||Still in love
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|Kenny George had been dead for nearly a year. I, Molly was still in the grieving process. I was known as ‘the widow’ wherever I went. Before his untimely death our neighbours and friends since we had moved in next door to them were a delightful couple called Carmen and Jasper. Carmen was a loyal wife to Jasper Collins and mother to a little precocious girl Erin. Carmen had a happy, simple childhood in the country riding her father’s horses growing up she told me once.
I look at Carmen and Jasper and I see what my life could have been like. It could have been endless masked deception or it could have meant having the sanctity, the eternal sacredness of marriage. Their love for each other was something that had been acquired during a brief courtship. It reminds me of times before August – before my husband’s death and everything after. Their house is filled with beautiful things; treasures. Some of which had been inherited from dead rich family, aunts, uncles and parents’.
‘I wonder why you put up with us.’ Carmen asked. She was putting away her glasses.
You, Molly must often ask yourself why you never had children. I am very happy and satisfied with the way I live it. It dissatisfies some people to know that I am happy. I have always wanted to be a mother and a wife. I’ve never wanted to be a career woman. They want me to be like them. They are always sad and miserable. They are depressed by the human condition. Jasper and I have often dreamed of a perfect world or wanted to live in one of our own making but without ever noting the negative consequences and actions that go with it.’
Kenny had said children would come all in good time if we had just the patience to wait. So we waited. We were newlyweds. We didn’t have the time to think about words like ‘paediactric doctors’ and ‘fertility treaments’ and ‘Invitrofertilisation’.
I still have a diary I have kept and from time to time whenever I come across it amongst my things, I find myself paging through it listlessly trying to establish why I wrote this. There were parts that pain me to read it out loud now. ‘I am so scared of being alone. Unmarried. Unloved. Not worshipped. A spinster like surrounded by all my cats and fur balls’.
When I was a teenager no one would enquire about my well being or ask me, ‘How was your day, darling? Already my sister and I were rivals for my busy, overworked, harassed mother.
My sister would come home and reverently tell my mother about her day in the kitchen. She would drink her glass of milk and eat her sandwiches. I could hear her voice at the table where I did my homework or if I was watching a television show.
‘I believe that if we had been presented with a woman that may have swung the vote our way.’ My mother asked questions tentatively because Bernie, my sister hated to be interrupted without having her say first. She was the mighty and glorious figurehead of a ship’s maiden voyage and as a child she was the heroine of countless dangerous adventures and escapades. Wonderful things always happened to her and not to me, I reasoned. I never questioned the brevity of that notion. It just was.
Do all romantic notions and inclinations wither, sag and die as you grew older into the body of a woman who begins to resemble your mother’s and then your grandmother’s? I questioned on one of the pages of my teen diary. Some passages were obscene. I hated my body. I was too skinny. Other pages were too confusing to follow since I continued on other pages which were either missing or I grew tired of having to follow the endless line of makeshift prose that allowed no logical thought, reasoning and principle behind it.
Jasper and Carmen, as I have already told you have a little girl of four. Her name is Erin. Jasper is a research scientist, Carmen a homemaker and whenever he brings home his great tomes of biological and anatomical literature and textbooks he patiently answers all of Erin’s questions with her sitting on his lap.
On the evening I have been invited for dinner I can hear his voice from their sitting room as Carmen greets me at the door. The weather is cool. Rain beckons. Clouds gather overhead; dark and menacing. It is the first time Kenny is not with me for dinner. It will just be the four of us.
I wonder now how will I ever be able to live without having them as the constant they have been the past year in my empty life. Empty without Kenny pottering around the house, mowing the lawn and reading his Wilbur Smith’s curled up on the sofa.
‘Oh well, what can we do?’ I can hear Carmen saying in her lilting voice to Jasper once they are alone in the confines of their bedroom.
‘Her father is dying and her husband is dead. It really was very sudden and very sad, don’t you think?’ Jasper will probably, ‘Hmm’ or ‘ah’.
‘I am out in the garden planting bulbs for the next season.’ They have a gate at the side of the house and I walk through there to find her with her gloved hands in a bag of fertiliser. She is wearing a garden hat. Some of her hair has come loose. She is wearing an old shirt of Jasper’s and a pair of jeans. She told me that one of his old shirts and a very old pair of jeans is the only things she ever gardens in.
I find that my rooms sometimes get very dark during the winter. I am not able to read by afternoon light anymore. It is something I have only become aware of in the past few months. Sometimes I leave lights burning in different rooms of the house. I still wake up in the middle of the night and a dark house disconcerts me as I walk from room to room fumbling for the light switch. Before Kenny’s passing away I was very careful about conserving energy and saving electricity. It was more for him than for anyone else.
I feel hot and irritated by my thirst and the light burning brightly in the bathroom and wonder how on earth so many cushions and pillows got piled up on the bed next to me. I can’t remember putting it there and this disconcerts me. The light is a shining balloon on the carpet floor. My eyes react to the light from the darkness of the bedroom. The house feels devoid of any warmth. I find people commenting on it slightly whenever they come. They will say, ‘We find this house so big now.’ ‘Why not sell, the market is good now. You’ll get a good price.’ ‘It has nearly been a year.’ ‘Why not get a cat or dog? For companionship?’ they muster up. It surprises me that people do not see how insensitive these remarks are and how they completely disregard my feelings on this matter.
As if I am supposed to be amused now all my waking hours. I did not think that the latter was quite such a bad idea. Neither did Carmen but she did so with reticence and was tactful about the subject.
