Nolan returned from burying his wife of forty years, and all
that he desired was to be alone in the house they made for each
other. Most of the funeral guests understood, and looked sympathetically
at Gabe who had already begun to slowly undress and slip into
a state described by one in a single whispered word: "lost."
course I am lost without Ana, what do ya expect?" he
mumbled, waving away hugs and condolences, and led the small
gathering of mostly her friends out of the house. He had stripped
down to his T-shirt, halfway relieving himself of the burden
of the ill-fitting suit. Having removed his shoes and socks,
his bare feet traveled the nuances of the wood flooring and
assuredly found familiar nicks and holes.
Giving invitation to exit, he opened the front screen door,
which was shrouded in black cloth like most of the windows.
For a sun-worshipper, Ana was ironically plagued in the last
stages of her illness to an extreme sensitivity to light.
As the small crowd passed Gabe, the most dreaded fell to the
back of the line: a towering sister somebody of the local
church which they never attended, and Gabe strained to stretch
open the door in consideration of her fleshiness. He welcomed
breezes off the bay that vented the staining sweat under her
has crossed the border to Jesus now. Isn't she lucky?"
Gabe dug his fingernails into the screen door, puncturing
weak sections of the wire mesh. Why did this worshipper show
up uninvited? Gritting his teeth, he responded grimly, "She
will always be with me, spirit and bone, in EVERY WAY, sister,"
and was pleased to see her dumbfounded expression.
After locking the front door, he reluctantly turned about
face in the foyer and gazed across at the wall covered with
a thick sheet of black tarp. Damn the reminders. He lifted
it and exposed dozens of framed photos, kept hidden from Ana's
sight, since reflections off the gold and silver drove her
into panics. Photos of them as a couple, with only one of
a teenage Ana, alone, taken on a trip to Rhode Island.
Gabe drew close to this one, examining it while unloosening
tears. Ana stood on a beach wearing a sized small sundress
splashed in a furious pattern of bright dots. Ana hated this
photo, with her glum expression and ill-fitting tight outfit.
For the first time, he noticed the long shadow in the background
behind Ana that was cut off by the frame. It almost appeared
to have been painted in, or placed over something. Trick of
my sight, he reasoned, and wiped the tears from his sunken
Interlacing his fingers into the tall gate that separated
the living room from the foyer, Gabe suddenly craved for the
comfort of the clouded vision that was the effect of Ana's
medicine, which he had been taking since her death. His knuckles
strained white in keeping upright one hundred and forty pounds
of dried and dispirited flesh stretched thin and leathery
like beef jerky.
He let his tight pants fall to his ankles and waded across
the living room, like a waddling baby's first steps. He reached
the garage door and fumbled to open it with the mass confusion
of keys that he now had to carry.
His workroom off the garage was one of the few areas that
really fit his tall stature. Throughout most of the house
he had to lean down to embrace Ana, and stoop to glide past
the gently curved arches.
At the moment of slumping onto the stool at his workbench,
crowded with candle holders that he had been trying to glue
together for illuminating the hallways for Ana's return, he
heard a sharp snap coming from the kitchen, followed by the
cycling of a motor.
Who the hell had left THAT on?
He rushed into the kitchen and saw that the double closet
doors had been opened and the dryer behind it was jostling
in the cramped space. He shut it off and opened the lid, his
hands warming in the clean air. Fishing inside, he pulled
out his white shirt that had stained with the pen used to
write down her words for reciting at the burial. No priest
or religious words were her eulogy demands. Just retelling
of sunny predictions from high school yearbook, most of them
having come to pass. Except being childless. His fault.
Looking down at his hands, he willed the incessant shaking
to cease. He upturned his palms to shine in the brilliant
fluorescent of the kitchen lights. And he wept into them.
Gabe and Ana held hands together at every occasion, and especially
in bed, every night. Like schoolkids in the first throes of
love. He thought to replicate the feeling with rubbing his
hands together, but why betray it?
Staggering backward, he scrambled to look vainly for Ana's
medicine, and began to sink into the rottenness that her presence
had always been able to keep at bay. Need to look to the basement
and see if those old bottles were still there, hidden from
the past months of her illness, when he had picked them up
He stumbled into a stack of pamphlets that he was sure he'd
dumped into the garbage last night. Someone piled them back
up, accumulated since she died; religious pamphlets with the
same extremely crude, childish drawings on the front. All
of the figures were rosy cheeked as if satiated from vampire
sucking, Gabe thought, disgusted at how they infiltrated his
mail so relentlessly.
Gabe kept calling these people to cancel his subscription.
And their answer, delivered in the honeyed whisper resulting
from a thousand tongues speaking through them: "Lucky
you, since an anonymous patron has graced you with a lifetime
consider me dead," he responded.