So Beautiful

So Beautiful

Jon Kershner

DAMIEN:

I like the darkness.  The kitchen is nothing but shadows.  I sit at that small oak table every morning alone. I drink my coffee and think about, well, everything.  But everything now seems more like nothing.

The window over the sink faces east and there’s a clear view of the horizon behind the city.  The sun won’t be up for a little while longer.  The nice cool early morning blue covers the world and floods the kitchen with its calming hue.  It blinds the world so you can’t see much. I can’t see the refrigerator. I can’t see the pictures and magnets and school drawings clipped to it.  I can’t see the photographs peering out of the hutch to my right.

My mug though, that I can see.  I stare down into the black pool of caffeine and wonder if it will help make my heart beat. I wonder if it will wake me up and if it does, does it even matter? The mug, my mug, a present, a gift, has a handprint on it, such a tiny handprint.  I hold the side of the mug; my hand over the tiny painted one.  It feels warm, alive.  I hold it tenderly but firmly so it’s safe and secure.

Blue paint on the white mug is what makes it take the leap from ordinary to something special.  The texture’s rough, an imperfectly perfect craft.

The lights in the kitchen flare to life and my eyes are on fire.  I didn’t hear her come down the stairs.  I hear her now behind me, shuffling her feet.

“Honey?” She asks.

I feel her hands on my shoulders and I close my eyes.  The lights are on overhead.  I could see the whole kitchen if I would just open my eyes.  I could see everything I try so hard not to. Her hands are dry and rough on my neck as she tries to massage me.

I pull away and sit up.  It’s more a flinch, a reaction to the dry roughness of her hands.  They used to be so soft…so smooth and exciting.  Now they’re just dry, rough hands that always touch me when I don’t want to be touched.

“Honey, are you okay?”

I look into her eyes.  They’re brown.  They used to be so beautiful. They would glow in the sun if it hit them just right. Now, looking at me in the kitchen, those eyes are just brown. There’s no glow to them at all.

“I’m fine.”  I make sure to focus on nothing as I walk to the sink and dump what’s left of my coffee.

“You slept on the couch again?”

“Not all night.”

“Oh?”

I set the mug in the sink and turn around.  I have to make sure to focus on just on those plain brown eyes.  Just on her and nothing else in the kitchen.  “I came out around three.”

“I’d have joined you if you asked.” She wraps her arms around herself even though I know she can’t be cold.  The white cotton robe she wears hugs her body.  She’s getting wider every time I look at her.

She used to be so slim and so beautiful. She used to be a dancer. Now she is just like everything else in the house I don’t want to see.

“I didn’t want to wake you up.”

SARA:

You didn’t want to wake me up?

I was awake the moment you crawled out of bed.  I was awake when you walked downstairs.  I was wide-awake.

I just wish it mattered.

He walks past me and every inch of me wants to move.  I want to just turn around and wrap my arms around him and bury my face in his back.  I want to squeeze him and feel him. I want to feel his warmth.

I don’t turn around.  I never move.

“I wouldn’t have minded.” I whisper to no one.

The stairs creak under his weight as he heads upstairs and I’m left alone in our kitchen.

I sit down in the same chair he sat in.  He doesn’t even leave any warmth for me here.  Closing my robe tighter, I sit there and just take in our kitchen as I hug myself.  The light overhead reveals all of the happiest moments of my life.  This was our kitchen, our home.

The pipes burst to life in the upstairs bathroom and the old house creaks.  It’s too cold in the morning.  It’s too cold all the time.  I close my eyes and imagine the days when I’d have been upstairs in the shower with him.  How the hot water would run down my back and warm me inside and out. How he’d kiss me.  How he’d rub his hands over my body and caress me.  I remember all of it and I forget how to breathe for a moment.

My eyes are dry.  I haven’t cried in such a long time. Whenever I have these moments, the backs of my eyes just burn a little.  There’s a pressure as if my body is trying to force tears out that I just don’t have.

I get up and fix the chair at the table.  My day might as well start now.  I walk over to the counter and as I go for the cabinet to get a mug, I see it. It’s there in the sink.  That mug…

I can’t help it.  I look down at that tiny painted handprint on the side of the mug and I know.  I know that it’s the reason why he doesn’t look at me.  Why he doesn’t touch me.  Why I’m so cold all the time.