Kenny died in a car accident. He made no sudden movements to cross the road, looked both ways a witness said. But a taxi came fast out of nowhere and there was a screeching sound, a jolt and a bump as the body flew threw the air.
I fell asleep on a hot, summer’s afternoon. I had felt dulled by the heat as I was so often in the days after. I was dead to the world. I woke up with a start to realize that a spider was crawling towards me on the left side of the bed. My book that I had been reading was on the bed and I picked it up and circumnavigated the spider’s trail onto it. I then took it to the open window. It fell off and upended into flight.
Your family is flawed and mine is mad. A friend told me that once and I had made a note of that in pen on a napkin in a restaurant. I can’t remember which one. I have lost and gained so many friends. There have been friendships that I have relinquished and then some. Death makes you sweat the small stuff.
Winter has come early this year. The coffee is bitter, black and sweet. The grounds burst open, heavy and porous lying at the bottom of the jug. My body disapproves of this intake of caffeine in the morning but it has become a well-adjusted habit. The house is quiet and eeriely still. There is no bounded movement on the stairs or rowdy children chasing each other from room to room followed by a happy-go-lucky barking dog. There are so many times when our memories cast us back through time and space.
When I remembered our first kiss, the first time Kenny took my hand, we went on a picnic by the beach, as we sat and watched the waves slap against the rocks and children played furtively searching for fragments of life in the rock pools, building sandcastles from air and golden sand and the first time he read me his favourite Emily Dickinson poem.
Carmen comes quite often and she brings Erin with her as well. Both she and Jasper have been quite considerate. They let Erin run ahead of them as they walk up together side by side to my house. I never see them any other way. When they go for walks in the park they will sometimes walk with their arms around each other.
The people that we knew seem to have distanced themselves from me. But that came with the territory I gathered. I was now a widow, a persona non grata at dinner parties that would be attended by guests who were married or couples.
I remember a conversation they once had. It was on the rare occasions when only the four of us would go out to a restaurant when Erin was just a baby and left with a sitter. They, Jasper and Kenny were rather drunk out of having too much wine at dinner. I never drank and Carmen had just had the baby. We delivered Jasper and Carmen to their door and we were asked in. The men went out to the garden at the back. ‘So they could make as much noise and talk as much rubbish as they wanted.’ Carmen said and we went to make coffee in the kitchen. I remember their conversation vividly because we could hear it from the kitchen and Carmen and I often burst out into laughter.
‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ is my favourite film because Audrey Hepburn is my ideal woman.’ Jasper said.
‘I wouldn’t know. I am partial to ‘Gigi’. Kenny answered.
‘I thought I was his ideal woman. At least that is what he told me.’ Carmen told me in a conspiratorial whisper.
‘See that cat there.’ Jasper asked.
‘Where?’ said Peter.
‘Over at the wall. Let’s call it Spaceman.’
‘Spaceman it is then.’ answered Kenny with a muffled drunken giggle.
‘Spaceman is taken into the New Millennium.’
‘Spaceman had a mouse for dinner.’
‘How do you know that?’
‘We communicated just now. Telepathically.’
Their speech was slurred slightly. They burst out into raucous laughter over that one. To this day, I can’t understand why we let them drink that much or why we tolerated them while they did.
‘I had an English teacher once. He even wrote and published a book once by Heinemann.’ Jasper said.
‘We all had English teachers. Was she awful, horrible to you, Jasper? Did she have screwy teeth or an overbite? All English teachers are very normal; pedestrian or the exact opposite.’
‘I can’t recall his name. Isn’t that funny? His looks were unconventional. The high forehead, the shock of thick, unruly black hair, bushy eyebrows like exclamation marks over those black eyes, nose like a cartoon, ridiculously small pouty mouth.’
‘I have always but I have never told anyone this wanted to study English Literature. I just never got around to doing it, I suppose. Some day humanity will surpass even scientific technology. I hope to be a part of that.’ Kenny coughed out loud.
‘My wedding day was the most beautiful day of my life. The second most beautiful day in my life was when my daughter was born. The first was when I met my wife. Ask me why did I marry?’ Jasper spoke at last.
‘Why did you marry?’
‘Shared goals and common interests and the need for domestic bliss. I should write a paper on that.’
It was quiet in the garden after that. The strong aroma of Italian coffee rose out of the pot.
Carmen and I began to talk about the child. Erin was known as ‘the child’ then. ‘How did the child sleep?’ ‘How did the child eat?’ I was very excited and happy for her. For both of them.
Since this new person had come into their life; they were no longer only availably exclusively to their friends.
Whatever Kenny was working on, including his poetry was put aside amongst his papers and his books. I rarely disturbed his work to see what he had written. He did not like it and so I didn’t. It became a habit. When I went through his correspondence after his death I came across a bundle of letters; letters which were love letters from Carmen to Kenny which aroused my interest and shattered my confidence in my relationship with my husband. I was very distressed, saddened, depressed. One of them said, ‘We have to end this.’ I was shocked, surprised, hurt. I had so many questions going through my mind. Would I confront Carmen with this hard evidence? I decided against it. No good could come from it. Do ghosts have to be forgiven?
All I remember of the funeral is, ‘Your husband was a brilliant man.’
Was that all the comfort that I had to draw on? I wanted to announce, ‘Yes, he was a brilliant man and now like all the great minds he is dead.’
Sometimes I cry myself to sleep, sniffling, stifling my sobs in my pillows. Sometimes I fall asleep the minute my head hits the pillow and find my arms reaching across the other side of the bed for Kenny so I can whisper sweet nothings in his ear as he falls asleep.
I reached out for the bottle of sleeping tablets on my bedside table and swallowed them one by one.
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