Once again, as I near the monthly death day anniversary I begin an endless routine of torture. Sleep eluded me during the night and all I managed was a couple of hours of broken and jagged slumber even after two sleeping pills. Approaching three-and-a-half years in hell and I can understand the enormity of the words “eternal damnation.” The moments, in which my mind was lucid, memories of my life before filled it—memories of when I was still adored. Memories of a man who loved me more than I ever deserved filled my lucid moments. It was during those lucid moments that tears ran from my eyes to puddle upon the pillow that I clutched ever so tightly—his pillow. However, during the moments in which my mind hovered somewhere in the twilight land between our world and a realm of chaotic nightmares, this is what emerged from beneath the growing cobwebs within my mind:
The day Alice Bentley learned that the lump in her breast was benign, she fled the physician’s office to rush home and share the good news with the man she loved. She smiled because she knew that the man whom she had pledged her life to 31 years ago—the man who she promised to love in sickness and in health—the man who fathered her only son—the man whom she had baked bread for would take her into his massive strong embrace and kiss her as though she were his new bride and they were making love for the first time.
But as Alice neared the home they shared, an eerie feeling crept up her spine and she shuddered as chills made her whole body shiver. She opened the door that once displayed the prettiest Christmas wreath, but had long since stood empty without any sign of joviality. Alice threw her 1950s-style purse onto the counter where she had cooked and baked chocolate chip cookies for her husband and son. She carelessly slung her car keys atop the yellow 1960s dining room table where the three of them had eaten together every night of the week but they stopped cold when they slid and sank into the spot where Bob Jr. had dropped a screwdriver after his team had won a football game. Elated, he had grabbed the screwdriver from the hall table where he had left it earlier. He had been working to restore the 1948 Ford F-1 pickup that he had bought with money saved from mowing lawns and carrying groceries to cars that belonged to little old ladies who had no qualms about presenting him with tips and patting him on the arm for being such a good boy. He carried many groceries and shared many smiles to earn enough money to paint the pickup a flat hunter green. The pickup was so old, but to Bob Jr., it was brand spanking new. But Alice did not think of any of this as she called her husband’s name.
She saw the top of her husband’s balding scalp as he leaned back in his La-Z-Boy recliner that she had bought for him on Father’s Day 13 years ago. On the television set, a sultry young woman rambled loudly about how Clearasil had changed her life. Thinking Bob Sr. must have dozed off while mindlessly watching Archie Bunker insult his son-in-law, Alice quietly tiptoed to the back of the treasured recliner and kissed the top of her husband’s scalp, leaving a stain of ruby red lipstick on his skin, something he never seemed to mind. As Alice leaned down to lovingly stroke Bob Sr.’s shoulders, she opened her eyes. Bob Sr. was cold. His fingers still clutched the 1978 Ruger Single Six Convertible pistol he had bought at Smith’s Pawn Shop on the corner of Bellview and Basin streets. Alice looked intently at the way Bob Sr.’s mouth hung open as though he was only sleeping. She half-expected a ground-shaking snore to emerge, but there was no sound but that of Michael Landon’s voice explaining to little Laura why Bandit had to die. Oddly, as Alice studied the blood staining Bob Sr.’s beloved recliner, she wondered whether she would be able to remove the stain from the fabric. She noticed some gray colored clumps too. She wondered what it was.
Alice did not scream nor did she cry. She simply took the afghan throw she had crocheted years ago from the arm of the La-Z-Boy and covered Bob Sr. with it, carefully pulling the edge up to his nipple line and tucking the sides under the enormous belly that 31 years of good cooking and good loving had nurtured. She put her hands on his temples and leaned down to kiss his forehead just the way she had done countless times, again leaving a ruby red stain on his now pale skin.
Alice calmly walked to her bedroom closet and removed the knee-length pastel yellow dress covered in a ghastly array of every colored flower known to man. She thoughtlessly used her fingers to swipe at a stain near the hem. She recalled that she had dropped a mug of coffee to the floor and it splattered near her feet, soaking the hem of her Sunday dress. Alice was not a clumsy woman, but Bob Sr. had innocently allowed a police officer into the front door of their home. After all, Alice had hanged a welcome sign adorned with straw-colored flowers and a little bluebird perched on the “em” in “Welcome.” How could the police officer know that he would not be welcome in the little two-bedroom home that Bob Sr. and Alice Bentley shared for 31 years? When the uniformed police officer told them that there had been an accident involving a hunter green 1948 Ford F-1 pickup and a brand new 1980 Chevrolet Camaro and there were no survivors, Alice had dropped the coffee mug she was holding. She screamed at the officer to get out of her home while Bob Sr. tried to harness his own anguish and instead console his hysterical wife. The police officer quietly left the little house that seeped with love.
Alice donned her pastel yellow dress with the flower explosion and coffee stain because it was so appropriate for the occasion. She had never worn the dress since that awful day. She gazed into the full-length oval mirror that had belonged to her grandmother and reapplied her ruby red lipstick to lips that would never again leave stains on Bob Sr.’s scalp. Alice still did not cry. She went to the bathroom where tile once sparkled and pencil marks revealing Bob Jr.’s height each year adorned the hollow wood-panel door. She closed the door and drew some water in the claw-style footed bath, not caring whether it was warm or cold. Alice reached to open the medicine chest and thought about how Bob Sr. had built a little stool so that their son could reach the sink to brush his teeth every night before they both tucked him into his twin-sized bed. She took a single blade from her husband’s cache of blades for the razor that he used to shave whiskers to avoid irritating his wife’s delicate ivory skin. Alice turned off the water, which was ice-cold. She removed her black shoes that seemed to be from her grandmother’s childhood and carefully placed them in the shoe rack that still held Bob Jr.’s cleats from when he ran track and won the hundred-yard dash during his sophomore year of high school.
Alice stepped into the ice-cold water without even flinching as she sat and leaned back as though she were going to nap. She ran the single razor up the length of her right arm from her palm to her elbow and watched numbly as crimson blood began to pour. Before the water could turn ruby red like the lipstick she wore, she ran the razor up her left arm much like the right, just numbly staring as the clear water turned the same ruby shade of the lipstick stain on Bob Sr.’s forehead. And she thought—“I just don’t know if this stain will come out of the fabric.” Alice went to sleep.
©2013 Relinda R.