The mourning crashes into Anita the next day, mid-sip, as she drinks black coffee and reviews the news on Larry’s phablet in the very café he used to frequent. He would not approve of this—her using his technology and typing his name in the local news search. He is too old to mention, and his departure too ordinary. Nonetheless, she reads stories of death and injury.
The coffee beckons at all hours now because it is in sleep that she is vulnerable. She finds an interpreter, a woman who makes house calls, who glides long fingers over Anita’s knuckles and whose eyes are both wayward and intense—portals into the world beyond. But as Anita explains the night before, the woman deflates, and her thickly-lined lips pucker.
Larry wears a hooded robe, and he circles the house, then her bed. He circles her. Smoke trails behind him like a pet. She recounts the dreams, him clutching and falling and slamming into the hard, winter ground; the interpreter shifts in her seat and says the dreams must mean there is unaddressed grieving. “Live gently,” she suggests. Empathy.
Dialing the mourning group’s number, fingers steady, Anita scans the living room. His chair must go. It was his throne of moody grumblings, sharp stares and impatience. When Anita was diagnosed, tumors like balls of hardened sand on her ovaries, Larry said she deserved it—brought it on herself. In remission, however, he’d said, “Lucky for you! I’m no one’s nurse maid,” shortly before she replaced his heart pill with another pill. She willed the surge in his veins before it occurred.
Anita sips free coffee, though it is not as strong as she likes. The true bitterness awaits her at home, delicious and terrifying. She listens to group members and sobs with them, truly mourning all the years she stayed.
Jen Knox is a research analyst and teacher living in San Antonio, Texas. She is a regular contributor to Fiction Southeast and the author of Don't Tease the Elephants, a fiction chapbook with Monkey Puzzle Press. Some of Jen's work can be found in A cappella Zoo, Adirondack Review, Bound Off, Gargoyle, Istanbul Review, Midway Journal, Narrative Magazine, Per Contra, and Room Magazine. Her website is here: http://www.jenknox.com