She walked in from the store. He looked dead, but he had looked that way for years. She couldn’t tell, and she didn’t want to touch him to see. She hadn’t touched him in years. Theirs had been a quiet existence, he with his work, chair in the den, dinner on a tray, and television; and she with her needs met by tutoring, community helping agencies, and a few friends that she constantly texted. When craving to hear a voice, she had Carla, who would talk as long as needed. She told Carla that she stayed away from men since she figured that the script would always turn out the same, and she never had respected cheaters. But she did like to think that romance is possible for some, and she wanted it for her children.
There was no movement, not a snore, not a breath, not a touch of rose coloring in the cheeks, not a twitch—nothing but pale emptiness, like she had experienced for 20 years. They had been high school sweethearts and married after two years of college. He made a good living as an engineer, and she had a teaching certificate that she could fall back on if needed, but so far, she had been happy with part time jobs and enough extra income for a few pastimes.
She didn’t know what to do. Should she call 911, or Carla, or just go on up to bed and hope for the best? What would be the best? She wasn’t sure as she went down the hall and got under the covers, reaching for her phone to call Carla. Carla said, “Don’t you want to know?” She replied, “I’m not sure.” Carla came back, “If he needs 911 but dies, won’t you feel guilty?” She thought. “Yes.” Carla said, “Even if it’s too late for your marriage, think about, uh, think about, well, there must be something to think about.”
She felt herself drifting off to sleep after telling Carla good night. She fought it, and with barely enough resolution, went back down the hall. The chair was empty. Her pulse raced. Her breathing was short and quick. He was nowhere to be found and didn’t reply to her texts. For three days, she called his office, and Cynthia said that no one had heard from him. At this point, she went to the police but didn’t tell them the whole story. “I’m sure he’s fine. Men can do crazy things when they’ve been in a mindless routine for a long time.”
After a year, she still had heard nothing. A teaching job had opened up, so that paid the bills and gave her purpose. Carla said, “You need to get on with your life.” She would always say, “But what does that mean?” Carla didn’t know either, so they just kept discussing it.
Ella, her 22 year old daughter came in one day and said, “Mom, I’m in love.” She looked at her daughter and could see the dream. Part of her argued with it; part of her enjoyed the dream. She said, “Ella, we’re not dead yet.” Surprised, Ella, almost in a whisper, said, “Do you want me to tell dad?”