in my mind like a song I cannot forget. I will never forget. The rest is a blur. I think I accepted the wedding ring yet I am not sure where I put it. The doctors told me they were sorry and I was offered various support services yet I refused them all and ran out of the hospital into the rain that drove downwards like bullets. It didn’t matter; I had been shot already.
Now I am pulling into our drive outside our house. This does not feel like my drive, this does not feel like my car, this does not feel like my house. I walk up the garden path in a dream-like state. My hand automatically presses the car remote and then slips the key into the lock of the front door. I enter the house gingerly. I feel like an intruder - but when I open the door nostalgia hits me like a bus. Sylvia is everywhere. Her shoes are placed next to the welcome mat. Beat-up brown boots that she will never walk anywhere in again. There are paper flowers she arranged in a vase on the dresser. There are stacks of her favourite books on the shelves. Photographs: Sylvia as a child, Sylvia as a teenager, Sylvia as a twenty-seven year old…and then a blank canvas of wall that eagerly anticipates a chapter that will never arrive. Her empty coffee cup lies on the table; her lips and hands touched that cup and they will never touch it again. She will never touch anything again. She will never touch me again.
This all feels like a prolonged episode of déjà vu. I am conflicted with feelings of both familiarity and peculiarity. I feel drunk or as though I am dreaming. I pinch my arm in a half-hearted attempt to awaken myself as I drift like a ghost through a structure of bricks that was once our home.
Sylvia painted the picture above the fireplace. The autumnal trees eclipsing the lake. Autumn was her favourite time of year. She adored the colours and the sound of the leaves as they curled and crunched beneath her boots. Sylvia was the last to play an LP on the record player. Fleetwood Mac. Music is probably what distracted her when she pulled out of that junction without looking both ways. Her mind was always someplace far away; detached from the real world and entangled in the surreal. Now she too was detached.
At the hospital they operated on her and connected her to tubes and injected her with various medicinal drugs. They tried in a relentless struggle to resurrect her, yet nothing was enough to inject the vigour back into her that she once radiated so effortlessly. Now I am trying desperately to resurrect the home that we had and the memories we shared together. But I don’t know how without Sylvia. Our home has relapsed to simply a house again. It has lost its vigour just like she lost hers. All the simple and beautiful things; they mean nothing to me now.
Faith Clarke is currently reading a degree in Journalism and English Literature at Cardiff University, and works part-time in a vintage clothes store. She writes short stories and flash fiction in her own time, and also practices Creative Writing as part of her degree program, where she shares prose and occasionally poetry, on a weekly basis. She is inspired predominantly by the modern and postmodern movements and post-war American fiction. Faith is an aspiring novelist.
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