My house sits in the shade
of an apartment building with balconies and patios presented like
Iris, who lives in the lower right apartment, just
walked out on her patio with a joint. The pungent smoke floats on the
soft evening breeze to where I’m sitting, my book ignored on my
lap. She’s been in the building for three years now. The way
she earns a living, the pot no longer surprises me. She sees me and
Iris is very short, almost as round as she is
tall. Her hair cropped close, switches from red to black to
some odd shade of purple. From my patio I can see her standing at her
computer, telephone in hand, as she sways back and forth like she’s
rocking a baby, that telephone always pressed close. Another odd thing,
Iris wears a negligee over her clothes night and day. She has a whole
wardrobe of them, pink, white, turquoise.
We’ve become chatting-friendly over the years.
First time I saw her it was early spring and I was planting petunias in
the flower boxes. Iris watched me for a while, and then said her granny
always had big beds of petunias in her yard. Said she hated
One evening a couple of months later she came over
to sit with me under
the oak tree. She smoked a little and told me why she hated
petunias. Said there were always parties at Granny’s. Her
mother, aunts and uncles knocked back the booze most every Saturday
night. One time her cousins, those nasty bastards, had thrown
her into the petunia bed at her granny’s. She was
six. They ripped her panties. Their dirty fingers poked at
her, into her. Because they were bigger and stronger they held her down
for a long time. She got smart after that night. She always
found a quiet corner in the house and stayed put. They never
dared to come at her under the noses of their parents. Still,
a whiff of petunia and she was back to six years old and
It killed me to hear that. It’s my guess her
cousins wouldn’t be able
to budge her now which I suppose proves we tend to protect ourselves
any way we can. Next day I dug out the petunias and put in
marigolds. Petunias didn’t give me the pleasure they
had. Iris brought over a bottle of Crown Royal that night. We
ordered pizza, and ate and drank then the ringing of her telephone drew
her back to her place.
Now I watch her walk to the low wall. She smiles
and says in her soft
sexy voice. “Those crazy buggers really want it tonight.
Bread and butter man, bread and butter.”
“We’ve all got our vices, Iris.”
She laughs and waves the joint at me. “True
enough.” The phone rings
again and Iris disappears through the patio doors.
I pick up my book and head inside. Show’s over.
We’re in the kitchen at his
place. He’s on one side of the island cutting fruits into bite-sized
pieces for a salad, I’m on the other chopping a knot of fresh chives.
The eggs are whisked and waiting.
I roll to the side of the bed and breathe …
I’m wearing thin cotton pajamas. My feet
in pink terry slippers. He’s barefoot, wearing boxers and a soft tee
I press my thighs together and roll into a ball, I
hope the darkness holds no surprises — I am over surprises.
smiles at me and says, you are grinning like a Cheshire cat and I say,
I’m happy. I turn to the stove for a minute, no a second and I hear the
hard thud. My head jerks around and he’s on the floor. My heart
pounding, I rush to him, I put my hand on his face, his beloved face
the face I want to see repeated in short order in all the children we
plan to have and the pulse in his neck has paused. I pull back my hand
and reach for the telephone but I know — I know in my gut that it is of
no use, no ambulance, no paramedic, drip — saline — IV will change this…
I can’t smile. Not for six months now.
I have parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, two
beautiful nieces and their father.
My brother, the guy with all the answers, comes to
see me every weekend since that day, and before he leaves asks why I am
so bummed — says we’re all buying it someday.
Shouldn’t the huge gaping hole in my centre be
obvious to someone who says he loves me? My entire life is packed in a
pine box buried six feet under new grass.
“What?” I say to him. “Should I celebrate?”
My brother shakes his head. He doesn’t understand
the finality of that thud — the pine box — the new
Ann-Annn-eurism eurism eurism.
Not another woman, but as hated. Annn-eurism is a
bitch who takes away your future.
I want to pick up a knife and drive it as hard —
straight — as lethally as I can at the thing that hurts the most — the
empty space in my chest that used to house so much.
How do I go on?
I wondered this at the beginning, but now I know —
I fake it. I walk, talk and smile as if this is just an
ordinary day — I’ve gone silent; mastered stealth mode screaming.
I eat and try to sleep, when I can’t I’ll rise up
from the bed where he held me, walk to the window where we looked at
sunrises together and hate it all.
Such a repellent emotion — hate. I hate that we
are no more — hate that I cannot die today.
Vera Constantineau lives
in Copper Cliff, Ontario. Her
appeared in the anthologies Whispered Words and Manitoulin
Morsels, in the e-zines Terra North/Nord
and WoW, and in the short story anthology titled Outcrops
(Scrivener Press, 2005). Vera has contributed to the Canadian
Broadcasting Corporation radio programs Out Front, First
Person Singular and Points North’s,
Northern Writers Series.
front page image is copyright ©
by Tony Kitterick, 2012