“I hate this song,” she said to the dashboard as the thrumming synthetic music pumped through the speakers.
Caroline didn’t realize it was true until she said it aloud, to the empty seat beside her, to the rain slipping soundlessly down the windshield. It was on her iPod, the computerized vocals and the dissonant electric background sounds that started a headache right at the top of her nose. He liked it, so Caroline did, too. Until she didn’t.
        It was at odds with the dripping trees and the rain and the heater clicking as it struggled to warm the car. Caroline turned the music off and listened to the silence. He could never have silence, not in the car, not at home, not in the bedroom. Always the radio, the television, the stereo. Always the noise grated and scraped at her. He fell asleep with the television blaring, the newscasters yelling their stories of horror into the room, the lurid light pounding pounding pounding against her eyelids. Once his breathing slowed and evened, she turned off the incessant racket. Caroline tried to breathe with him, to be with him in sleep. To be present. She felt her heart hammering in protest as she tried to match each inhale, each exhale. The rebellion of her lungs, protesting this jarring of her body’s natural rhythm.
        Her knuckles whitened on the steering wheel and she stared at her long, thin hands. Skinny, like the rest of her, he once said. All angles and bones, she thought. She relaxed her fingers, focusing on them instead of the lightning that heralded the rumble of thunder and mimicked the struggling heater. It injected hot air into the sedan, but the chill air outside still permeated her body. This black coat had never kept her warm. She wore it when they walked, side by side, almost-touching.
      She remembered the electric anticipation of the almost-touch, the almost-kiss. Before it became the almost-touch of hesitation, of doubt, of hiding. The noise was a mask, a wall, a whispered phone call in the dead of night when there should be only silence. The almost-touch birthed the space that widened between the sheets, the invisible line that he never crossed after their bodies that joined in passion separated. The empty space did not stay vacant; fear, doubt, denial, and revulsion crowded in, peppering the silence with their snickers and pinching fingers and the sound of his breathing that she could not match. Perhaps they breathed together on the phone, when he spoke to Her at night. Perhaps they breathed together as they clung to each other in a bed that had no space. Perhaps the Other never felt the pain of the almost-touch that turned to never-touch, to never-again-touch. Perhaps the Other was soft, not made of bones, but of flesh.
        Caroline took a deep breath, before pulling on her gloves, one of the fingers catching on the ring that clung to her thin knuckle, refusing to release its grip. She stepped out of the car and rain dripped down the neck of the black coat as she struggled to open her umbrella. Wet gravel slid beneath her feet. She looked at herself in the side of the dented sedan: long, thin legs hidden by thick dark stockings and her coat. Caroline walked over the wet grass through which the black dirt seeped upward in the steady rain that dripped from the hanging branches. The umbrella stretched out around her, big enough for two, holding only her. Rain sluiced down the sides. The crowd ahead was small, huddled under umbrellas and the small canopy sheltering the yawning hole in the ground. They stared into it, searching for an answer. Some half turned toward her as she approached, nudging one another. She was careful not to step on the flat headstones sunken into the ground, soaked by rain.
         I’m standing on your grave, Caroline thought as she glanced down at one of the stones. Do you feel it?
        Easier to look down at the dead than up into the eyes of the living. The preacher had spoken, the songs sung, and the woman standing closest to the waiting hole was weeping into an overused tissue, her sobs harsh against the gentle patter of the rain. The Other. She looked at Caroline as she approached, her red-rimmed eyes widening above the sodden tissue, mascara dripping down her otherwise perfectly painted face. Someone moved, as though to catch Caroline, to stop her from walking forward. Caroline saw it out of the corner of her eye, from inside her umbrella cocoon. The funeral home employee, oblivious to swirling social undercurrents depressed the button that began to lower the gleaming casket with its wreath of be-ribboned flowers into the hole. Caroline waited until it vanished from view before tugging off her gloves. The cheap knit catching again on her ring. She leaned down, her umbrella lowering like a deflating balloon, and gripped a handful of thick, spongy dirt. She stood and let it fly, listening to the shower of earth that echoed against the lid of the coffin. The woman stopped crying, anger stemming her tears. Caroline met her eyes. The other woman took a step forward, pricey heels sinking in the grass. The pastor reached out a hand to steady the other woman or to stop her and she gripped his arm, the diamond ring on her left hand sparkling like a grotesque, over-sized raindrop.
        Caroline wiped her hand on her cheap black coat, feeling the grime cling to the ring on her right hand, the paltry imitation of a claim. The space in the bed grew and grew until she was alone. Until he went back to the Other, to the Only. She turned and walked back to her car, feeling the grains of dirt work their way into the lines on her palm. Into the love line and the life line until both were etched in black.
        Now he was only bones.

6 thoughts on “Bones

  1. Your writing gives me shivers, darling. Thank you so much — I’m glad I’ve discovered you! I hope you find something you enjoy at my blog.

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