One Last Time
Today, I will end your life.
No worries, mine will tag along.
Together, we are to cheat our way into the afterlife, while our bodies remain intertwined through a last embrace. We are to die like young lovers.
Except, we aren't.
We aren't young, our lifestyle can testify. At forty-three, my law degree should have been a pass to choose plush over practicality. I’ve dreamed of owning yachts that I don’t know how to tame, clothes that would carry our status, and many empty rooms in a house of two. Instead of bickering in a courtroom, I flip burgers on the weekends and mop filthy bathrooms on weekdays. These were my only options when I came to the United States two years ago while my homeland was being molested by a civil war. My foreign law degree was of no use when I started applying for jobs. So, the theses I wrote and the lectures I've heard dried into ashes as I cleaned up after teenagers who had trouble leaving their waste in one place.
Minus the arduous and repetitive tasks rewarded by the crumbs fed to my bank account, I feel content that I am, at least, allowed to work my bones off. With your residency taking so long to process, who knows how long you’ll remain unemployed?
We aren't lovers, at least not anymore. At first, we could only hide from our pain when nestled in each other's arms. When our souls followed our bodies and melted into each other, I felt like I could be anyone. Then, our passion started playing hooky. When my working hours were cut, we spent more time on the kitchen chairs creating ways to stretch dollar bills over the week rather than cuddling. I always invest extra time to clean myself up after work but when I get home, judging by your instinctive flinch, I can tell that the stench has sealed itself upon me. Even your menstrual cycle seems to have joined the dark side as your periods would come and go, lengthen and shorten, depending on the evenings I was awake. On the rare times we get together, when you run out of stories to invent and tasks to redo, only your blank stare and stiff limbs are there to meet my desperate needs.
Don’t worry, this will end tonight.
Initially, you weren’t part of my plan. You were supposed to find my rigid body with a two-page note urging you to move on. Some distant relatives would feel sorry enough to help you out. However, it took one thought to reconsider. When I picture you in the arms of another man, my blood boils to the brink of eruption. I have a wild imagination and, although you haven’t been mine for a while, I can assume you've been writhing and gasping at the hands of another. Tonight is our anniversary and for one last time, we will be young again and more in love than we ever were.
My hands tremble as I turn the doorknob. You are curled up on our big chair, reading Charlotte’s Web with the help of a dictionary. Anything to furnish your vocabulary, I guess.
You’re on your feet as I shut the door but I can't let you smell me. So, I smile and leave your arms hanging so I can dash to the bathroom. Once there, I scrub my skin so hard that it feels tender when I step out. Tonight, the right outfit choice seems to be a dress shirt and a loose pair of slacks. Although I barely get to wear my formal clothes, you wash and iron them every week. Is that how you block out my sweaty jumpsuit from your mind? Do you sit in the dark to picture the old me, the could-have-been me, or am I now banned from your fantasies?
The table is set when I walk into the dining area. We’re having chicken leftovers, store-bought brownies, and soda. As you freshen up in the bedroom, I spill the fatal liquid in your soda. Half for you and half in my cup, a tribute to everlasting marriages.
When you sit across for me, I can’t make eye contact. I’m not sure why. You look pretty in this old black dress, with your curls restrained in a rushed ponytail, and your complexion unevenly enhanced by what seems like one layer of foundation. Zero effort on your part yet my senses are ablaze in your presence.
We let lazy pleasantries carry us as we eat.
“How was your day?” We don’t care.
“Anything interesting happened while I was gone?” We already know the answer.
“It hasn’t rained for days.” The most meaningful thing we can agree on.
With our plates empty and our hearts heavy, it is time to wash down our meal. Back home, the toast always comes at the end. How convenient!
With a shaky hand, I hold my cup and propose, “Let’s toast to us.”
Your fingers embrace the cup tighter but you are staring at me. It’s more like a glare but it’s only for me so my heart warms a little.
"Us?" Your tone swells with sarcasm.
"We're celebrating today. It's our anniversary, remember?" I said, stating the obvious.
Your eyes seem distant as you whisper, "There's no us. At least, not anymore."
Fear and frustration mate inside of me. This is not part of the plan.
Your words glide towards me, smooth and sharp, "There is no us. There is you, the hard-working one who deserves praise and compassion. And, there is I, the dead weight who doesn't belong here.”
Your tone is light almost mocking.
“Praise? Compassion? Please, just say it. I can take it.”
You look confused when you ask, “What do you want me to say?”
“That…” It’s painful when the words sprang free, “That you want to get rid of me because I failed you.”
“Oh, shut up! You want to get rid of me because I’m dragging you down. You’d be doing better if you didn’t have to provide for me.”
The tone of my voice escalates, “Wouldn’t you rather be with another guy?”
Your tone matches mine, “Do you want me to be with another guy?”
I will never claim the next thing I say, “Like you haven’t already. Who knows how many you already have?”
Then, I feel it, cold and fizzy on my forehead. Of course, you threw your drink in my face. You’ve never done such a thing before but, what can I say after trying to kill you? I spill my poisoned soda in the sink and toss the cup away.
We’re no Shakespearean lovers. We’re too grown people in a messy situation with our minds dangling from the rails of madness.
Your back is on me when I sneak into the bedroom. I slip under the covers with my shirt still soaked.
Tentatively, my fingertips rose to rest on your forearm. You flinch a little but don’t move away. This is the closest we’ve been for a while.
I want to pierce through the silence sprouting between us. A simple “I love you” should do the trick but I’m not sure what that means anymore.