by | Dec 12, 2023 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-Six

I don’t believe that my husband is dead. The dead cannot walk, but every night he shuffles into our bedroom and lies down next to me, swamping me with his exhale of stale corpse air, breathing with lungs that I know are as black and wrinkled as rotten plums. His smell cloying like the flowers he used to give me after cheating, all that sweetness gone bad.

He has no more eyes: I could plug his sockets with my fingers. But I don’t move when he is next to me. Instead I lie very still, trying to map the topography of our life together from the sagging of his pitted skin, his insect rot, his broken smile. With his emptied crevasse of a mouth he tells me he misses me, and the words hiss like flat tires, but I can’t bring myself to reply. In the morning my bedcovers are always stained where the dark of him has been laying. I don’t bother to change them. I know he will be back the next evening, and the next, and the next.

One night I try to speak to him, but my mouth is gone. It feels like I’m trying to speak with my thigh or with the flat planes of skin on my back. The whole bottom half of my face has grown as smooth as marble. My husband has my mouth now, my husband who leans over and kisses me on my blank face. My throat is empty and my head is full of buzzing, glittering, the hum of distant stars.

The next night I lose my hands. Now he uses them to hold me, turning my mouthless, stumped body towards his corpsed one. Running those palms down my sides. I try to see the man I used to love, but it’s like trying to see through a procession of mirrors. Someone once told me I could never love anyone as much as I loved myself. Maybe this is my husband’s way of trying to prove it to me.

The next night, all is darkness. It only takes me a moment to realize what’s happened. I sink into all of these things that he has taken from me—into the sound of my mouth and the feel of my hands, the rush of dead velvet over my body—and I know that he is watching me, watching with my old eyes. I wonder what I must look like to him. And I know that if love is blind, then life must be too.

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