Monday, 23 June 2014

Done by Jeanne Lambin

Read by Saffron Chan


I.

His cock is still in my mouth, growing limp, when he tells me, “I’m done.”

I find this rather obvious, so in push-up fashion, I raise myself and sit up. He pulls a pillow over his lap.
“I am done with… this.”

I look at him.  When we got married, among the many other things that we pledged one another, we promised that oral sex would not go the way of party dresses – only to be brought out for special occasions. Perhaps there would be no party dress for me, I think.  He does seem tired.

“Okay, that’s….” I start.

“No.” He cuts me off. “I am done with us.”







It’s a jarring unexpected car crash of words that brings my slight buzz to a screeching halt and steals all by breath.

“What?”

“I am done with us.”

Us, us, a tiny word, giant in its implications, now tacked on to the end of that sentence.  A pause, an exhalation of breath, his hand smoothing the creases in the pillow, another look, at his hand, then out the window, then at me. “Sonia, I can’t do this anymore.”

Silence, like that which comes after a snow.  I hastily assemble a hoard of words and sentences and sort through each one. Many are short and begin with w: Why? When? Where? What? Why? What the fuck? Who? Who? Who!

Who – suddenly, the sick feeling that there was someone else lurking at the periphery, that somewhere along the line, us had transformed to we, and now was apparently, them.  I am doubled over by the sucker punch of certainty. My forehead rests on the mattress.

“Who? Is there a who?” It comes out, barely a whisper. I sit up and look at him. He looks away.  I stand. I go to the toilet and vomit. I brush my teeth. I pull whatever discarded clothes I can from the floor and dress. I take my keys and head towards the door.

He grabs my wrist as I pass, “Sonia, please say something. I’m sorry.”

I need to leave. I will not let him see this wreck me. I stop and look at him. “You said all you needed to.”

He cannot be parsimonious with words and expect me not to be. I break his grip, grab my wallet and go.  He does not follow me. He does not try to stop me.  You said all you needed to. 

In the elevator, I repeat this to myself, like a mantra.  You said all you needed to, you said all you needed to.

Out of the elevator.  Through the lobby. Out past the doorman. Out on the street. Just get away. Just get away. But he is there, breathless on the sidewalk, wearing only jeans. He took the fire stairs.  A game we used to play.

“Sonia, just let me explain.”

I walk quickly away.

“Please listen to me.”

“You said all you needed to say,” I quicken my pace.

“Please”

I start to sprint.  I ignore the little red man telling me I should stop.

I hear him behind me. Faster.

“Sonia.”

I hear a screech of tires and thud.


II.

I used to run by this hospital and gaze at the people arranged in sad tableaus beneath the unnecessarily harsh lighting. A giant glass box of sadness. Now I am on the inside. The TV is blaring, thus making conversation unnecessary, impossible or both.  Mindy sits by my side. Silent hours pass between us. Eventually I will tell her everything. Like always.

Mindy, my friend since primary school. Five years ago, when Ryan and I were moving to Hong Kong, she said, but we've never lived apart. I’ll come too. Mindy, who was always there, is now here, like always. I put my head in her lap.

When the doctor told us, I watched a single tear roll down her cheek. That night, or what was left of it, I spent with her. Curled in her bed, dreading morning and the unreality of a new horrible reality.

He was cremated. There was a small service.

There were all these people. They knew him, not me. They attempt to comfort me. “I’m so sorry for your loss.” This is followed by a small hug, a pat on the arm or enveloping one of my hands in both of theirs. Then they disappear into the crowd. Mindy was at my elbow the entire time. Steadfast. Always.


III.

At first I looked for clues. Trying to find “her” but his digital life was pristine, no texts, e-mails, calls, chats, caches, photos, receipts, nothing. No clues tangible or intangible, not even a digital dust mote. Maybe he had deleted her. Maybe she didn’t even exist. She was a ghost, a figment. Maybe he was just done with me. Somehow that was worse. He never said that there was someone. He never said that there wasn’t. Mindy takes my hand, looks into my eyes and tells me that I should just let it go of “her.”

In two days, I will fly to Nova Scotia with his ashes to bring them to his family. I was going through the detritus of his life, gathering things to bring back to them. Tucked in a sock folded into in his rarely worn wingtips, I found a black velvet box. The anniversary gift I never got?

I open it. A ring. A diamond ring. I hate diamonds. Who? I take it from the box and slide it onto my now naked ring finger. Too big. My meticulous husband knew well my sizes and tastes. Who?

She moved here with us.

And it was suddenly like the screen dropped, a whole horrible slideshow of all these moments, when viewed separately meant, nothing, nothing, nothing and now everything. Last month, both out of town at the same time on business trips. Both often busy on the same night. A glance here, a touch there.  Okay, because we were all just such good friends! “You and Mindy are so much alike!” Steadfast. Always there. 

Who? I am an idiot.  

It is easy to be steadfast when it is to obscure the purification of your own soul.

The Discovery Bay ferry smells like used beer and liberal applications of duty-free cologne. Florescent light lends a certain grotesqueness to the ritual display of forced exuberance as the drunken primates return home. How could she live here?

In my pocket is the ring, embedded in a cocoon of duct tape. Pretending to drop something, I reach down, extract the packet, and stick it to the bottom of the seat, the very same seat, which Mindy resolutely attempts to sit in every single time she takes the ferry. Steadfast.

There will be no confrontation, no great reveal. No explanation or discussion.

Knowing the nooks and crannies of their betrayal would not diminish its enormous dimension. She might even deny it. For five years, maybe more, she had said nothing. I had told her everything, always, and she apparently told me nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing and now this is what I had.  

We. Us. Them. At the hospital, when I said good-bye to Ryan, she said, "I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry.” I had thought she was talking to me.

For now, I am done. Gone.

Maybe in a year, or two, or never, I will tell her about the ring, assuming it has even survived the vagaries of time, curious passengers, zealous cleaners and whatever else. It was there, right there, the whole time. 

Until then, the ring will travel back and forth. Hour after hour, day after day after day and, on some days, she will be so very close to it, and never even know that it is there.


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