OUR LOVE NOW. BY SARAH FALCON.
She is still here. But I’m not going to tell him that. Her presence around me turned the air stagnant. Cold and still, it hurt to breath. Her effect on me was and still is bittersweet in nature.
“You’re not going to take the pills again are you?” she whispered in my ear. I did not answer; the hallway still had other patients going up and down. Nurses pushed trolleys and wheelchairs in their slow manner. The white hospital clogs contacting with the shinny waxed floors caused that squeaky walk they have; it made my teeth bite. The light made me sick in this place. Fluorescent artificial glow hits you wherever you look. A perfect weapon; it bounces off floors, white walls, glass doors and shiny silver instruments. They keep you sick! The only things of nature in this prison of germ free hostility: the old waiting bench outside his office, and the haunting beauty of my wife.
My wife, I still get to call her that. She had not really changed at all. I shifted my position on the bench; it creaked as always. Kerenza then sat down next to me. Why had I left a gap? Her small frame slid in perfectly, almost as if she had always intended to fit there. Her arm slid with ease under mine, her hand was soon in mine also. Oh, that sweet sting. Cold as ice. Her touch chilled me to the bone. I could not help but shudder. The bench made its protest to my sudden movement. Crap! The bench had betrayed me. My presence now noticed.
“Sorry Mr. Dean, Doctor Van Tiel shouldn’t be much longer” said the nurse, viewing me from her station opposite us.
Damn! Don’t look at me lady. Go about your business. Leave me to my silence and my wife’s company. Like a fool, I dared to look at my Kerenza. Her head was down on her chest as normal, her legs crossed at the knees, one hand on her black purse, the other in mine. Beautiful, even in her sadness. No man could love a woman more than I do right now. I would die for her, I’d kill for her …I should have. I dared to give her hand a gentle squeeze. She looked up into my face. Oh God! Her face. The scar. It runs from the corner of her nose, up the left side of her face and into her hairline. It is savage red anger. It looks, and was a lightening flash. In her white blinded eye, I could see the reflection of a failed man. A pathetic husband. Her good eye was still enough to hold my gaze, frozen to the spot – the rabbit in the headlight an understatement.
Her black hair fell across her face once more. A tumble of wild escaping curls. Even among her ethnic family and traditional folk, Kerenza was beautiful and special. Her Grandmother warned me when I first came to the house. Not that I listened of course – crazy old bat. She had said to me ‘Striking beauty will strike a jealous heart forever. It is a curse to be so beautiful in such a cruel world.’ only now do I remember. I was so grateful when Kerenza dropped her head once more, releasing me.
“Tom! Tom!” The wobbly figure of my fellow inmate on our hospital wing called out. He came zigzagging down the long corridor. In his wake, he trailed ribbons of toilet roll like a wedding train. The nurses were in pursuit with their other kind of walk, the one that is the speed of a run.
“Good Lord!” I whispered to myself. I could hear Kerenza’s girly giggle. Her eye was peering from under her curtain of black curls, watching the scene develop.
“Tom my lad, how are you? How’s Miss Kerenza?” asked old Patrick, hoping from one foot to the other.
“We are fine Paddy, we are….”
“Good, have to get moving though Tom – exercise you see” he interrupted and then dashed away in his shuffling slippers. “These ladies need their exercise, can’t let them sit drinking tea and dunking biscuits” he yelled back down the corridor to me, just as Dr. Van Tiel rounded the corner.
“Good day Paddy” Dr Van Tiel caught old Patrick in a gentle embrace. His large European frame was impressive, his blue eyes a piercing icy blue as if cut from a glacier. He was a gentle giant of a man. He never bellowed or roared, even though he looked as if he could. Broad chest-ed and wide shouldered, he put his arm around Patrick’s shoulder. He looked like his drinking buddy, escorting him to a taxi after a good nights pub crawl. “Good day Nurse Jennings, Paddy has enjoyed his morning run I see”. An out of breath nurse linked her arm through Patrick’s and directed him back, past me.
“Bye, Tom. Bye, Kerenza. See you both later, I hope” Patrick called out joyously. The man was unfazed as always by his capture.
“Well Mr. Dean, I’m sorry for keeping you waiting. Shall we?” The doctor indicated for me to enter his office. “How are you feeling?” he asked earnestly, with actual concern for my health. A rare doctor in this place.
