“I won’t sleep in our bed.”
“What was that, ma’am?”
I glance at the cab driver. “Nothing.”
“It’s alright, ma’am. I talk to myself plenty.”
Do what’s normal. It’s what my aunt advised for after the funeral. After. Everything will be marked as before and after now.
Sliding the clasp of my necklace back behind my tired curls, I whisper at the empty seat beside me, “We’ll talk about this at home.”
Do what’s normal.
Pay the driver.
Nod at the doorman.
Press the elevator button.
It dings its arrival. Is it always that loud? Two others board the elevator with me. Strange since the lobby echoes like a canyon yet I didn’t hear them approach.
I grow impatient once the doors close. “I won’t sleep in our bed, Ian. I can’t.”
My fellow passengers turn, chins over shoulders, then lower their eyes to the floor.
The doors open and I exit before speaking again. “The guest bed is comfortable. Don’t worry about me.” I stop, key in my fist. “Can you worry where you are?”
The breakdown starts in my knees. It will spread to my back and my arms, then my whole body will collapse to the floor. I picture myself curled on the green straw welcome mat in front of the Lancasters’ door. “No.” Digging the key into my palm, I walk.
“Fine. I’ll sleep in the damn bed. Are you happy?”
The question does me in. I shove our door – my door – open and fall down in privacy. When the shaking and the tears pass, I roll to my back; knees up, feet planted. There’s a tiny run in my tights that I pull at with my fingernail until it tears over my thigh. I stand and remove my black heels, ruined black tights, and black dress. When I drop the tights in the trash, I linger two seconds before adding the shoes and the dress.
Do what’s normal.
“That’s why I have to talk to you.” Normal is talking to Ian about the day, the news, the basketball game he’s watching that I don’t care about and the book I’m reading that he doesn’t care about.
In our bedroom – my bedroom – I pick up our wedding photo from the desk. “This won’t do.”
From the bookshelves, I dump a box of photographs on the carpet. With the pictures spread in a half moon, I survey them without seeing details. I can’t endure the details. “Where is it?” I shout a second before my eyes land on it. “Oh, Ian.”
My favorite one. I trace my fingertip over his cheek, his mouth. I ache for a kiss. I haven’t ached like this since our first years together when we still made love more nights than not.
“We’ll talk more tomorrow.”
My black bra and panties go in the trash too. The photo goes on his pillow beside me. I fall asleep flat on my back, hands resting one over the other on my stomach, like him.