He opens his eyes to the floral print of the comforter covering his head, reminding him of childhood and bunk-bed tents. His breath, hot and sour, fills the small space. He tugs the covers from his face. The sudden cold will stay all day. She is gone. Fear slithers around his ribs and constricts his breath. She's only at work, he reminds himself. The Voice says, she's working while you lie here. The man presses his hand against the tightness in his chest and rolls out of bed. He plants his feet on the floor. They're prickly as blood returns.
He slows his breathing, stands and walks to the dresser where she set out his pill bottles like little orange secrets. He picks up a full bottle of Klonopin and shakes it. Untouched Prozac rests by the Lithium he has ignored for over a month. He opens his underwear drawer and sweeps the bottles in with his arm.
He parts the curtain with a finger and find himself surrounded. The nearby ocean has kicked up a fog like Dust Bowl topsoil. Taunting specters dance at the edge of his vision. He blinks the sleep out of his eyes and stares again; nothing is there. The lovely hills and valleys that curve like her body are flattened by impenetrable white. The restful bench under the large oak across the field is hidden behind swirling mists.In the kitchen he opens the fridge, stares, and swipes a Diet Coke. Breakfast. The Aspartame, one more thing to worry over.
Falling on the couch, he knows he should look for a job, but the Voice tells him, what's the point? It's been a year, it reminds him. Something will come up, the man answers without conviction. She works overtime every day and comes home and takes care of him. She has since the breakdown last Christmas. She soothes his guilt. Don't worry about anything right now but getting well. But the Voice wonders what she's really thinking. The Voice rubs it in again about the men who came before. They had taken her around the world, to Paris, Africa, Cabo. They had fucked her in exotic places. They had money. They could take care of her. What can you do? the Voice asks with a sneer. The man buries his head in his hands. He paces around the house, trying to escape the Voice. He runs back to the dark bedroom, slams the door and freezes, listens. Light the color of a tarnished coin waits patiently at the window. He spots himself in the mirror above her dresser. Gray stubble too heavy for his drooping face. Purple under his eyes like a boxer the day after a fight. He hasn't showered since Tuesday. What will the Voice say? He slumps in the corner behind the bed. His eyes dart around the ceiling looking for composure.
When it's safe he leaves the bedroom and sneaks to the kitchen. A note from her on the table asks him to take the garbage cans down the lane. He throws on a sweatshirt, hurries to the back door; in his rush he trips over a basket in the shadows of the laundry room. He is startled by a noise from the back yard. He presses his ear to the door. Hesitantly, he peers outside. Relieved, he sees the clothes line rattling against the house. He stumbles blindly into the fog. Finding the garbage cans he starts wheeling them down the long steep drive toward the highway. As he walks downhill, the fog parts. The Voice is gone. The smell of wild grass and pine trees draws the anxiety from his chest like poison. Wild turkeys along the lane watch his progress. A playful calico teases him and then slips like smoke through a blackberry patch. At the highway, he wrestles the cans into place.
As he climbs the lane back to the house, his wind defeats him. Out of breath, he recalls when he could take this hill at a dead sprint. He tries to run, but only lasts a few strides. The Voice returns to taunt him. You are a sorry case. What would she think? You're out of your league. She told me I'm the love of her life, he responds timidly, as the fog starts to wrap around him like gauze. The Voice smiles. The turkeys have gone. The calico is hunting mice in the neighbor's hayfield.
He arrives at the front porch in the mist and reaches with his toe to find the steps. The Voice laughs at him and says, Watch out, that first step's a bitch. The man, hair slick from the fog, opens the front door and hopes to find refuge. The Voice follows. The man can't remember when the Voice wasn't with him. He loathes it, but in a nauseating way he is drawn to it. The Voice is persuasive. It makes sense. Soon the ocean will roll the fog back into its bosom. He hopes, as he has so many times before, that it will take the Voice with it and drown it deep in its gray waters.
I'm not going anywhere, the Voice whispers. There is no hope. The man sits on the bed and prays for silence.
He walks to the dresser, opens the top drawer, and stares down at the orange bottles. He hears the Voice coming from every room of the house. He picks up a bottle and unscrews the cap.
Created: Mar 08, 2015dmadden Document Media