Soon the old man was able to identify individual sounds. When he first woke, he woke slowly and lay still, keeping his eyes closed, listening to the silence. But the silence had fled. Its place now filled with the creaking of the house, light staccato pattering of rain on the bedroom window, the song of a single bird in the garden, the hissing of the coffee pot in the kitchen, and his wife moving around downstairs. He dreads the rain. He dreads what it will do to Marie. The rain always sends her to a dark place. But, it hadn’t always been that way.
He thought back to when weekends were special. When he and Marie would load a basket in the car and drive to the shore for a picnic. They would drink from each other’s soul and soak up one another’s company along with the sunshine. He smiled then. He could see her dancing with him in the park, beneath the gazebo, to music that only they could hear. Bittersweet memories of how they could scarcely wait to return home and fall into each other’s arms, lost in passion. Those days were gone, barely a memory.
He sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. Today was Saturday. His dread of what today would bring was starting to numb him again, to suck the very essence of his life away. Where had Marie gone? Who was this broken woman who had taken her place? The change had not been gradual it had been sudden and abrupt. One day he had a wife who found joy in life, picnics, making love, and dancing to the music in her head. The next he had a bitter and angry woman. A woman whom he hardly recognized, who had little regard for anyone or anything. She would chase down and confront strangers over imagined slights or sideways glances. She would lash out at him for minor or nonexistent infractions and at night, every night, she would pray for it to end, she would pray for death. There was no joy left in her life.
The misery began when they lost Hannah. Three weeks old, SIDS the doctors said. Marie changed overnight. She hardly slept anymore. Hannah would be 25 today, had she survived. Marie had mourned for a long time. She had hurt for a long time.
He dressed and went downstairs for coffee. Immediately it began. “Why didn’t you? … Why haven’t you? … How could you? … Don’t forget …“ He wasn’t really listening. He quit listening long ago. That wasn’t fair and, he knew it was selfish but, it helped him to cope. Instead, he was remembering the woman he had married. It helped him to remember that he still loved her. The crash of a plate breaking in the sink brought him back and he sprung up from the table. Marie held a long sharp shard of porcelain in her hand, like a knife. She was bleeding, her palm cut by the sharp edges that she gripped so tightly. She was crying. Her face a mask of pain.
He coaxed the makeshift weapon from her hand and held her close. She cursed him and flailed her fists against his back until she tired. He cried too and helped her to the couch so she could sit down. “Let me get your pills,” he said. He came back with the new bottle. The three month supply he had picked up at the pharmacy just yesterday and he gave her a pill and the glass of water. She took it and he handed her another. She looked at him, a faint light in her eye. She took it and motioned for another. He gave her three. Soon the bottle was empty.
“I do love you, you know,” she said. When she smiled at him he saw the old Marie, the Marie whose life had not been destroyed by heartache. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back, “Sit with me?” she asked.
“Of course,” he moved next to her and took her hand. They sat like that for hours. Two old people, two fools in love. Still in love after all these years.