I feel the pressure behind my eyes lessen.  My throat’s dry.  My chest feels tight.  My life was everything I wanted.  I was happy.  I was loved and I loved with all my heart.

I look at that handprint. It’s right there on the mug in our kitchen. His mug, a gift from the only other girl he loved.  I thought he loved me more; a different kind of love, but more.  But what he felt for me wasn’t enough.  I see that.  I’ve known it for three months.

DAMIEN:

My briefcase is light.  Lighter than it usually is when I go to the office. Holding it, I know that it’s lighter than my conscience. I’m not going to the office today.

I head down the stairs, trying to tie my tie one-handed I keep my eyes focused on the floor.  It’s better that way. I can’t accidentally see old memories.

I walk into the kitchen.  The sun’s rising up and shining in through the window above the sink.  It helps me see clearer.  It helps me see her.

She’s standing there with her back to me.  I can see her soft, flabby arms flailing a bit as she wipes the counter.  Her robe’s draped on the back of her chair and I can see her figure.  She’s in shorts and a tank top.  I watch the backs of her arms roll and I can remember when I would hold her smooth, tight arms by her side and press her against me and kiss her.

I watch her for seconds.  I can’t believe how much she’s let herself go.  She used to be so beautiful.

I hear it. Painful like a needle drilling into my molars. I cringe.  I hear her wiping glass off the counter.

“What happened?”

She turns and looks at me.  There’s nothing on her face.  Not fear, not regret, not anything.

Stepping aside I see the pile of glass on the counter.  It’s all collected there in a neat pile, almost proudly.  My heart stops the second I see fragments of a tiny blue finger painted on a piece of the broken white mug.

I don’t move an inch. I can’t.  I just look at the pile on the counter.

“I’m so sorry.”  She swears.

I see that tiny blue bit of paint on the broken white glass.

“I was trying to put it away and it fell in the sink.”

I try to keep staring at the bits of my broken mug but she walks right in my line of sight.  I catch her eyes and stay there.  I don’t look anywhere but those cold, brown, boring eyes.

“It’s okay.” I lie.

Those brown, disgusting eyes notice my tie.  “Baby, it’s okay.  I’ll save the pieces.”

I stare at her.  I’ll save the pieces?  You’ll save the pieces?

She takes those dry, cracked hands of hers and starts tying my tie.  I forget to blink as I watch her eyes concentrate on getting me ready.  I hear the sound of her hands scraping on the silk tie and I get chills.  Focusing on the graying strands of hair near her scalp keeps me from cringing. She broke it.  It’s broken and it means nothing to her.  She feels nothing.

“You feeling up for work?”  She asks.  She’s standing there, looking up at me, smoothing the front of my blue suit. I want to say it’s just like the old days.  The days when she loved me and the world was right and everything meant something.

“Yes.”  I lie again.

“I was thinking of making dinner tonight.  Maybe watching a movie on the couch.” She smiles at me and I wonder if I should smile back. “You know.  Just like when we were in college.”

I smile.  The same smile I give to strangers who walk into my office for the first time.

“Sounds good,” I press my lips to her forehead and walk away.

“Good.” She recites.

When I reach the door I glance back and watch her at the sink.  Her back’s to me again and she’s leaning onto the counter with her hands spread wide apart.  I stop at the door.  I could go back.  I could come up behind her and hold her and nuzzle my face in her hair and neck.  I could tell her I love her.

I walk out the front door with my light briefcase, with a heavy conscience, without doing or saying or feeling anything at all.

SARA:

I look down at the pile of glass on the counter.  I could feel his eyes on me.  But I can’t know what he was thinking.

The pressure that’s usually in the back of my eyes isn’t there.  I look out the window overlooking the sink and the bright sun is rising up over the city.  Our car is still in the driveway.  I can see him.

He throws his briefcase into the passenger seat like it’s weightless when he gets in. He starts the car but just stays there. For a moment I hold my breath.  I can’t see his face but I know he is just staring down at the steering wheel.

I lean closer to the window, craning my neck to see more of the car.

He’s just sitting there.  The engine’s on and he’s just waiting.  A part of me wonders if he’ll come back inside.  If today he’ll finally stop all of this and our fairy tale can start again.

Straining to look out the window, my hand moves and I put my full weight into a shard of the broken mug.

