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2 AM

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I died last night.

2am and my stubborn lungs refused to draw just one more breath.

2:02 and my heart, tired, forgot how to beat.

2:04 and my brain, lost in dreaming, slipped into my final dream.

At 2:07 I opened my eyes and noticed just how brown my husband’s hair looked in the peeking beams of moonlight. I lay in my body, unwilling to accept my departure. Too much left undone, unsaid, untested, untasted.

At 2:10 I stood up. I took a long look at myself in the green glow of the clock. It’s almost comical the things you notice after there is nothing you can do about them. It’s odd that all you really look at are little, mundane things.

I notice my feet first, thrust out from under the sheets. Toenails need trimming; one sock seems lost in the disheveled sea of blankets and the other carelessly clings to my ankle.

I notice how, for the first time, my face seems peaceful. How funny that my body should be at peace when I am still here. My husband doesn’t stir, his breathing seems loud in the absence of mine. Then he shifts, slightly, a sleepy hand caresses my hair before he rolls over.

I settle, just for a moment, on the edge of what had been my bed. I’ve never seen myself from the outside before. Then again, did I ever truly see myself before? I trace the laugh lines, touch a curl of my frizzy hair, and look at the slightly pursed lips, still wanting to speak. We, I, will never speak again.

At 2:30 I make my way down stairs. I move fearlessly through the dark and into my kitchen. I sit in a chair by the table and wait for the sunrise.

The morning arrives in the ordinary way. No angels or devils to greet me. No parting sky or trumpet’s blare. I watch the rising sun, waiting.

There is a muffled sob from upstairs. My husband is awake and I am dead. He stumbles down the stairs and fumbles for the phone. He calls an ambulance.

We wait, in silence, for them to come.

At 7am my body is removed from my house. We pass the garden and I slow, trying to recollect the smell of flowers. They load my body into the back, but I try to pretend I am dreaming. My husband, as if drawn to me, comes to the flowers.

“Sir,” says a man in EMT gear. “Will you be following in your car?”

He touches a flower, so gently, as if he believes it is my face. He doesn’t speak, simply nods and goes to his four door sedan. He looks older to me now than when we were sleeping.

I sit beside him as we drive to the hospital, following my body on its last journey. He doesn’t even turn on the radio, simply staring off as he drives. Once, or maybe twice, I reach out to caress his face. He doesn’t notice. Or, if he does, he keeps it to himself.

I study his face while he drives. He has laugh lines too, the beginnings of wrinkles across his forehead, the final remnants of youth flitting away. He is so young, I think. Too young to be a widower. Too young to lose his wife in the middle of the night. He looks older now, yet, he looks so impossibly young.

“I am sorry.” I whisper. He doesn’t hear.

At 8am, a man in a starched white coat speaks to my husband about autopsies and funeral arrangements. He prepares to open me up, like a treasure box, to see my insides. I perch on the edge of the table and look at myself as they cut off my clothes. I am surprised at how little I feel. Not even shame for my unshaven legs or my unclipped toenails or unsightly body fat.

At 8:30am my husband is awake, sitting in my library, staring at no book in particular. He is smoking; something he quit doing before we married. He doesn’t finish the first before he lights a second. And a third.

I sit with him and count each breath he takes, each lungful of smoke he drags from the cigarette between his lips. I count each one as he takes three or four drags, then stubs it out and lights another.

“You’re going to be sick.” I whisper into the smoky haze. He lights another.

We sit like this for hours.

At 9am the funeral home director calls to finalize my viewing. My husband stares at my closet; eyes looking, but not seeing. He doesn’t hear half of what the director says, but agrees.

At 2pm he settles on my attire. A simple, one note kind of outfit, something he loved on me. At 2:15 he puts it back, opting for my favourite sweater and a comfortable skirt.

At 2am he is lying, awake, in our bed. His eyes searching the ceiling for answers to questions he won’t let himself ask. I sit on the edge of the bed, hands clasped in my lap. I am always on edges now. He falls asleep around 5, and I watch him dream.

My funeral is small. I rest with my body, trying to will some part of me back into that shell. I don’t fit within myself anymore. Did I ever fill such an empty thing? My husband whispers thank you’s to half-hearted condolences and I stand with him as my coffin is lowered into a grave.

At 2am we sit opposite each other in the library.

He’s smoking. I find myself humming, tunelessly.

It’s over now, really. I should go, but I can’t seem to leave him. We sit like this, night after night.

It’s 2am and he is dreaming of other days and other nights. I am curled up in a chair in the library.

It’s 2am and I have just died.

Sarah E. Smith
Short Story By Sarah Smith

 

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