Codependent Chemistry, Part 2
If you haven’t already, please make sure you read the first installment Amy McLane wrote on Monday. Then once you’re up to speed, come on back for the continuation. Back? Good. Here we go.
There was the first time. Then four slips, five falls, two suicides, and eleven drownings, though I’m not sure if some of them shouldn’t be counted as suicides. Each time he found Scheherazade close by, purring and nuzzling, seemingly content with the situation.
I thought I could handle it. Thought I couldn’t live without her. Why else would I stand her near-poisoning of me every time she cooks? It’s potatoes. I mean, how the hell do you get a person’s tongue to swell up like that eating potatoes?
But I smile with every bite. I smile because I know that without her I can’t face the day, and I make it through the day because I know she’ll be there waiting for me when I get home. At least that’s how it used to be.
The deaths used to be spread out by six months or more. Then only a month would go by. In the last week I’ve come home to her dead four times. The shock has flip-flopped. I jump every time I open the door and she says hello.
The days she doesn’t, the routine’s the same. Get her off the floor, out of the pool, or the one time, off the roof and into the bedroom. Bring all of her. Thinking back on it, it probably should have made me sick doing what I did. I needed every drop, sponging where wet and scraping where dry. The whole time the cat watched.
The bottles come next. I gave up putting them away months ago. The bottles don’t have labels because the contents don’t have names. When you give something a name, you lock it into place, give it boundaries. At least that’s what my dad always said. Funny how it can take a lifetime to finally believe.
I take time lighting candles for her. Tall, squat, red, black, scented, any candle I can find in the house. They’re not important like the bottles, but I think she likes them. It also gives me something to do while I wait, taking my time to light each one. One match for each wick and never before the tip is done flaring. Cinnamon mingles with apple, cookie and vanilla. Each on their own can start my stomach rumbling, but all together they roil in my nose.
It was around the fifth time I found her when things didn’t quite go right. Her left side was red and warm from the sun, but cool underneath where I scooped her up in the backyard. I got the blood off the railing to the pool, but I didn’t know what to do with the grass. The ground soaked up so much. I don’t think I got it all. I even laid the clods of earth with her, but the bed was clean once she sat up.
She wasn’t right after that. It was still her, still my beautiful darling wife, someday mother of my children, but something was missing. I want to say I didn’t notice it, willed myself not to see. In truth, I ignored it for as long as I could. Her coloring slightly graying, though her makeup covered much. The tinges of green in her hair were another matter, but just the roots. The physical changes weren’t as bad as the blank stares. The last time she stared off, I watched. Searched for a sign, the pulse in her neck, a twitch, a breath. Nothing. Then startling me when she’d move as if no time had passed.
And each time it got worse.
I’m lighting the candles now for the twenty-third time praying there won’t be a twenty-fourth. I can’t stop using the bottles. Can’t stop because of the first time. Instead I pray. To the bottles. To the candles. To Scheherazade. To the sky, the ground, the moon, the sun, the ugly tile floor, her damn crocs, to anything that will listen.
Please don’t let her say hi.
The bed sheets rustle and I know my prayers went unanswered.
“Hi,” she says.
“Hi,” and I break down in sobs.
This is all because of the first time. The first time she died, and I couldn’t stop it.
To be concluded Friday by Amy K. Nichols…