“Shit!” The pain’s sharp and stings.

Standing there by the sink, I look at my palm and a line of blood begins to swell up out of the small cut.  The blood is coming fast.

I hear the engine as the car backs out of the driveway.  It roars as it speeds off down the street.  I can’t look out the window.  I can’t stare at an empty driveway.

I grab the blue dishcloth draped over the faucet and press it to my palm.  Leaning over the sink on my elbows I hold my hand out.  There’s nothing but my hand and the stinging fire of the cut pulsating with every heartbeat. I carefully take away the cloth and inspect my palm.

There’s a lot of blood.  It keeps swelling out of the small cut right below my left thumb.

I admire the blood.  I’m captivated by the pain.  Every beat of my heart makes the sting of the cut pulsate.  I flex my fingers and wince as the cut splits open and more blood begins to flow.  Squeezing as tight as I can, biting my lip I hold my clenched fist out grabbing air.

Blood begins to drop into the white sink.  It drips and stains bright crimson against the white finish. I felt something.  It was real.  More real than anything I’d felt in a long time.

The pain is something I feel that I could remember and have. He gives me nothing to have, nothing to feel. This blood, this cut, this pain is mine. It is real.  It hurts.  It’s beautiful.

The pressure behind my eyes builds and gives way all at once. I grab the dishrag and press it against my palm.  Pressing my forehead against my hands I cry.  I can’t help but smile as I sob.  I see my tears fall into the sink and mix with my blood.

They’re together. I cry and cry and cry and feel for the first time in so long and I realize that I’m happy.

DAMIEN:

She smells like roses. The afternoon sunlight pours in through the nearly closed vertical blinds of the bedroom.  It paints her in gold.  Her skin is soft silk. She’s lying with her back to me and I can see the smooth curves of her thighs rolling up from her narrow waist like mystic hills.  Her backside disappears beneath the sea of purple sheets on the mattress.  It’s on the floor.  When I was in college, my mattress was on the floor too.

I glance at the alarm clock on the nightstand beside the bed.  It’s two-thirty in the afternoon.  Standing in the doorway of the tiny bathroom I scan the small apartment.  There’s clothes everywhere; some of them mine, but most of them hers.  She’s finishing her last year at the community college.  There are more important things on her mind than laundry. The small apartment might have been littered with clothes, but it isn’t my house.  There aren’t any pictures here of anyone I recognize or love or remember.  There isn’t a chilling silence smothering me.

There is nothing here that I cared about. There’s only Stacy.

I’m completely naked and I head back towards the bed as quietly as I can.

She rolls over, her black curly hair spilling out over the pillows.  She opens her eyes and watches me.  I see those green eyes of her and I’m instantly intrigued.  Her eyes are beautiful.  I’m entranced by the emerald gaze that’s captured me.

I watch her stretch and yawn.  The sheets slide off her body as fluidly as water.  It reveals her impressive chest.  I can see the lines of her abdomen and the wondrous natural tan that covers every inch of her hairless skin. The backs of her arms aren’t loose.  Her skin is taught and fits perfectly. She’s young, vibrant.  I have gladly tasted every inch of her body and as I crawl into bed and climb on top of her I have the urge to do it again.

She stares up at me and wraps her arms around my neck.  Spreading her legs the two of us are pressed together.  I feel her heat.  I feel my own skin radiating warmth.

“Don’t you ever sleep?” She asks.

I shrug and begin to kiss her collarbone.

“I have work tonight you know.” Stacy makes no effort to stop me as I taste her throat with my tongue.  “Nobody likes a bartender with hickies.  It’s tacky.”

I can’t stop myself.  I feel her breast in one hand while I wipe her hair back with the other.

Stacy knows how to please me.  She welcomes me to her and wraps her legs around me so that I’m pressed against her.  She’s ready.  I’m getting there with every moment. Stacy’s the only one who turns me on now.  She’s the only one that does anything for me.

We don’t make love.  I only ever made love to one woman.  Stacy isn’t her.  It’s why all we do is fuck. We just drown ourselves in sex.  She likes it.  I like it.  I lose the world as I roll us over and she kisses me.  She loves to be on top.  I don’t mind.  I love to be lost.

SARA:

“Sara, you really shouldn’t smoke inside the house.”

I glare at my mother and inhale again.

