It's funny how life works out sometimes. One week things are normal. The next week, chaos. And the week after that, normal gets a new definition.
One evening I was sitting on the couch watching the 6 o'clock news. It had been a long day at work. Nothing had gone right, and I was relaxing with a well-deserved beer.
The news was the usual bad stuff. More violence in Baghdad, rising tensions between the Israelis and Palestinians, Democrats and Republicans at each others' throats. And the media only too glad to show it all to us. As if nothing good ever happened. Just what I needed after a crummy day down at the brain-drain.
I heard the garage door opening and I brightened up right away. My wife, the love of my life was home. Maybe she'd want to fool around before dinner, or after dinner. Or maybe we'd forego dinner and have a supper of a different kind. I smiled in anticipation of something finally going my way today.
The door opened and I heard the comforting noises she always made when she came home. The sounds of the packages she was carrying, the swishing as her briefcase rubbed against her leg, the rustling of her clothes and the click of her shoes as she walked down the hallway to the family room at the back of the house.
But suddenly the sounds weren't so familiar. The clicks of her heels not so even and regular, the rustling and rubbing no longer rhythmic and comforting. Then a couple of thumps. A group of small thumps, like a swarm of tiny earthquakes, followed by a much louder thump, more like a thwack, actually. Like something hard hitting something even harder. It all happened so fast.
I jumped up and ran towards the thumps, which had stopped thumping and were ominously quiet. The whole thing couldn't have lasted more than two seconds, from when the thumps thumped, to when they stopped, to when I reached the still form of my wife on the hallway floor.
Her eyes were open, staring at the ceiling. I fought the urge to look in that direction, because somehow I knew her eyes weren't seeing anything. There was no sign of breathing, no pulse either from her neck or wrist. Her packages, briefcase, and purse were all on the floor next to her, all standing perfectly upright as if she had placed them there carefully on purpose.
The next hours were like a blur in my memory. I must have called 911 or something because the paramedics arrived. They pushed and prodded, poked her with drips. They tore her blouse open and started CPR. A tube was shoved down her throat and oxygen forced into her. But I knew it was all useless attempts. She'd been dead when she hit the floor, probably even before that.
I knew she was dead, but it still bothered me when the paramedic pulled out his walkie-talkie and announced into it very matter-of-factly that the patient was dead. He said "code" something-or- other, not the actual word "dead," but I was just too far out in my blurry space place to remember his exact words.
But it bothered me when he said it. Actually it was the way he said it. Like it was all in a day's work. And pretty soon he'd be heading home and kicking back with a beer like I had done. Except his wife wouldn't die in a thump on the floor. And he wouldn't have to hear a stranger say to someone he couldn't see that the love of his life, his reason for living wasn't living any more.
And the next days were a blur, too. One day I was having a normal life and then the next day my sister-in-law was there. Not normal. She never came to our house, mostly because I told me wife I never wanted to see her sister again. But there she was anyway. And then I'd come back to reality for a few horrid seconds. Yeah, I'd say to myself. She's here because my wife is dead.
And then there were a whole group of people coming in and out of my house. Some I knew, some I didn't. They were saying things to me I wasn't hearing, grabbing my hands, kissing my cheeks, smelling too strongly of something, then, thankfully leaving. I remember wondering if someone had told anyone not to let the cats out. My wife loved those little babies, and she'd be so sad if any of them got out and got lost, or worse.
I have clear recollections that my sister-in-law came to take me to the memorial service, although I didn't see where we were going. She took me inside, holding me as if I would fall. Some guy said a few words, then more people one by one said more words. At one point everyone was looking at me. I learned later that they thought I might have wanted to say some words myself. But I wasn't me then. I was an unfocused shell. And maybe if you held me up to your ear you could hear the ocean roar.
Somehow I ended up with a vase and back in my sister-in-law's truck, and then back home. I remember the darkness, and blessed sleep, and one of those smells again.
