He bent over in pain. He tried to turn away from her. But she saw him. And it began again.
Like gunshots , her taunts echoed across the room.
“Got tightness in the chest, have you?”
“Getting hardening of the arteries are you?”
“Starting to die are you?”
Like a bolt from a crossbow, he pushed against the pain in his chest. His fingers flexed as if kneading bread. He thought if he could flatten the pain out across his body, it would go away. It did.
He tried to avoid any confrontation as it was never good for his health. But after all his attempts at reconciliation had been rebuffed, it would get too much. Then her answer would rise up to the mildest rebuke.
“How dare you treat me, like that?”
But now, his wife stood over him, now taller than him. Age had shrunk him but now all he wanted was invisibility.
But her eyes blazed. The spark is definitely gone, he thought cynically. He had never been so tired. He had never felt so old.
He shut his eyes tight , pitch black. He could feel her eyes boring into him. He could feel the anger coming in waves like heat from a bushfire.
“Where’s my anginine?,” he gasped.
“You don’t need it,” she replied.
“Got slowing of the heart, have you?”
“Getting old are you?”
“No good for anything are you.”
It was like having a death sentence pronounced from on high without any appeal. He knew who to appeal to. He prayed silently for help.
“It’s only just a twinge now”, he said,”don’t worry about it”.
But he knew it was like storm against steel. First the steel resisted. In time it started to flex. In the end, it buckled and broke. It was now a matter of time. Buckle, break and make to leave.
She started to lay out her herbs and medicines. The herbs were meant to help her.
She would quote that the “herbs are for the healing of the nations”. He thought they would probably help if they weren’t corrupted with malt. Besides he thought that they were drugs anyway and watered down ones at that.
Her voice intoned the litany of healing:
“This one is for my headache. This one (St John’s Wort) is for my depression. This one is for my heart (Hawthorne).”
She turns and stares and intones:
“Not for you. You don’t deserve it, after all you’ve done to me.”
And then she would go through them one by one.
And it seemed to him that she still kept the headache but took the herbs. She still was depressed anyway and as for her heart what could heal that? It was like fighting a fire with an eyedropper.
He would say (to himself,never to her) that they just seem to work. And even when he grunted his doubt, she would fly at him. One minute calmly composed taking her dose, next second ablaze without warning.
“Know everything about herbal medicines,don’t you?”
“An expert know-it-all,are you?”
The irony was how studied she was. She knew the herbs and their effects back to front. He had from time to time sneaked a look at her notes until he knew more than her.
He would simply remain silent and think to himself, this will pass and besides if he said so it wouldn’t be a meaningful comment anyway.
It seemed to him that they both needed drugs to survive. Except that they weren’t in some dark alley shooting up with shared needles. Nor begging or stealing for the next hit. But just as desperate.
The soft tap of a bottle being tipped over. The crackle of tablets falling and tapping the floor. Then she loses her temper and scatters the tablets everywhere. She grabs some tablets and shoves it in her mouth. But too many, too soon. And she crumples and collapses to the floor as if the air has been gently taken from her.
At first he’s transfixed. Next he panics. He grabs the phone and presses the button for the ambulance. A few minutes away he hopes. Next he remembers the first aid, but it occurs that she would never help him the same way.
He gives her mouth to mouth. He gives her heart massage. But nothing works. The life is gone.
He always thought that he would save her. But always she put herself completely out of his reach. And somehow it was always his fault. And somehow it fell upon him to make things right.
As he leant over her lifeless body, he knew. He knew that this time it WASN’T his fault. He whispers the silent prayer and releases her soul.
He knew that this time there would be somehow release and redemption.