“What happened to your hand?”

I glance at the bandage wrapped around my palm.  “I cut it on a broken glass.”

My mother looks to the sink.  The gold bracelets around her wrist chime as they clank on the side of the table.  “You still haven’t cleaned it up?”

“I’m going to bag it.  It was Damien’s favorite mug.”

“The one with Lilly’s handprint?” Mom asks.

I exhale a slow steady stream of smoke towards the sink.  The silver streak dissipates from the ceiling fan but I hear mom holding her breath.

“Yes.”

I put out the cigarette in the ashtray on the table.

“Did you cut your hand deep?” Mom reaches out to hold my hand but I pull it back reflexively like I’m not sure if she’d bite.

From the look in her eyes I can tell I hurt her, but I don’t feel bad about it.

“I’m just trying to help you, Sara.”

“I know.  I’m fine though.  I don’t need your help.”

“No, you think you don’t need my help.  But you sure as hell do.”  I see that proud, spunky gleam in her blue eyes.  I used to think her eyes were so cold.  Now she dies her hair bright red and they make her eyes seem kinder, more loving.  We both know better.

“Mom, I asked you to come over so that you could pick up the rest of her things to take to the Salvation Army.” I feel my throat getting shaky with just saying ‘her’.  I sit up straight and dare my mother to try and say anything about it.

She doesn’t.  She just looks at me.  “Sara…I thought you gave everything away already.”

“I kept a few bags of her favorite outfits.”

I look back by the front door. There are two small plastic bags filled with bright, colorful clothes.  They’re all so tiny. I was amazed that I fit so many clothes in just two bags.

“Sara.”

Mom’s got that look in her eyes.  The one she used to give my father every time he did something she disapproved of.  I saw that look all the time up until she left him for a rich lawyer and moved to Boca Raton.  Seeing it now, my skin starts to crawl.

I get up and head to the refrigerator.  I see pictures and magnets that are bright and some even handmade from school.  I don’t focus on them as I open the freezer and pull out my pack of Virginia Slims.  I close the freezer and go to turn around.

I can’t even put the cigarette in my mouth.  My mom’s suddenly holding me.  Her arms are wrapped around me and I can feel her cold soft cheeks on the back of my neck through my hair.

“Honey,” She whispers.  She hasn’t called me that since the service.

I close my eyes and wish I was in someone else’s skin.

“Honey, you can’t keep doing this to yourself.”

It’s too much for me to take.  I don’t mean to but I pull away from her too hard and I turn to watch my sixty-eight year old mother stumble.  I lean back against the fridge and just watch.  She loses her balance, thin, withered hands reaching out for something, anything.

It looks like she’s going to fall but she grabs hold of the back of one of the chairs at the table.  Holding onto it with one hand and the top of the table with the other for balance, she stares at me.  I can see the fear in her eyes.  I can see the worry.  The sorrow.  I see it all and I’m jealous.

I’m jealous that she feels something while I feel nothing.

Leaning against the fridge I just look at her.  I can’t believe I don’t feel anything.  My heart didn’t stop.  I didn’t hold my breath in anticipation.  I felt absolutely nothing.  My mom looked like she was about to fall and I didn’t do anything to stop her. I felt nothing for her.

I shake my head as she takes a step towards me.

“No.” I hold my hand out, afraid she’ll try to touch me again.  She was cold. She was cold just like everything else in my life.  She isn’t the one I want to touch me.  She can’t fill me with warmth. She can’t make everything better.

“Sara?”

“No, mom.  I want you to just go.  Take the clothes and go.”  I can’t stop from screaming.  I don’t mean to.  She was there for me in the hospital, at the funeral parlor.  She was there for everything lately, a first. They say better late than never.  I think that’s bullshit.

“I’m just trying to help.” Mom doesn’t understand.

“Mom, don’t you get it?  You can’t help me.” I’m frozen to the fridge.

“I’ve been helping you through all of this.  You’re my daughter! I love y-

“Don’t!”  I shout. “Don’t you say it!  Don’t you say that you love me.  You don’t even know what love is.  You weren’t there for me.  You were too busy for my whole life.”

“I was not…”

“You were!  Jesus, mom, you weren’t even there for my daughter’s birth.  You could only make time for her death.”

