Twenty Reasons to Stay and One to Leave by Richard Thomas
Because in the beginning it was the right thing to do, staying with her, comforting and holding her, while inside I was cold and numb, everything on the surface an act, just for her.
Because I couldn’t go outside, trapped in the empty expanse of rooms that made me twitch, echoes of his voice under the eaves, and in the rafters.
Because she still hid razorblades all over the house.
Because I wasn’t ready to bare myself to the world, willing to pour more salt into the wounds
Because of the dolls and the way she held them to her bare breasts, the way she laughed and carried on, two dull orbs filling her sockets, lipstick on her face, hair done up, but the rest of her like marble, to go with her porcelain children that watched from his bed, defiling it, making a joke of it all.
Because at one point in our past she saved me from myself, the simple act of showing up. Lasagna filled my apartment with garlic and promise when all I could do was fall into a bottle.
Because I kept hoping he would walk in the door, backpack flung over his shoulder, eager to show me his homework, the worlds he had created with a handful of crayons.
Because it was my fault, the accident, and we both knew it.
Because if she was going to die a death of a thousand cuts, one of them wouldn’t be mine.
“…Because of the dolls and the way she held them to her bare breasts, the way she laughed and carried on…”
Because tripping over a Matchbox car, I found myself hours later curled up in a ball, muttering and listening for his response.
Because she asked me to, and I hadn’t learned to say no to her yet.
Because she wanted to live in any time but this time, jumping from one era to another, bonnets and hoop skirts, wigs and parasols, and I allowed it.
Because when I held her in the black void that was our bedroom, pressing my body up against hers, part of me believed I was a sponge, soaking up her pain. It was a fake voodoo, but it was all that I had.
Because I had no love left for anyone in the world.
Because I didn’t want to go.
Because it was still my home, and not simply a house yet.
Because I wasn’t done talking to my son, asking him for forgiveness.
Because I didn’t believe that we were done, that our love had withered, collapsed and fallen into his casket, wrapping around his broken bones, covering his empty eyes.
Because I didn’t hate her enough to leave.
Because I didn’t love her enough to leave.
Because every time she looked at me, she saw him, our son, that generous boy, and it was another gut punch bending her over, another parting of her flesh, and I was one of the thousand, and my gift to her now was my echo.
Richard Thomas was the winner of the 2009 “Enter the World of Filaria” contest at ChiZine. He has published dozens of stories online and in print, including the Shivers VI anthology (Cemetery Dance) with Stephen King and Peter Straub, Murky Depths, PANK, Pear Noir!, Word Riot, 3:AM Magazine, Dogmatika, Vain and Opium. His debut novel Transubstantiate (Otherworld Publications) was released in July of 2010.
© 2011, Metazen.