Thursday, September 24, 2009
After lying on my bed for ten days waiting for death, I looked around my room and thought—well, maybe it isn’t coming. Almost a month ago I was here, packing for a move to a new apartment. The stranger’s voice on the telephone told me three things I’d like to forget: there was an accident, it involved my husband, and he didn’t make it. He was killed instantly by a taxi that swerved to miss a stalled car, and jumped the curb. Witnesses said my husband managed to push a woman out of the way but was crushed against the office building he had just left. When told he was dead, I knew that I was going to die, too, because Theo and I always did everything together.
That’s why I took to my bed and waited.
When I finally appeared in my living room and saw the ashen, stricken pallor of family and friends, I said to them, “I don’t want to live anymore, but it seems that I must. I don’t want to do this. I don’t know how to do this.” As the voices assembled there murmured about the extent of their sorrow over Theo’s loss and offered to give me whatever I needed, I stood uncertain about what to do next. It was then that I saw the boxes. Ah, right. Moving day. So I walked over to a bookshelf and started packing Theo’s books. This I can do, I thought, just move my hands from shelf to box. This I can do.
When I first saw Theo those years ago, I was a freshman at an all-girls school in the Finger Lakes region of New York. He had come to visit his best friend, my professor in World Literature, and was to be a guest lecturer in our seminar. We were so excited that a real writer was coming to talk to us about his books, which invariably centered on protagonists who were imbued with a sensual passion for life and sexual adventure.
On the day of his talk, not one student was late, even my best friend Cecily had managed to make peace with her alarm and was sitting in her seat with her hair combed and her clothes properly straightened, something we never thought she knew how to do. At 9:30 sharp, we heard the approaching footsteps and held our breaths and looked at each other with isn’t-this-exciting fervor and then turned to the door.
First impressions? Theo was rather short and round. He had cerulean blue eyes, a beautiful nose and thick dark hair that curled around his head. From the neck up he looked like Michelangelo’s David. From the neck down he resembled Danny Devito.
* * * * * *
“No, NO, NO! This is awful!” Kat said. “What am I going to do? What am I going to write?”
“It’s not that bad,” her friend Alicia said, then immediately ruined the moment by choking back a laugh.
“Really? You think so?”
But Alicia could not stop the heaving of her shoulders and just let go, laughing until her tears washed away the sight of a not amused Kat — Alicia has to leave. Now.
A few minutes after Alicia blew her a kiss and closed the door behind her, Kat returned to her story of Theo and his tragic demise. She couldn’t start over, she just couldn’t. Minutes passed, then hours. She had to have something, for goodness sake, and soon. It’s Friday, after all! Some of the people in her online writing community said they had even written theirs at the beginning of the week. By the way, who are these people? And why wasn’t she one of them?
Kat looked at the computer screen and became hopeful. It’s not that bad, right? What if Theo had the body of Michelangelo’s David and Danny Devito’s face?
After a moment, she hit the delete button and started over.