My mom’s blue eyes don’t give away anything. Heartbeats tick away as we stand facing one another.

She turns to leave and collects the two small plastic bags filled with tiny memories.  I don’t help her to the door.  I don’t watch her drive away in her husband’s Mercedes.  I just stand with my back pressed against the refrigerator, listening to my own pulse.

I drop the cigarette on the floor.  I walk away and in one step I listen to the magnets and pictures and artwork fall onto the tile.

I’m numb.  I can’t find anything to warm me and I’ve never been so cold.  I look outside the window above the sink.  The sun’s so bright but I know if I walk outside even it won’t warm me. My palm throbs and I look down to see that my hands are curled into fists.

Looking at the bandage I hold my palm up into the light.

Slowly I take my good hand and push my nail into the bandage, right in the wound.  The pain is sharp.  It stings like fire and I feel again.  I dig my nail in deeper, as hard as I can.  For a moment I’m dancing, the joy of feeling something, anything at all spinning and twirling me around.  Eventually that pain numbs too and I’m standing still.

I look over at the sink.  I see the broken mug.  I see the fragments of that glass and I see fragments of a life I’ll never get back.

He loved that mug so much.  He loved her so much.  I always thought that no matter what happened we would have each other.  I was wrong.  I was living a fairy tale that has no happy ending.  I lost my princess and my king because of that.

I stare at that mug and it’s all so clear.  My dead daughter is the reason my marriage died.

DAMIEN:

I’m tired.  Leaning up against the wall, lying in the sheets I listen to the water run in the bathroom.  I feel exhausted. Good sex isn’t clean, it’s messy and rough and there’s an odor.  The intoxicating smell of Stacy’s body has come and gone.  Alone in the young woman’s apartment I look around.

The dresser on the wall opposite the mattress is covered with candles and picture frames.  There are pictures of Stacy as a girl with her family.  She’s an only child with both her parents.  She looks happy in all of the pictures I can see. So do her parents.

I’ve never noticed the frames before and the images within them.

I look at them and I feel betrayed.  Why am I here looking at a life that won’t play out for me?  Why am I even here?

The water shuts off.  I hear Stacy behind the half-closed bathroom door.

“You still here, babe?” she calls.

“Yeah.”

“When are you planning to leave?  I’ve got to leave soon for work.”

I look at the bathroom, the door’s open a few inches.  Through the opening I can see the mirror above the sink.  I can see Stacy’s face. I can see her breast and her wet curly hair.

She doesn’t really care about me.  She likes the sex.  I like the sex.  I slide out of bed and pick up my clothes off the floor.

“Baby?”

I pull on my pants and turn back to the bathroom, “Yeah?”

“Could I borrow a few dollars tonight?”

I stand there frozen in the room looking at the door.  I slowly put on my dress shirt and button it up with numb fingers.  “How much do you need?”

“Whatever you want to give me.”
I look at her reflection in the mirror and see that wicked smile, that sexy flash of teeth. It’s what lured me into her bed from the bar a month ago.

I glance at the pictures on the dresser again.  One of the frames is covered with tiny red handprints around the edges.  The picture is of Stacy’s parents.  I feel a lump in my throat and I have this sudden urge to talk to someone.

I haven’t really talked about anything in such a long time.

“You know I think my wife broke my mug this morning.”

The blow dryer roars to life in the small bathroom.

“I don’t want to say she did it on purpose.  I just don’t know if it was an accident.”

I walk over to the dresser and stare down at the pictures.  The blow dryer keeps screaming and the smell of roses doesn’t smell quite as sweet.

“My daughter made me that mug.  It had her handprint on the side. Blue paint on a white mug.  Her hands were so tiny…they were like her mother’s.” I can feel tears swelling in my eyes. I keep talking, looking at all of the pictures of Stacy’s family.  “It was my favorite.”

The blow dryer shut off suddenly and Stacy opens the bathroom door wrapped in a towel.  “Did you say something baby?”

I glance up at her and flash a smile.  “No.”

I throw on my blue suit jacket and wrap the tie around my neck.  Stacy walks out of the bathroom, concerned.  “Baby, you okay?”

I smile and nod.  “I’m fine.”

I give up on the tie and look at her.

She raises a brow and smiles.  “Don’t look at me.  I don’t know how to do a tie.”

Enthusiastically she gives me a kiss on the cheek and heads back into the bathroom.

