The Blackened Affair
By Corrine Coleman
She didn't mean to do it. Somehow – the razor had sliced through her skin. And it was so easy - so simple, the pain didn't even come right away. Somehow, without realizing it, the bath water began to turn crimson. The clear, soapy bathwater was turning crimson. And she could no longer see herself. She couldn't find her own body.
She felt her heart beating – and the pain shooting up her arms. What had she done? She felt dizzy. She felt weak. The tears were falling – she was sure, because she tasted the salty wetness on her tongue. She didn't want to do it. She didn't want to die.
She pulled herself up – but her actions were slow. It was as if everything was happening in slow motion. She felt her body against the hard ceramic – the tiles smacked against her face – and they were cold, like everything around her.
She saw the phone.
It was in the corner. It had fallen from the sink. She remembered when he gave it to her. 'So I can always find you. When I'm missing you. When I'm wanting you...'
It was out of her reach. But it was so close. She felt weak. She just wanted to lie there. 'I musn't give up.'
But why shouldn't she? Wasn't it hopeless?
Why was everything so cold? Where was the heart? Didn't anybody have a heart, anymore? Or was it just she? Was it she, who expected too much? Was it she – who felt more than a single person should?
It didn't matter what it was. It could be a bird, helpless in the street - or a spider. It could be a child that she didn't know - or a woman on the train whose face somehow masked her own pain.
It was always with her. It was everything she was...the pain...the feelings...it was as if she felt all of it. It was as if she felt everybody's pain. So overwhelming, it was.
And he shouldn't have been. She should have known right away. That he could only bring her more pain. He belonged to someone else. And perhaps he was safe to her. Perhaps this was why she allowed herself to love him.
And love him, she did. She knew how to love. Oh – that was never a problem. Loving was easy. She could love with every ounce of her heart; with every ounce of her body. She knew how to give. She always gave. But she never gave enough. And yet, they always seemed to take. He took.
He took until the very life of her had been sucked out. And he kept taking, even afterwards. And still, she gave. She needed to give. Because, who was she – if she wasn't saving someone else?
Did it matter that she had lost herself?
She reached the phone. Finally – she reached the phone. It seemed like it had taken forever. What was forever, anyway? She watched as her blood began to engulf it – the object in her hand; the place where the words always came…the words that didn’t fulfill her. The life she treasured – the life she despised - soon, it may no longer be.
He would save her. He would save her – the way she had saved him.
She dialed his number. He answered instantly. His voice was low. He wasn't alone.
“Can I call you back?” he asked.
She almost couldn't find the words. He would save her. She needed him to save her. Because she could no longer save herself.
“I need you...” she managed. But those words were not new to him.
He was silent. The blood had stained the crisp white tile – it was pink, now. And then, in some spots, it was dark and thick.
“I can't now. Let me call you tomorrow.”
She couldn't speak – her voice – her mind - it was all becoming blurry.
“I've done it...” she whispered.
She told him. He would come. She dropped the phone.
The ceiling was large and imperfect. She hadn't realized how imperfect it had been. It was rough and cracked in some spots and smooth – so very smooth - in others. It was beautiful to her. It didn't need to be perfect. She didn't want it to be perfect. She loved every flaw – she loved every aberrant detail.
He heard the dial tone. She had done it. She had actually done it.
His wife was in the kitchen. His son – he was playing in the other room. It was as if it was just another ordinary night.
He jumped from the couch – his feet were heavy. His heart was heavy.
“I have to run out.” He frantically looked for his keys. She needed him. He needed to get to her. He would tell her - he would tell her how beautiful she was. He knew she needed to hear it. He would tell her how much he loved her. How special she was. She just needed to know. He would fix it. He would fix this tonight.
“Where are you going?” The woman...his wife...she had her hair in a loose ponytail. She wore casual sweats – but they cost more than they appeared to. Everything about her fit into his life so perfectly. She was his. He was hers. They would never be defined without the other.
“My stomach,” he clutched his belly. And it wasn't a lie. He felt the nausea. “I need to pick something up. At the store. I'll be right back...”
She stepped in front of him. What was this? She stopped him at the door.
“I don't like this,” she said. And her green eyes were angry. Sad. They knew. She knew. Because he had done it before.
“What? Come on,” he said, “I have to go...”
“No,” she said. And the tears filled her eyes. “I'm not letting you go. I know where you're going.” And her voice cracked. Her voice never cracked. The other woman – the one who needed him now – she was always sad. She was always crying. But his wife – wasn't she always the strong one?
“What do you mean?” he asked gently. He put his hand to her hair – a gesture he hadn't done in years.
“Don't do it.” She was pleading with him. She never pleaded. Hadn't she stopped caring about what he did? After the last time … didn't she stop trying?
“I don't know what you mean?”
She pulled away, quickly. Her face changed, as if – perhaps – she had misspoke. As if, perhaps, she was wrong.
She cleared her throat. She had the yellow dish towel in her hand. The lines at the sides of her eyes were deep now – and she was always insecure about them. But he thought that they made her look happy. And so he welcomed them. Because he hadn't seen her happy in years.
She threw the dish towel in the sink – with the unwashed dishes. She hated dishes. She would leave them in the sink for days, if she could.
“I think I have something,” she said. And she disappeared into the other room.
He looked out the window. The night was dark – black. It seemed as if the town had shut down all of its lights. It seemed as if there would never be light again. He reached for the door handle. He imagined the leather scent of his car. He imagined the wheel, soft, against his hand.
He imagined pulling up to her block - her old car in the street, waiting for him to care for it...like he always did. Because she needed him to. Or maybe, she just needed to need.
“Here,” his wife was behind him and he turned away from the glass...he let go of the doorknob. His kitchen was bright. It was too bright – such a contrast from the black, black night.
She put a tiny package in his hand.
He looked at it. It would ease his stomach. It would ease his pain. But...what would ease the other woman's pain?
“Come,” his wife was pulling him. Suddenly, he was further away from the night. Suddenly, he was in his living room. And the fire was blazing. And his son was sitting on the rug looking up at him. “Let’s watch a movie,” she said.
He studied her as she sat on the couch, patting the space beside her. How many nights had that space remained empty?
He smiled. She was glowing, suddenly – or perhaps it was the light of the fire against her face. She looked younger. She looked innocent – not a woman whose life had gotten the best of her.
“Okay,” he said. “I'll stay.”