Week 6 Word: AVERSION
Word Count 500
By B.A. Sarvey
Half a lifetime of living with someone leaves a shadow on the psyche that cannot be rubbed out with vinegar and elbow grease. Like a photographic plate image, these shadows are remnants of life. Indelible. Scratch the surface, the perfect picture is marred, but you cannot rid yourself of it completely. Dropping the plate might cause it to break, but the shadow is still there.
Thus yours clings to me, stubbornly, barely discernable from the deeper shade of a curtained room, a room stifling, as with the heat of an August afternoon. But it is not August, it is early April, and the room closes around me not because of the heat, but because of your shadow. You watch me. I feel your presence like a woolen sweater on a sultry summer night.
The cloying, decayed scent of lily-of-the-valley left too long in water permeates everything. I no longer try to rid the room of this—I know the odor is only my imagined memory of what your ghost smells like. The odor does not exist, any more than you do.
I once loved the play of light on leaves, the lengthening of limbs as late afternoon sun exaggerated shadows, turning me into a thirty-foot-tall giant. Now I have an aversion to anything resembling the sheath of darkness that climbs out of nowhere, clinging like vines or swaddling cloth. I cloister myself in this room.
Who was it turned on the bathroom light this morning? I know I stepped into the water by the dimness of a nightlight. Certainly the cat didn’t flip the switch. Perhaps it was me, although I intended to remain in the dark. You make my mind play tricks, reassemble splintered images, turn them up-side-down and backwards. But what of the music box tinkling “Greensleeves” into the still air of the empty bedroom?
Some would claim shadows cannot do those things. But some would be wrong to suppose the shadow imprinted on my psyche is benign. You have always been trickster, trying to trip me with your shenanigans, watching for mistakes. Your shadow is a shroud of accountability. A quilt of guilt heaped upon me. I can no more now take a breath or think a thought without being aware of your cutting censorship, your disapproval, your belittlement, than I could while you lived.
How foolish of me to scheme for your downfall. But how could I, after watching between the draperies while you, in the garden, grasped poor Thomasina by the neck. You brought her to me in the bedroom, where I had tried to hide. Told me you found her like that, poor kitty. It was the final indignation.
Meting out justice, I gave you water from the vase of lily-of-the-valley. I watched you writhe, as she did. Played the grieving widow.
No one warned me of the shadow, that it would hound my every movement. I shall never be free of you.
Better to have killed myself; become the shadow plaguing your psyche.