Empty rum bottles littered the sticky floor beside my feet. It was day sixteen of misery. Who knew how long before I’d call it quits? I hated drinking impulsively. I prized my sobriety after being neglected by a drunkard father but I wanted to figure what drives a person to do something they detested. My wife had loved life.
Or at least, I figured so. Now, she left me utterly broken. I had no more tears. My fists were grotesquely bruised from violent outbursts. There was nothing left to live for. Her face was everywhere. Her radiant smile. Her contagious laughter. Those keen grey eyes. My heart ached to catch one glimpse of her again. To know what had run through her mind all these days.
Did she not love me? Was I not enough for her? Were there any work issues? Family issues? I had no clue. Yet, all the clues pointed towards me. Sometimes, I needed confirmation that I hadn’t done it. I felt like a complete lunatic.
“Xavier, man. Please listen. I need help. I can’t live like this.” My voice cracked as I crumbled down to my greatest friend.
“Well, of course you need help.” His disgusted tone was not the one I had turned to for comfort. “Listen…I don’t care if there wasn’t any ‘proof’. I don’t care how much you paid them. You—you guys were going through a rough patch.” He spoke very coolly yet he was hesitant. I wondered if I scared him. “Please…don’t call me again.”
“No…not you too, please! Don’t believe them. I haven’t done anything.” I shook my head. “Could—could we meet, please?” I begged. No answer.
The worst was happening. Everyone swallowed the juicy gossip of a family murder so strongly that it was the truth now. But what did it matter? I was convicting myself now. The last I could remember was racing into our home set ablaze. The home we had built together. Hunting desperately for my love in the cocoon of thick swirling smoke and screams. It was no use.
“IT’S YOUR FAULT! COMPLETELY YOUR FAULT!” My mother-in-law had shrieked, clawing into my pallid face, wringing my blood-stained hair. “My daughter! You-you took her from me. I doubted you from the beginning!” But in the midst of weeping relatives and ambulance lights, all I could see was her. Sheet-white, lying serenely on the stretcher, plastered in dark burn marks with that cruelly beautiful smile of hers. I was dumbfounded, my brain convincing me she was only pretending. That it was only a funny act to get back at me for our petty scuffles. That her warm, steady eyes would open and flutter again to tease me like they always did. But they were forever shut. Another dagger into our relationship. I had never known her.
And I was to blame. Investigators claimed suicide but her family claimed me. Everyone knew we were fighting. Too many criminals in our rural locality smoothly bribed their way out. So it just seemed natural that I had done the deed and escaped unharmed. Where I hailed from, suicide didn’t seem a possibility. It was only a myth. And maybe it was me then striding the dirt road towards home but me in her conflicted heart when she lit that decisive flame.
I crawled over to the rucksack I had lugged to my grandparents’ abandoned cottage. It was a town away from my destroyed house with the graffiti “GO TO HELL!” smeared onto the scorched walls. This was my childhood haven where I learnt all the fairy tales. All love and no regrets. Be good and everyone lived happily ever after. But I was being framed into the decorated murder of my own wife. Being good didn’t matter. I was alone. It was all my fault some way or the other. There were no shoulders to cry on.
I could only remember the countless cups of tea she and I had relished sitting on this couch wrapped in my grandmother’s woollen blankets. She had loved visiting this place. It was the solitary source of my chronicles of young mischief. The only ties to my ancestry. Now, the seats were soiled with booze and tears; the regrets swirling in. I had never told her that she made better tea than my grandmother did.
My dishevelled reflection peered at me in the antique yellowing mirror. “Comb your hair, you look disgusting!” She would have thrown her head back laughing and I would have left my hair untidy every time to feel her soft hands sift gently through.
Her pictures emerged from the bag’s pockets. Our wedding pictures. Our anniversary pictures. Her wedding ring. Every festive moment had been memorable. It was true that we weren’t so well-off and we couldn’t afford to have children but we were enough for each other. It had been five years since our wedding. How did a fight prevail over all of this? Or maybe it wasn’t the fight. There could have been something else I never knew. I was thirsty for answers. And she had left no notes that night.
I gazed at the dark glass shards of the bottles on the floor. They were sharp, full of potential. The thought instantly struck me. I could win my happily ever after. I could find all the answers. I could still be in love. There really was nothing left to live for. I could never return to my life again. The sooner I returned to her, the better. “Why did you kill yourself?” I muttered repeatedly like a maniac, rolling up my shirt sleeve. Would she have committed suicide if she had known she’d be taking me with her? I hoped not.
Now, there would be a second crime. Another devoid of any witness but my reflection. The only witness to hers that night would have been her guilty image in our bedroom mirror. The witness freely mocking our forsaken love and branding me as the culprit. But we were both criminals. Since I killed her, she kills me. I wondered who in our district would be allotted the great title of being my murderer. Or maybe they’d take me in as that one exception to the suicide myth. Only the mirror would be able to tell.