Linsey sat cross-legged on the floor, using the coffee table as an ironing board, preparing shirts for his work week. Her husband was above her on the couch, his expressionless eyes hidden by the glow of the television on his glasses. The husband’s voice was as calm as a dinner conversation about the weather and her response was the same, though inside she felt much different. Her husband had just revealed to her that he’d been contemplating alternate versions of his suicide.
They’d been here before, and it was not unlike either Linsey or her husband to discuss an unwanted desire to die. She had spent a lot of time preparing for his death, spent hours imagining gruesome scenes of car accidents, waiting for him to text or call whenever he’d made motorcycle trips. At night he’d fall asleep, a 1911 next to the bed, and she could see strange men sneaking into the open windows of their small town apartment with their own guns, herself and her husband defenseless in their slumber. When their fights got bad, she feared she might find him in a bathtub, bloody teeth glistening like pomegranate seeds against the pale tile. This was the caveat of falling in love with a man who had fought in two wars.
When they were dating, he’d always promised her that it was something he’d never truly commit to, mostly for reasons of practicality:
- The mess. It would be traumatic to leave something like that for her to clean up and he regarded her with a tender ferocity that he reserved only for livings things weaker than him such as small animals and young children.
- It was common for the first suspect to be the spouse and with the pain of his death knew that it would be too much to leave her with both a body and an ongoing investigation, even if it was obvious that it was suicide. The world had a tendency to blame women for the deaths of their loved ones, as if their deaths were evident truths of her inability to emotionally nurture as a good wife or mother. Case in point: Kurt and Courtney.
The iron hissed as she moved it across the shirt in clean triangles. It was worse now that she was pregnant, the fear of his death. Of any death. The death of the thing growing inside her, her own death from car accidents or lightning strikes or tornadoes, the possibility of death from the process of birth, the potentiality of his abandonment of her on some earth with a child and the inability to do anything that paid made much more than minimum wage. He’d been unemployed for some time, and she didn’t mind much until they’d gotten the news of her pregnancy. It was joyful news, but she was ridden with anxiety at the thought of juggling both her full time work and the care of an entire household.
Linsey’s life had been spent in cleaning hotels and the houses of others. She saw herself being tormented by the successful relationships of mothers who could both afford childcare and afford not to work, cleaning the dust and grime from the corners of their kitchens, arranging the husbands’ gifts of flowers to them on special days when the wives were gone. The open roses looked liked screaming mouths.
Linsey imagined the plight of being without him. Two days earlier they’d watched old reruns of Unsolved Mysteries. The second episode featured a story in which old undelivered letters of soldiers from World War Two finally made their way to their wives and family members over forty years later. One woman’s husband had died before he made it home from the war and she’d remained unmarried until her death. Linsey’s husband said it spoke to the character of the soldier, to be a “type of man” in which there was simply no one else who that could stand up to the old woman’s desires for so long. Linsey laid on his shoulder and cried silently, her head behind his field of view.
He revealed to her that before the job interview, he had been planning routes out of the state that aligned with her working schedule in order to root an alibi for her in the case the police made her a person of interest anyway. It was petty, she thought, to consider suicide over things like employment or money or debt. It seemed more like an escape, into a world where those things had less weight.
“But then they’d make you wait like three days,” he said. “Before you could file a missing person’s report. It all became too complicated.” Computer generated soldiers made dying sounds on the television. Her expression was crisp and tightly restrained as she folded the arm of a shirt over, and began to smooth it out with the iron. “Well, yeah,” she replied. His rotting body made an appearance, danced between them like hail on the wet ground. She saw herself mourning, bemusing her new obsession with death. Her voice became soft and pithy, hoping to convey some sense that she understood but was also not alarmed by his confession. “Of course, you know I love you,” she said. The fact that he was talking about it was a good sign. “We both have one end.”
Elle Nash is the author of the forthcoming novel Animals Eat Each Other (Dzanc Books, 2017), and the poetry chapbook i can remember the meaning of every tarot card but i can’t remember what i texted you last night (Nostrovia Press, 2016). She is a founding editor at Witch Craft Magazine and lives in the Ozarks with her husband, and their dog and smelly cat.
Header Image: Creative Commons, Public Domain, modified.