A Woman Waiting

Plenty of things were hidden in her eyes, but her husband didn’t really notice any of them, partly because he lacked interest, partly because he’d been half in and half out of life for over a year. His unfortunate condition hadn’t stopped him from returning home though.

She had anticipated his return for months. Would he read the newspaper on his old armchair, she wondered, or swim in the early morning, before the sun came up bright and strong? Could he move back in, or is that not how death works? She didn’t know for certain what the rules were, but she liked the rhythm of her hopeful thoughts.

On the first night of his return, he arrived quiet as mist, touched with the smell of the woods and rain. In their old bed, she tossed, turned, and wept to hear his heavy voice coming from the walls, but she didn’t see him. ‘Is that you, my love?’ But she was sure it was him, that night and the following nights. At the moment gloaming set in, he would crawl back inside the thick walls and stay there until morning.

Her heart was troubled. ‘Why are you not talking to me? Please, tell me what you need, let me take care of you as I’ve always done!’ Days passed without an answer, and she decided it would be best to confront him. One evening, guided by a momentarily impulse of courage, she took a shovel from their barn and drove all the way to the graveyard where he had been laid to rest. Inside the wooden coffin, he was cold and waxen, his clothes dishevelled and mouldy, and his hair long and brittle. He was more maggoty carcass than man. After waiting by his grave in silence for hours, she realised her husband simply didn’t want to talk to her, then or ever. She left, saddened but proud of her courage.

On the way home, she grew afraid he might be disappointed by her impulsive behaviour. Who am I to disobey my husband, she thought, he always cherished his privacy and now I’ve gone too far, what if things get fraught? But everything was alright. When she arrived home, he was waiting in his old armchair, reading the newspaper with his empty eye sockets, the coffee he drunk spilling through the holes in his cheeks.