Her thumbprints are still in the bread. I can see them, little oval dimples through the glossy plastic wrap. My hands shake as I unfold the flimsy, sticky film protecting my sandwich. The sandwich she’d made me this morning. The sandwich we’d argued over. The sandwich I am now eating at midnight.
“I don’t like whole wheat bread. That’s all I’m saying.”
She’d stood at the counter, morning light from the window ghosting her custard colored hair, her hands busily dispersing the zero fat spread she’d bought to replace my mayonnaise.
“It’s selfish, Darren. Your cholesterol is high. If you want to leave me, you can just say so. Slow self-sabotage is much too drawn out.”
“Well, I’m my own self to sabotage.” I’d said. “I don’t like whole wheat bread and I don’t like fake mayo. Why bother eating?”
I’d watched, my anger mounting, her fingers sinking into the fresh brown slices as she aggressively wrapped, chucking the finished product into my bag alongside the veggies she’d spent her morning washing and cutting.
“We bother eating, so we don’t starve,” she’d gritted tightly, “and we eat healthily, so that we don’t die,” she went on, “and we don’t die, before our time if we can help it, Darren, so that we don’t desert the person who has graciously chosen to spend our whole, assumedly long lives with us, while they’re still in their early forties!” Picking the bag up, she’d forcefully pressed it into my chest as she walked out of the room.
I hadn’t gone after her. I was a little hung over from the poker game the night before and besides, I was tired of her nagging. She thought she knew everything, always right. Heaven forbid anyone had a differing opinion or an alternate take on things.
Before I’d left, I’d thrown the bag of food on the bottom step with a scribbled note;
‘Think I’ll buy lunch today. A double bacon cheeseburger sounds great right about now’.
She’d be furious. A smile had hovered at the corners of my mouth.
I’d driven in to work, still ranting, wading through all the things about her that made me insane; my water glass disappearing into the dishwasher before I was done with it, the tied baggies of garbage she’d leave hanging off various doorknobs throughout the house as she cleaned, always onto the next thing before remembering to dispose of them, making the bed the moment I was out of it, closing any window for me to hop back in and forgetting to pay the bills, distracted by the kids or the house, the gas company forever threatening disconnection.
But by the time I’d pulled into the parking lot, I had mellowed. Pondering her flaws, I’d come to realize they weren’t really flaws. They were more like quirks. Quirks were okay, weren’t they? So maybe my glass vanished all the time, but that meant it was getting tidied all the time, as were the full garbage cans and the messy bed and the bills always got paid in the end. If she was busy with the kids or the house, I should be grateful, shouldn’t I?
As the car door had swung shut, I’d decided I’d been a selfish bastard and had practically run through the parking lot, eager to get the day over with so I could get back home to her.
Now, twelve hours later, so much has changed. I sit, chewing in time with her breathing, the ventilator’s accordion flip-flopping oxygen into her lungs. She’s not taking it willingly, grappling with the insistent machine. I can almost hear her; it’s not natural…inorganic. I can do it on my own.
She’d fallen after I’d left this morning, opening her head on the corner wall facing the stairs. They’d found her face down, my blood-soaked note between her slender fingers, the strap of my bag still looped around her ankle.
“…we don’t desert the person who has graciously chosen to spend our whole, assumedly long lives with us, while they’re still in their early forties!”
“I’m eating it, honey.” I whisper into the darkness. “I’ll eat whatever you want.” The sandwich sticks in my throat as I realize what she wants is for me to fight for her.
So much has changed since this morning but so much has stayed the same.