If a heart could be wrenched from a chest by emotional force mine would be. All I could do was stare, at nothing, catatonic but for the struggle raging inside. My heart was not wrenched out, but the pain that filled me made me ache like no other pain I’d known.
It hit me like I’d run into a wall as fast as I could with no fear: sudden, stopping, falling, sharp and dull at the same time—in shock.
“How could he?”
No, I knew what no one else did. I had the note he had left, now tear stained and smudged like mascara running around the words. The letters, fingerprints, signs of a life now gone.
"I’m sorry Jane, I couldn’t keep going. Life was too hard. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I tried. I really did. Something in me was broken a long time ago and couldn’t be mended. The sadness of living enveloped me in a darkness and all I could see was the end of the road—the quiet, the peace of dying, so enticing, it called to me to let go. I am sorry. I’m going to try to run off the road. The insurance is in your name, forgive me—I couldn’t forgive myself."
"Shhh, don’t tell…sorry, accident, no.” My mind ran and ran on high speed as my eyes stared vacantly ahead. No one but me knows. How could he? It wasn’t fair. Money--I don’t ‘Need’ money. Johnny, come back, I can help.
Staring, that’s all I did for days. We’d only been married two years. I had no one else to talk to. My Mom was gone and my Dad was too old to stress with this knowledge--no one. I didn’t think anyone would care again. Johnny, why did you do it?
I felt the weight, like a stone around my neck. I was ready to jump in the water with him to meet him in his death.
He had told me he was depressed: That his whole family had struggled with it from his Mom and Dad, to him. Even though life was good his feelings weighed him down like anchors on a speedboat and he could not race away.
Johnny couldn’t take it. I’ve got to go on and tell his story, but I know I can’t, because the money is being processed as an accident.
“Shhh…I can’t tell.”
He always took care of me. Even now, as I stare I see he has. I’d give back the money today if I could, but I know I can’t. I stare at the letter in my hand. I see the lighter I hold in the reflection in the window as the flame goes up as I look down.
The tear stained letter is small,, not even from a notebook, just a note from a scratch pad to say goodbye. The corner hesitates under the warmth of the flame as it quivers where the tears saturate it, but around that it starts. A small flame flickers and slowly travels its length to my fingers, detouring around the letters that flow like blood from my tears. Small pieces fall at my feet, but they smolder, the letter is now gone but an edge. I hold it, watching it burn close to my thumb and blow it out like a candle, the paper now gone.
Johnny is gone from my life too. Like the paper, he was real, I could touch him and hold him, and now I can never pick up the pieces and put them back together again. I wonder if there was something I could have done. I know he believed in God, but we didn’t talk about that much. There was always a better time, another day, but I was wrong. That day will never come. Now I wonder if he will be in Heaven. I pray he will, but I don’t know. I’m afraid I’ve lost him forever.
The light inside me is eclipsed by the shadows of sadness, but it cannot stay hidden. A small flame hesitates then burns steadily. Forgive me Johnny; I can’t live backwards so I forge on as the flame burns brighter. I see a path ahead of me. This time I speak out and I tell of God’s love, of His Son who gave his life for us. I wish I could have told you. The quiet, the peace you were searching for, I’ve found.
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