Updated: Nov 20, 2020
He felt she was going to get killed that morning. Something in the way she looked at him just before she left the house on her way into town.
It was Tuesday. She always went into town on Tuesday. Shopping. It was a ritual he had been excluded from often. She couldn't put up with his attitude, hovering around her while she was enjoying herself, picking up different products, this and that, relishing what he referred to as the deceiving variety that the super-market was offering.
No, he was too impatient a person to do shopping with. She felt no misgivings when she refused to let him come. She left him, lowered eyes and sinking heart, in the hall. He said that he would be waiting for her to return before he began his day. She wasn't exactly sure what he meant by that but didn't let it bother her. Having spent the last few days with him had put her in a hostile state of mind, and to prevent an emotional avalanche, she chose to leave him behind for a few hours.
After all, he was a grown – up and if he couldn't spend an hour without her it was high time that he learnt. Standing by the window he waved to her but received no response. He waved again and again, already whining in his heart, and only stopped when he realized that the people from across the road were eyeing him with contemptuous interest. She had been gone for a few minutes. He turned away from the window and scanned the living- room with his eyes.
For lack of anything better to do, he lit the gas- fire and spent some time gazing into it, wishing it was a real fire, one that was fed on logs and coal, not cold, synthetic gas for which they received a monthly bill. He squatted by the fire for a few minutes, rolling the newly- arrived gas bill in his hands. Without being fully aware of his actions, he offered the gas-bill to the bluish flame and enjoyed watching it being consumed by the fire till he could hold it no longer and dropped it onto the carpeted floor where it slowly died of its own accord. He then got the notion that she was going to get herself killed.
He wanted to run out of the house, into the quiet street and shout with all the strength he had in his lungs. Warn all people that he had a bad premonition, that no-one was safe till his woman got back home. He wanted the whole street to come and chase him out of his crazy and infantile notion, that the woman he had loved (when does the present become the past?) was going to have her flame extinguished forever.
He wanted to remind the street of her smile that had thawed some snows in years gone by. And the long curly hair that eclipsed the grey skies from time to time. He wanted to make them be grateful. But all he did was a crouch next to the fire, feeling how the blazing flames began to scorch his face.He dreamt an accident. Still sitting in a heap next to the fire, he made up a terrible accident , a skid on the frosty road, a terrible crash against the speeding car that tried to overtake, the long scream that followed, not hers but the woman's who dropped her shopping bag and who stared into the torch that her car had turned into. And then the usual crowd and the police. And his love, thrust out of the car, clinging to the shattered spirit that was beginning to relinquish her body. The last few seconds. His image, no doubt, passing in front of her glossy eyes.
He frowned. He thought of her as being beyond the pain that leapt on her from all sides. She would be thinking of something else, someone else. Maybe about that woman she had seen at the shop the other day and whom she had fallen for; wondering how she could get in touch with her. Or the baby she would never have. He didn't want to think of babies. It made him feel guilty, as if he had broken the promise. Viled the corpse. The corpse. God, he had never imagined he could be that bad.
The sight of her body, the burned tissues that were so soft to touch not long ago, that sight hurt him. He couldn't stand it and yet couldn't remove it from his mind. No, he must try and think about other things. Something pleasant and painless, like yearning for a place he had never been to, something absurd like the one his grandfather had in mind when he said, before he died, that he wanted to be buried in Tibet, a place he had never been to and probably didn't know much about. But his grandfather was a dead person, a corpse, like the other one that was lying on the road, burnt.
He got up briskly and went over the window. The people from across the road had obviously found something better to do with their time than watch other people's misery. The snow from last night was still covering the ground, not very deep but deep enough to cause cars with unconfident drivers to skid. And she hadn't even kissed him goodbye, as if it was a return journey that she was taking. All the things he had never told her, all the kisses that remained uncurled. He began to believe that she was dead.
He realized that the accident had already happened, was part of the past. Now he knew what the past was.
He felt a void opening in his heart, putting up with the fact that she was dead. Death that was ordered by his own will to create a subversion, a game of the mind. He was hanging on to the void, trying to make sense of a falsity so that he would be able to replace the reality that didn't satisfy his needs. But wasn't his reality the best lie he had ever made up? Wasn't it a question of how well he could lie, so as to adapt himself to any reality he was surrounded by?
He would have to wait till she returned to find out. Returned? But what if she didn't?
But if she did….if she did, why he'd be as loving as could be. He'd forget all the little things that seemed to upset him with no reason. He'd hold her in his arms like no other woman had ever been held before. She'd be the first and the last, the only one.
He felt stupid and cheap, letting all those sentiments run through his mind. But at least it reduced the echo of the conflict between the sight of her charred body and her everyday cool and assertive manner. He retreated into the bedroom and sat on the wide unmade double-bed. Her garments of yesterday were still strewn on the floor. He thought about how she never wore the same clothes, on two consecutive days. Always for a change. Not because she was fancy or fussy, just because. There were too many things about her which were still a mystery. It pained him to think that even after living with her for several months, he had still allowed many of her sides to slip unnoticed from his consciousness. And now he might never know.
A few hours later, when he was fine and ready to accept her future absence from his life, she returned, untouched, and he had to face her as if nothing had happened. But nothing had happened, he repeated to himself while she was unpacking the shopping bags. "Just a trick that my imagination played on me, out of sheer boredom". And he looked at her, smiled and gave her a helping hand, trying to live up to the promises he had made to himself, only a few hours ago.
A few hours ago. A few hours ago she had been dead. Nothing he could think or do could be strong enough to be capable of eradicating those few hours during which she had been dead in his heart, the same heart that now showed no sign of relief when she reappeared in his life.