“I’m great, I feel great” I lied. I made the mistake of looking at the door, hoping I could leave having said all that Dr. Van Tiel wanted to hear.
“Um?” was his reply. He sat in his chair and began his perusal of my medical file. I sat down in my chair knowing he would only ask more if I didn’t.
“The night terrors, they have abated?” he made it sound like a statement rather than a question, which threw me a little.
“Hum…yer. I mean yes Doc, no more at all for well over a week now”.
“That’s great Mr. Dean, I’m pleased for us” he made notes. “I have to ask….” he continued, now putting his pen down and eyeing me over the desk with deadly intuition. “Are you seeing her again then?”
“Who?” I fake. Why did I do that? I have blown it in one simple move. Did he notice?
“When is the image of your wife at its strongest during the day?” Van Tiel continued to scribe once more. My eyes began to sting, the tears burning like acid. I can feel the shaking starting in my fingertips. It hurts to breath around her. He knows. “I’m so sorry Thomas; I understand that I’m asking questions you don’t want to answer. Please, you must focus on me and your recovery.” He moves to the other side of the desk to sit next to me. “Where is she now Mr. Dean?” God have mercy; this man, this psychiatric doctor, he is amazing. I know I haven’t said a thing but he can read me like a book.
“She isn’t here” I lie weakly, my voice broken like my heart.
“Do you see her beside you?” I know better than to look at the window where Kerenza stands watching the wind play with the autumn leaves.
Autumn. Her favourite season. How beautiful she looked surrounded by gold and orange, yellow sunlight reflected in her deep brown eyes, the glow in her creamy coffee coloured skin. Flecks of red… Red! I hate red now.
“Try to stay with me Thomas. Talk it through with me”. I can hear Kerenza singing as he talks, her lullaby sweet and mournful.
I think of the day our son was born. How we loved him. His life might only have been hours long, but how she loved him. How she had longed to hold him. What torture it was to see him lying there, encased in a plastic tomb, not even aware of the world. Not able to touch, to hold the one you love. Not to be allowed a single gentle kiss to grace the flesh and relieve the pain. How strong she was, is , better than I. I had stood guard. Silent. distant. I could not love the same something that had dared to take Kerenza so near to deaths door. I took shelter in the doctor and nurses indifference that day. Busy working away, so like them; I went to fetch, to carry, to be numb. I know now what she felt.
“Please Thomas you must be honest with me, so I can help you. Tell me, how do you remember her? Is she older or younger than when you married?”
God! She is looking straight at me now. The scar. Her face. Her eyes. Splinters of ice in my lungs stealing the life from every breath I take. I’m gagging on the smell, the fear, the pain. Sweet Jesus release me! She is barbed wire around my heart.
“The doctor is calling the nurse my love” she says, breaking her hold on me to protect her existence. Dr. Van Tiel has called for his ‘blue death’. A vial of blue liquid he injects into me and I sleep, black numbness, sweet darkness, but lost, lonely.
No Kerenza, my Kerenza. She has to stay with me. I can’t loses her to darkness. I love her! I’m not going to leave her. Never!
“Older than when we married” I tentatively answer, then look towards my doctor.
“Let me get you a glass of water” Van Tiel calmly intones. Seeing my resolve slipping, he sits beside me once more.
“Everything alright doctor?” asks a nurse. I don’t see which one, I’m watching Kerenza. She plays with her hair twisting it around her long fingers. My insides writhe with the twisting of the curls. Shiny black curls of torture and love.
“Could you fetch ice cold water and Amitriptyline, 50 mgs please. Don’t know on your return, just place them here.” The doctor, my doctor, talks to the nurse quietly but I can hear… we can hear them. Kerenza looks calm but I can feel her apprehension. She is worries. She doesn’t like the pills and she hates the injections.
Since that day long ago, we cannot bare to be apart, not even for a moment. It’s perfect now, like this we are perfect. I don’t care about the world outside these walls. I’d give my life to be with her again, flesh to flesh, my lips tingle with the reminiscence of that final kiss.
“Mr. Dean… Thomas. What do you think she wants from you?” Van Tiel moves closer to me once more. He is watching my face. He then follows my eyes over to Kerenza. “Thomas, I’m going to take a risk,” he announces, standing up he walks slowly towards the chair near the bookcase. To my horror, Kerenza walks over and sits in the chair. “I was taught never to do this, but I’m at a loss I need to get you to talk with me. You present many challenges at once Mr. Dean…the loss of your wife, the tragic nature of her death, your feelings of guilt over her depression leading to her death. The difficulties you both faced before that…. Your suicide attempts. You are not too sure if you want to die. Or are you?”