It was the next morning, I think. Well, it must have been the next morning because I don't remember any other mornings, although there could have been more and I just didn't remember them. Whichever morning it was, I woke up to that same smell I had in my nose when sleep overcame me so blissfully, taking me away to a more sane place. Because this world certainly wasn't happening in a sane way lately.
On this particular morning I could smell something. It wasn't bad or anything, just unusual. But I knew it was perfume or cologne. Funny, because I never wore any, and neither did my wife, and she was dead. Yet somehow it was familiar. That's when it hit me, and I awakened from my blur.
"Holy shit, Ruby," I yelled. Well, kind of yelled. More like said loudly with extra emphasis. "What the hell are you doing?"
"I didn't want to leave you. You weren't yourself. It was like your outside was there but the inside wasn't."
I had to admit that that was probably a pretty accurate description of what I had been going through. I laughed a little to myself. That's when I noticed I wasn't wearing anything.
"Did I take my clothes off, or did you?"
"I did. And it was hard too. You sure didn't make it easy at all. You were limp like a rag doll. It took forever to get your pants off."
Ruby, my idiot sister-in-law rolled over to face me. That's when I noticed she wasn't wearing anything, either.
"Fuck, Ruby. What's going on here? You take advantage of your poor brother-in-law's emotional state or something?"
"Hah, you wish!"
"Well why don't you just tell me, then, what exactly happened? It was last night, wasn't it?"
"Yeah. I brought you in and you just basically plopped down and sat like you were a zombie or something. It took a lot of pulling and pleading to get you upstairs and onto the bed. Then a lot more pulling to get your clothes off and under the covers."
"Well, you didn't have to take everything off, did you?"
"Mary told me [Note: Mary was my now-dead wife] you always slept in the nude, so I figured you'd be more comfortable that way."
"Ok, fair enough. That explains my condition. Now what about yours?"
"I never wear anything to bed, either."
"But why sleep here? There's a perfectly good guest bedroom down the hallway."
"I already told you. I didn't want to leave you alone. You should have seen yourself. I was worried."
"I suppose I should thank you for taking such good care of me."
"You don't have to thank me. That's what family is for."
All the time we were talking, if that's what we were doing, and not fighting like usual, I was getting a pretty good gander at Ruby's breasts and lower stomach. They weren't as big as Mary's, but still fair-sized. And they had a different shape, rounder with puffier nipples with more of a light beige hue to them. They alternated between shrunken and wrinkled, and relaxed and, well, huge discs on the fronts of her mounds.
Her stomach was flat, made that way from all the years of working on her horse ranch. I could just barely see the top of her pubic fluff as it came into view and disappeared again between the folds of the sheets. All in all, Ruby was making no attempts to cover herself.
And no doubt she was getting an unencumbered view of me, too. And had gotten a pretty good view last night when she took my clothes off. My penis was piss hard when I first woke up and came to my senses. But it had since wilted into its current semi-rigid condition. I did, after all, need to take a leak at some point, sooner rather than later. If truth be known, I wasn't attempting to cover myself, either.
I lay down on my back and stared at the ceiling.
"She's dead, Ruby," I muttered, the reality suddenly hitting me. I could feel the heat of tears forming at the corners of my eyes.
"I'm so sorry," Ruby said softly.
She put her hand on my forearm as it draped across my stomach, and put her head on my shoulder. I could feel the wet warmth of her tears as they dripped onto my skin. She began to shake a little and I reached for her, wrapping my arms around her. We kind of melted together somehow, not in a sexual way, but in the way people do when they need someone to hold onto, and to hold onto them. The kind of holding that brings a sense of comfort and safety when it seems that life is anything but that.
My tears came freely after that, and it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn't cried at all for Mary. Well, I was crying now. We both were.
We must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I knew the sun was streaming through the window, something it never did unless it was late morning. Ruby and I were wrapped, more like tangled together. I couldn't tell where her legs and arms began and mine ended.
.... There is more of this story ...