I watch her go and I see it.  Just over her left shoulder blade, a mole or birthmark three shades darker than the rest of her.  It’s revolting.  I see that there is an arch to it, it bubbles out over the skin.  It mars the perfection.  I don’t know how I missed it before now.

Standing there, my tie dangling from my neck I watch the bathroom door close. The blow dryer comes back to life.  I glance at the pictures.  I see Sara in them instead of Stacy’s mother.

Sara.  She knows how to tie a tie.  She doesn’t have any grotesque moles or birthmarks.

Sara loves me.

I feel something other than numbness creep into my heart.  I pull out my wallet and throw all of the cash I have on the bed.  I grab my empty briefcase and walk out the door of that tiny apartment.

I’m tired.  All I want to do is go home.

SARA:

The bathtub in the spare bathroom is white, just like the tiles on the floor and the sink.  I decorated it.   I refuse to look in the mirror.  I don’t want to see the reflection of this body staring back at me.  I don’t want to see who I’ve become.

I just want to feel.  I just want to be warm.

I walk over to the bathtub.  I turn the faucet to as hot as it will go and begin running the bath.  The sound’s exciting.  I can’t wait to get into the tub and feel that hot water embrace me.

I drape a white towel over the counter.  The bathwater pours and calls to me.  I reach into the cabinet and rummage through my supplies.  I pull out the extra razor blades from their plastic container.  I set them on the counter and place my lighter nearby.

Slowly I undress myself.  I do it meticulously from anticipation and I think maybe even fear. I’m afraid at how good it’s going to feel.

I don’t mean to, but I catch myself in the mirror.  I can’t look away.

I’m disgusting.  I used to dance.  I used to be the most beautiful woman in the world.  That’s what he told me.  I haven’t heard those words in so long.  I forget what they sound like. It’s a stranger looking back at me.  I touch the bags under my eyes, the sagging in the corner of my mouth.

I see the way the backs of my arms jiggle.  My breasts sag more than they ever did.  The scar from my caesarean section is still there, my abdomen ruined. I have cellulite on my upper thighs.

I don’t blame him for not wanting me.  I don’t blame him for anything.

Taking a deep breath I watch steam from the bathwater shroud the mirror, hiding the monster staring back at me.

I reach for the razors and lay three of them out on the white towel.  I run them under water first.  Then I dry them.  I lift my lighter and carefully burn the tips.  I can already feel the heat from the flame on the metal and I get chills.  A part of me that’s been longing to be touched longs even more. I need to be touched.

Once they are sterilized I take the razors on the towel and carry them to the tub.  I set them down on the side and I shut the water off.  The tub is full.

I’m a little scared at first.  I hold onto the tiled wall surrounding the tub and get ready to step in.  The first step is better than I thought it’d be.  The water’s hot.  Too hot.  It almost burns and takes my breath away.

I force myself to put the other foot in and I stand there in the scalding water.  I let the pain roll up my legs from the heat.  I close my eyes and bracing myself on the edge of the tub I bravely sit in the water.

The shock of the heat takes my breath away.  I forget everything but that uncomfortable heat that courses up my spine.  I tingle all over as I settle into the water.  Biting my lip I close my eyes and lay back as far as I can without the water spilling out of the tub.

It’s so hot.  My pale skin is already turning bright red.  I feel.  I feel something and it’s just like in the kitchen.  It feels so good.  It feels beautiful.

My fingers find their way all on their own.  I touch myself as much as I can before the shock of the water disappears.  Eventually my body gets used to the water.  I hate it.  I want him here with me.  I want him inside of me right now, but he isn’t here.  He wouldn’t touch me even if he was.

I splash the hot water on my face and it’s heaven.

I can’t even open my eyes it’s so hot.  I have chills and I don’t know what to do to get rid of the aching desire inside of me.

I see the razors.  I pick one up carefully.

I’m not afraid.  I lift my leg up out of the water.  I press the blade to my upper thigh, right above the knee.

I’m going to just jerk the razor across.  Just cut it a little.  Just to feel something.

My pulse pounds in my ear.

I can’t do it.  I put my leg down and bite my lip.  I can’t cut myself.

Taking deep breaths I feel the water soak into the cut on my hand.  I remember how good that pain felt.  How happy it made me.

