This started as a poem for a class, and evolved into this.
The cherry wood quivers beneath my hands as I push it shut. The lock gives a final, hollow click that echoes in my ears and ricochets off the walls. I can breathe again. But only for a moment.
I slump against the door and my legs give way until I feel them collide with the cold floor. My back presses against the cool grain. The grooves stab at my skin, but I don’t care. In fact, I close my eyes and relish in the sting. Maybe if I concentrate long enough on the feeling of the wood digging into my flesh, it will bring me back to reality.
I sit there, vision dark, breathing shallow, and I will myself to forget. Forget why they came here, forget what they brought, forget how one single piece of news had completely turned my world on it’s access.
For a moment, I am successful. The uniformed men are gone, and my imagination takes me back to that little island where we shared our first kiss, and, six months later, said I do. I sigh in contentment as his lips mold over mine, soft and tender as they always were, as if he never left in the first place. I wish I could stay here forever.
A shrill ringing pierces the air; in one swift motion the precious illusion is wiped away. My eyes snap open and I am plunged back into the cruel, harsh light that is my new reality.
I slam them shut as quickly as I can and let the phone go on screeching. Any sound is better than this suffocating silence, and I don’t have the energy to answer it. Still, it’s a gut-wrenching reminder that the world hasn’t stopped moving, only I am stuck in stasis.
A familiar burn singes the back of my eyes when the last echo finally recedes. I squeeze them tighter. I don’t want to give into the blackened seed of utter despair gnawing at my gut. Not yet.
But, as hard as I try, it’s a pointless effort to stop the rivers of salt streaming down my ashen cheeks. A breeze slithers beneath the door; I swear I hear his footsteps as the tarnished floorboards creak under my feet. My heart is not lying on the floor; red, raw, still beating. Pieces that will never be whole again.
Time passes, though I can’t say how much. Minutes? Hours? Seconds? Days? It feels like eternity. Finally, I make myself stand up, only to turn around and sag against the door and press my forehead to the frosted glass. My breath fogs up the windowpane. I’m thankful.
Because now I can pretend two men in uniform are not trudging down my driveway, despite the boot-shaped footprints denting the freshly fallen snow. If I pretend long enough, I’ll never have to look at that mocking flag soiled with red and blue, or sort through the remnants of the sodden cardboard box meant to contain his entire life.