The minute I wake up things start to fall apart. I watch the cracks in my ceiling get larger; the bits and pieces of drywall rain down on my face, and then the fat guy who lives up there that never leaves his home, comes crashing down--sitting in a giant lazy boy--on my chest.
It’s going to be a bad day, I can feel it. The death scenes usually don’t kick in this early. I lay in bed for a few minutes and let my eyes come into focus...the cracks in my ceiling are the same as they always were...there is no fat guy pressing down on me, only a crippling sense of dread.
I’d been dreaming of Cleo and our last night together before the accident. I had this foolish notion that I could hear the kid’s heartbeat, she laughed and told me it wouldn’t work, but I insisted and put my ear against her stomach. All I heard were the creaks and gurgles of her gut. It was getting pretty firm, her stomach, not quite big, but tighter than before. She joked about how she was going to look like a blimp. I told her that for all I cared she could wear a goddam parachute for a dress. I loved her no matter what, I said, and ducked under the covers and kissed the arch of her foot. She laughed a sultry laugh as I kissed my way up to her mouth. She told me that her orgasms were more intense than before. Was it different for me? she asked. I told her that I was a little more cautious, more afraid of poking a hole in the kid’s head than anything else. That’s ridiculous, she said, laughing. And then I buried my face into the crook of her neck and kissed her ivory skin...
Her smell is still in my nostrils. I pat her side of the bed, half-expecting she’d be there.
It’s empty, as it has been every day for last two years. God, I’m pathetic.
I get up, slip and fall a bunch of times on my way to the bathroom, nothing bad just a few broken bones.
Even with my electric razor I still manage to nick my jugular.
The water in the shower had been tampered with, the plumbing connected to a vat full of hydrochloric acid--my skin slips off in messy sheets, and when I try to wash my hair, I wind up with a handful scalp. By the time I get out of the shower, I’m a chunk of bloody gristle.
As I put my ill-fitting tuxedo on, the phone rings. Fuck it. If it’s important they’ll leave a message.
“I can’t believe my son is getting married.”
It’s my mother, sobbing.
“Sorry your dad and I couldn’t make it...”
Their R.V.’s on the fritz and they don’t fly. Mom calls three times a day, incessantly apologizing.
“It’s not a big deal, mom,” I tell her every time she calls. “Trust me, it’s not big deal.”
The guilt, she says, is going to drive her to the grave.
“That’s the problem with guilt, so no use in feeling it,” I usually tell her.
By most people’s standards, it’s a pretty nice day. I sit down and attempt to enjoy a cup of coffee but the stinging brightness of the sun bouncing off my neighbor’s grill singes my eyes. I close the shades and the flat gets dark...
I sit in a chair in the living room, rub my temples, and do some yoga breathing.
Breath in for four. Hold for eight. Let out for sixteen. Breath in for four...
But this induces an asthma attack--I don’t have asthma--and, once again, I die.
I haven’t had death scenes this bad...ever.
Sweat collects on my forehead and my palms are clammy. The water from the tap doesn’t seem to get cold even though I let it run for a full minute.
Then a car horn resounds from my driveway. I go to the bathroom mirror and check myself out.
Run a comb through my hair.
The car keeps honking
“I’m fucking coming!” I yell.
My guts are churning and I splash some water on my face to remedy them, but it’s too late. It all comes up in the bathroom sink. I make a half-assed attempt to rinse it out, but the drain is clogged by chunks, and the bilious water keeps rising.
The car horn is incessant.
I grab my shoes and run out the front door in my stockinged feet. The damn sun pounds my tired eyes. While I stand on the porch rubbing my eyes, Jess yells something out the window. Something cutting about my pants, some cliche joke about waiting for a flood. I’m not in any mood to give a shit. The goddam sun. Jesus Christ.
“You couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day,” he says as I get in the passenger side.
“Would you take that fucking hat off. It’s giving me a headache,” I say.
“Raaaay-owww!” he says, ignoring my request and leaving the hat in place. I lean my forehead against the glass and stare at nothing as he drives me to my wedding.
“I knew this was going to happen. Like I said: pre wedding jitters. Full effect, man! Don’t worry, Gabe, I read up on this shit. Sofia was kind of scared that this’d happen so she gave me some articles she found in magazines and shit.”