I hold my breath and bring the razor to my left forearm.  I close my eyes.  I don’t think of anything.

My hand jerk across it quickly and I look down.  I feel the sharp stinging.  Blood is swelling from the tiny fissure in my skin.  It swells lightly, shallow.

My heart is pounding.  The excitement, the rush was just like when she was alive, when he lived and when he made me feel like I was beautiful.  That sharp little bit of pain brought everything back.

I cut myself again.  It’s easier.  The cut’s deeper and just below the first.  I do it again.  It keeps getting easier.  Crimson blood streams down my arm like brilliant painting and into the water.  I cut myself again, a tally mark of four beautiful cuts.

Staring at the marks I put them under the hot water and I can’t believe how good it burns as the water seeps into the cuts.

But the cuts that are deeper hurt the best.

I pull out my arm and start slicing up the other way, away from my elbow.  I keep them shallow.  But I’m anxious, curious at how it’ll feel to go deep.  Go so deep that so much blood pours out and I feel enough pain to make me happy.

I see the broken mug on the sink and the look in his eyes.

The pain’s too sharp.  I drop the razor in the water.  I listen to it screech along the bottom of the tub for a moment.  I catch the dark red blood pouring from my left wrist.

It’s a lot.  Too much blood. My heart is going a mile a minute and I frantically put my arm under water.  It’s sharp but a different kind of pain.  It hurts. It hurts but I’m not happy.

The bathwater is turning ruby red and I can’t see the wound.  I pull it out and I see that it’s deep.  I can see white things beneath the skin and in half a second blood is rushing out of my wrist again.  I can’t move my fingers well.

Panicking I snatch up the white towel and press it against my wrist.  Oh God.  Please, what did I do?

I hear the front door shut downstairs.

I forget my wrist.  I forget my fears of dying. I just sit in the tub and freeze despite the intense heat.

I don’t want him to see me like this.

DAMIEN:

The house is dark.  The lights are all off except for the window in the kitchen. The blinds are drawn shut.  I don’t like the dark right now.  I’m scared of it.  I’m tired of being in the dark.

I pass the fridge and see our magnets on our floor. The pictures my baby drew are there too.  I see my mug on the counter in a neat Ziploc baggy.  I’ll pick them all up later.  I just want to kiss my Sara.  I want to apologize for not kissing her.  I want to tell her that I’m happy she can tie my ties.  How good it feels that she loves me. How sorry I am.

I fling my briefcase on the kitchen table and head for the stairs.

I think she’s taking a bath.  I can hear her body rub against the metal tub upstairs.

For the longest time I’ve tried to stay away from her but now I want to bathe with her.  I want to climb in the tub and wash off the regrets I’ve stained myself with.  I want to wash her and clean up our marriage.  I want to salvage what I had with the only other woman I’ve ever loved.

I tap on the bathroom door before opening it.

“Sara?”

The steam slaps my face.

Standing in the doorway I see her looking at me.

Her skin’s pale.  Her head’s resting against the back tile of the wall.  The bath water is nearly overflowing from the sides and the water is a dark, deep red.  I see a towel floating in the water, a brighter red in contrast.

Sara’s eyes are drilling into me.  I look at them and I’m speechless.  I see so much in those eyes. I see all of the experience, the life, the love and the desire swirling around in those dark, beautiful eyes.

She looks at me and I see her try to smile. Tears glide down her face.

I stare right into my wife’s eyes as I rush to the tub.  I scoop her up out of the water and fall back on the tile.  Sitting against the counter, cradling her naked blood-stained body in my arms I try getting my cell phone out of my pocket.

I won’t lose her.  I can’t lose her.

I don’t know what I say as I shout at the operator when I call 911.  All I know is that they’re coming.  I throw the phone aside and hold my wife tightly.  She’s looking up at me with those beautiful golden brown eyes.

I smile.

I don’t think she’s ever looked so beautiful.

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4 thoughts on “So Beautiful

  1. HI JON–LONG TIME NO SEE. IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL STORY. I LIKED IT AND I LIKED THE THE MEANING THAT LIFE GOES ON IF WE DEAL WITH OUR HAPPINESS AND OUR SORROWS WITH THOSE WE LOVE. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK. BETTY

  2. Pingback: Short Story: “So Beautiful” | Jon Kershner

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