By Naureen Hafiz
I awoke one morning with the darkness lingering over my bed, its ugly head smiling down. I turned to face the body lying by my side, his breath steady in his sleep. I tapped him and whispered,
“It’s going to be a bad day”
I opened the drawer by my bed, took out a bottle of pills and swallowed one, the persistent taste of metal still sticking to my tongue. He sat behind me and took my hand, his chin resting on my shoulder.
“We can handle this” he said, as if he knew what I was dealing with, his patronising breath pressing against my cheeks. I stood, letting his hand slip from mine and locked myself in the bathroom. I took the band from around my finger and dropped it on the sink, the metallic clank ringing in my ear.
“You’re losing your mind” I said to my reflection, my words becoming fog. I opened the cold tap and let the sink fill before throwing my face into the icy water, trying to force myself to feel. I stayed underwater until the breath in my lungs forced itself out. Gasping for air I unblocked the sink and watched the water drain. I pushed my ring in and quickly fished it back out.
He knocked on the bathroom door,
“Please let me in” he said, the double entendre hurting me more than I wanted it to.
“No” I whispered, more to myself but loud enough for him to hear. I turned the tap off and sat on the window ledge, fresh air leaking in from gaps in the window, the builder’s incompetent work a permanent feature on our one bedroom house.
I left the bathroom colder than when I entered, the carpeted floor slowly warming me. He went in after me, his eyes following me as I walked back to my room.
He left for work without saying a word, the scent of cheap aftershave lingering in all the corners of the house. I brushed my hair away from my eyes, the ends still wet. I looked out the bedroom window and saw him sat in his car, his hands pressed to his face. I sighed and watched as he pulled out and drove away.
He would be gone hours.
I spent the next hour looking through his wardrobe, his coat pockets, his bedside cabinet. I don’t know why, possibly a combination of boredom and wanting to learn about some dark secret that would make me feel sadness, or grief. Something.
Of course I didn’t find anything but I wanted to.
I leaned against the glass, the heat from my body turning to fog against the pane. I thought to myself,
Why do people call this ‘feeling blue’, blue was a happy colour, the colour of the sky and holiday oceans. I felt more like a recipe of green, red and grey with a cup full of black.
I walked downstairs, the television playing reruns of some reality show, the kettle still warm. He’d put the heater on before he left.
I walked into the kitchen, put a pan on the stove and filled it with water. I never really liked kettle tea.
I took out a box of cigarettes that I kept hidden in an unused teapot and lit it, the smoke slowly riding around the kitchen before disappearing into the ceiling.
He never let me smoke in the house, said the fumes set off his asthma.
Every day that week I had found myself inviting the neighbour around, a single man, the kind of man that kept his graduation certificate hung up on a wall even though he never had guests.
I called him up and invited him for breakfast that morning, him showing up in a shirt and pants as if I’d asked him out to a restaurant. He sat on my sofa, one of his feet crossed over the other.
“You have a nice place” he said, and I smiled.
I wasn’t sure why I asked him to come over. He was boring me sat there with his lopsided smile and his creased shirt. I also wasn’t sure why I kissed him, the impulse of wanting to break the rules more exciting than actually breaking them.
We sat there for the next twenty minutes in silence, the heaviness of his breathing hurting my ears. I asked him to leave and he did without saying a word.
I felt no guilt.
My husband came home that evening, tired and looking like he’d cried for 8 hours, but ever the optimist he asked,
“How was your day?”