I can’t ignore him--he just has a way of annoying you into listening. “Damn. This song is tight,” he interjects, cranking up the corporate R and B station.
“Anyway,” he yells over the song, a song sung by some woman about how she ain’t gonna get played no more, “Don’t worry, man, everybody has last minute doubts.” He says it mechanically like a child reciting a bible verse in catechism.
“Just remember the fundamental thing. You and Sofia love each other and...and...” he takes a split second break to sing along to the chorus and continues: “Where was I...oh yeah: you guys love each other and will be happy the rest of your lives and shit.”
“Are you fucking high?” Even his ridiculous glasses can’t hide his bloodshot eyes. “You are aren’t you? Jesus Christ, Jess, have some class for a change.”
“Aw. Come on man. I’m more nervous than you are. Give me a break. I have to stand up and recite some toast to you. Yeah, who cares if I toked up. I’m the one who has to take care of the ring, that’s a big responsi--Oh shit!” He starts frantically patting the breasts of the coat jacket. He pulls out the ring and says, “Phew.”
He keeps talking and talking. We have at least seven head-on collisions before we get to the church. They’re big ones, and I fly through the windshield every time.
After our arrival, I open the car door and put my shoes on. With my legs bent, the cuffs on my trousers go up to the top of my shins. My socks don’t match either. They’re both black, but the ribbing on my left is wider than the ribbing on my right.
Damn, these shoes hurt. My toes are scrunched into the pointed tips, leaving absolutely no wiggle room. I realize I didn’t try the goddam things on before taking them. By the time we get to the church steps, my feet are a mess. Just that short walk and they feel like fire. I sit down on the steps. Jess stands over me, and I think he senses that I want to be alone for a moment and says that he’ll go tell everyone that I’m here.
It’s a crushing feeling, I can’t explain it. My chest feels tight. I bury my head in my hands and I want to cry but I can’t. We were going to get married–-Cleo and I--eventually. But we weren’t going to let the kid force it on us. We probably would’ve gotten married but Cleo didn’t want to give people the impression that we were getting hitched for any other reason than love. I couldn’t argue with her...
I take a deep breath and go inside.
The bridesmaids are giggly like it’s some sort of junior high dance. Chrissy...or was it Pam--I don’t know, all of her lame friends seem the same to me--comes up and said, “She looks gorgeous.”
I force a smile, “I’m sure she does.”
Then Chrissy or Pam or whatever looks down at my pants and looks at me with a perplexed, furrowed brow.
“It’s the style,” I say and walk off.
People are buzzing around me. Mainly relatives, asking me questions, making jokes, giving me opinions, laughing. My brain’s fatigued but I still laugh and nod my head and act like I’m interested. This hollow smile seems to be working.
Jess pats my shoulder and says, “Hey man, it’s time.”
The ceremony is in the treeless green field behind the church. Jess and the priest and I stand in front waiting. My heart pounds so hard it feels like it’s going to explode. The air is dense bleeds sweat from my pores--I feel like a sponge in someone’s tight grip. I can barely breath. The organ starts and a hush comes over the crowd and then the bridesmaids walk down the carpeted isle, followed by my bride. She’s wearing a veil, and the sun makes me squint.
With the brightness behind, I see just her silhouette, but, I swear--I swear to God and all the saints--It’s Cleo. I rub my eyes, but she’s still there walking toward me with an effortless, lithe stride, the short train of her sleeveles dress gliding behind.
Even with the veil covering her face, she’s beautiful. As she gets closer, the details come into focus: the lovely, well-built swimmer’s shoulders, wisps of fine black hair brushing her neck...
Fuck em, Cleo. Let’s get married. Your belly isn’t that big yet, nobody’ll suspect a thing. We’ll get a house, maybe even a dog. I’ll be a total family man...
I’m getting impatient. Behind the veil are those piercing eyes and those lips that fit mine so well. I can’t wait to wrap my arms around her and tell her how dead I’ve felt these last few years. I’m going to kiss every inch of her skin and tell her I love her so much it hurts.
And she stops in front of me. We’re face to face.
When the bridesmaid lifts the veil, my heart collapses. These lips aren’t hers. And these blase eyes aren’t hers either. Her sturdy arms become fragile and stick-like. The striking black hair fades into a dull dirty-blonde.
I want to die.
- ► 2010 (10)
- ▼ 2006 (58)