I’m shaking. It’s hard to listen when he’s standing so close to her. Ahrr! She looks up at him. Fuck! She’s flashed that smile. Why? Kerenza knows something I don’t. She is toying with the idea of telling me. It is her mastery of reading people. Of being able to understand the meaning behind what they have said. A clear triumph, even in death. Kerenza is matched only by the doctor in this talent.
“Amuse yourself.” I bark in my anguish. I should not have done that. They both look at me. Her deep smouldering eye and the cold icy stare of the shocked doctor. Maybe I could bare that. It’s the fact that I can see in her blind side, my face, my fear, the truth…
I cry out, afflicted with agony ‘Give me death please Lord!’ My Kerenza she is an iron maiden of solace; a procrustean bed for my body; a rack for my soul and the flogging of my heart…blissful misery. I would not dare to die; I would not risk changing what I have now, not for anything.
I throw my head back and cry, crushing the arms of the chair I’m sat in. A whine like a wounded dog leaves my lips. My weeping burns my face. Her gentle, bloodthirsty touch holds my hand. I love the vulgarity of her presence. Depraved, I become aroused as she moves around behind me. She does not break her cold biting touch. My sobs buy no mercy from my wife. Kerenza moves her hand to my shoulder and bends down, a small giggle in my ear as I cling for dear life to the chair. I am shaking all over, my insides coil and kink as they wind around the pain that savages my body. Such kind inhuman touch. My supplication comes from my murmuring heart but it is ignored. She cudgelled me like the worthless dog I am. With a shriek, I ejaculate from the kiss she places on my cheek.
The doctor has his needle at my arm… Kerenza screams… I roar as the world takes shape once more.
“No! No! God no, please sir, please”. I’m out of my seat. I’ve knocked Dr. Van Tiel to the floor. The scene re-forms before my eyes. I’m still quaking. The doctor stands up slowly and moves towards his desk… a slow reach for the red panic alarm on it’s side… never once taking his eyes off me. His blond hair is ruffled, his eyes wide and pallid, his complexion unhealthy, sallow and shiny with sweat.
“Stop, please. We’ll talk… I’ll talk with you,” I pleaded.
To try to show my regret and apology, I put my hands up. Aggrieved I kneel on the hard shiny hospital floor. Crestfallen, Kerenza kneels beside me, her hands together as if to pray for us. Van Tiel queasily invites me to take a seat. I notice he sits on his desk. Full of pity he views my shame as I move uncomfortably in my wet trousers. Sympathetically he hands me a white coat, one of his spares, to cover my lap.
“Thank you” I whisper, green about the gills with remorse. There is silence for a good while.
“How should we handle this?” asks Van Tiel, robust and firm once more I’m still drained and embarrassed. “You are much stronger than you look, Mr. Dean. Your performance has been convincing until today. You must drop the imitation. Surrender the truth to me. There is no other way or you will perish, committed to a mental breakdown”.
I nodded, he was so right. I’ve deceived them all. Duped the police into thinking Kerenza killed herself. We are falling apart at the seams now. The truth, it is coming down around my ears. I look to him sincerely.
“You will need a pen and paper, maybe your tape recording thing…I.” I say, impartial now to what will happen. I surrender, I will succumb.
“Our sessions are filmed, Mr. Dean” he answers with equal unprejudiced manner. “I always film them and study your behaviour. What you say and how you said it. It was clear you would meet your end. It is however up to you to which end it should be.” I fell for it! He had always known what I had done. A sinful smile now graced Kerenza’s lips. She stood beside him, next to the doctor. I lose my heart all over again seeing her. I am Infatuated as always.
“Will I lose her?” I ask conquered. My soul passed into enemy hands. I, a prisoner of the war of love topple. I let of a sigh.
“No” she answers. She helps me stand up. It then hits me like a bolt from the blue. In the trauma I cannot speak. Kerenza laughs and smiles at me. “I forgive you, God-awful though you were. You killed me Tom, you pushed me, and then you smothered me when I refused to die”. I looked behind me and in a faint distant scene, I see the doctor at his knees trying to resuscitate me. “Your soul is mine Tom”. The rude awakening as Kerenza pulls me away.
Sweet torture, forever with out end.