Sometimes, when she’s hardly there at all, I suggest a separation, a short time only, her parents’ place perhaps, but she says nothing, reaches out to touch me, pulls back, and the two wine glasses, the two plates will still need to be washed each evening, reminders that she’s here, still here, just not really with me at all.
Television is easy. The chatter, the silvery flicker. There are nights when that is all we do, motionless and apart. She reads sometimes, and I watch her. She is beautiful, slim, her smooth legs pulled up beneath her, fingers sometimes unknowingly in her mouth, in her hair. I watch the pages that she doesn’t turn, and when she puts the book down, when she leaves the room without a word and goes upstairs, I pick up the book, I read the words she is blind to. I listen to her movements, and I wait.
I wait for her to sleep.
I come home with flowers. Monday. Friday. She is meticulous, trimming the stalks, arranging, but then sometimes it is as if she is lost. I have stood in the doorway to the kitchen, watching her running the cold tap into the vase, the water spilling over the glass lip. I have stood there, minute after minute. I have watched, turned away.
If she is lost, then I am too.
She is not ill. Not really. She is only sad, and I cannot help her, because I cannot reach her, and I no longer want to. What I want is for the wine glass to be mine only, the plate to be mine alone.
I want to come home to a different kind of emptiness, the kind that lets me breathe.
She still has friends, and apparently I am ‘wonderful’. I am ‘so patient’. I am ‘a rock’. I am none of these things which they suggest. I am an erection nursed and carried guiltily to the shower. I am the time that I tried, just for a second, to force her – silent, strong – and I am the tears I cried into her silence. I am the perfume I bought for her the next day, the silver shoes she has never worn. I am the shouting of words, a fist against the wall.
I am here, she is almost invisible, and we are killing something together.
I believe something has happened, and that I have not been told. An affair. A miscarriage. An abortion. She is all silence, all secrets. But then, suddenly, I know there is nothing, nothing at all, other than the disappointment of the sky through the window, hour after hour of it, the empty blue, the distance.
I know that she loves me, that we love each other, and that it has not been enough; I know that soon it will happen, whatever it is.
I remember the coast, two years ago, her running barefoot through the soft sand, stumbling, falling. I remember her laugh, the easy weight of her as I lifted her. Making love in the hotel, we left sand in the sheets, and it stuck to the sweat of our skin. In the room there was a ceiling fan, and it spun slightly off-axis as we lay in the cool of its breath, hypnotised, as happy as either of us had ever been.
Sometimes, when I’m falling asleep, I still think of how the sky that summer seemed a kind of blue I’d never seen, and filled with something like hope.
Jason Jackson writes short fiction and poetry. You can find links to his work at www.tryingtofindthewords.blogspot.co.uk. Jason tweets @jj_fiction.
*Photography courtesy of Brian Michael Barbeito*