On the eve of the funeral, she sat alone on the bed that the two of them had shared for the last sixty-two years. Her knotted hand slid over to the side where he had lain just days ago. It felt warm. She didn’t know why but she was certain of it. She had read of people who had lost limbs and gone on for months feeling the missing arm or leg. Maybe it was something like that. They had been very connected to each other. So much so that during their last years together, it had been hard to know who was who sometimes. At night in the creaky maple bed they had twisted up together, leg over leg, arm over arm, so that they had become a body of one.
Even when making dinner, she might be putting together a salad for each of them and think, one of us doesn’t care for tomato. She always made one with and one without but it was getting harder to remember that it was his dislike. The lines that defined them had become hazy. These were the same lines they had clung to with defiance in the early days, needing the high definition to ensure each of them. But through the decades, the edges had softened and blurred. They had blended into each other’s space, like cream when poured into coffee.
Her gentle stroking on the worn woven bedspread over the empty place brought up an ache, an ache that gripped her with a force that stole her very breath. It began in the deepest part of her body, down below in the sacred place where their babies had begun, where such intense feelings of heat and pleasure had taken her completely by surprise. The hurting swelled within, moving through her stomach that felt hollow, even shrunken, and wound its way into her lungs. And then it escaped, up and out, in a wretched and primeval wail that filled the flowered walls where the two of them had spent their tangled nights together. There were no tears. Not even a sob. Just the anguished call of grief that left her curled up in a ball in the middle of their marriage bed.
She didn’t know who she was anymore. She couldn’t settle into a shape of her own. Nor did she care to. She didn’t want her. She wanted them. She wanted that body of one that the two of them had created, the one she had lived in just days ago, and for all those many years.
The darkness wore on. She let the time pass not knowing anything about it, just lying there in a place that once was and no more would be, lying there, not remembering, not waiting for anything, just lying there, trying to find him somewhere within the warm spot on the bed.
Patricia Pierannunzi lives in Narragansett with her husband Anthony, who is always the first person to read her writing. She is retired after thirty-three years in education, five of which were spent as a writing coach for students and teachers. She has been published in Educational Leadership magazine; the old, but wonderful, Rhode Island Sunday magazine; and the Writers’ Circle Anthologies of 2008 and 2010. She has been a member of various writing groups and currently attends the Carolina Fiber and Fiction Center where she and fellow writers weave stories each Tuesday at Ten.