TITLE: What Time Won't Heal 8/20/15
By Zacharia Fox
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The carpet wore the lines of a systematic vacuuming, not a fiber askew. Each picture frame posing from the coffee tables and shelves shined, boasting a fresh windexing. The air-conditioning unit hummed from the window, breaking the otherwise perfect silence.
Lois glanced at the rotary phone wishing it would ring.
She sipped tea from her china, eyeing the cup at the other end of the table. She set her cup down gently and stood, back bent in a hunch as she tottered to the pantry for her rag and cleaner. She polished each picture deliberately, her finger tracing the faces behind the glass before she made her finger prints as much a memory as the people pictured.
Lois’ lip quivered as she clutched a black-and-white of her and her husband, Jack, overlooking the Grand Canyon. She stroked the picture with a trembling finger, her chest tightening as she studied the hard lines etched in his face.
“You remember when we took that trip?” Jack asked. The corners of her lips turned heavenward. His gruff voice always did that to her.
“How could I forget, Jack?” She hoped he’d fold his carpenter’s arms around her. Those arms were her safe place.
Jack chuckled as he stepped into the living room. “Well, you usually try to forget things you hate.”
“I didn’t hate it.”
“You didn’t? Lo, when that hiker from Missouri snapped that picture, it was the last time you smiled for weeks. Don’t you remember? Storm came out’a nowhere. We were half way down when you slipped and sprained your ankle.”
Lois could hear him walking closer and her heart skipped. “You carried me all the way to our pick-up.”
“Yeah, and after we got out’a the hospital I carried you inside…”
“And you forgot to take off your boots.” Lois grinned, seeing the dirt caked to his pants in the photograph.
“I tracked red dirt all over our white carpet.” Jack laughed out loud, and she did too.
“The perfect end to the shortest vacation ever.” Lois set the frame down, and picked up the one next to it.
“You still miss her.”
“I always will. I know that now.” Lois’ eyes stung with tears as she looked at a picture of them and their daughter, Katherine, at the beach on the Gulf of Mexico.
“‘Time heals all…’ Who said that anyway?”
“Some naive soul who never knew love. Time heals nothing.” A tear slipped from her eye as Lois remembered the cruel morning the trooper knocked on their door.
“Some pains never leave. They just become part of us.” Jack’s voice was soft with understanding.
“I’m sorry I pushed you away.” It had been difficult between her and Jack after Katherine’s wreck.
“Lo, it’s alright. I knew you were hurting bad.” He was so close she could feel him behind her. She took a deep breath, catching a whiff of his Stetson cologne.
“When I found you crying that night… I just didn’t know what to say,” she croaked as she set the rag and cleaner on an oak coffee table, sturdy as the hands that made it.
“We both knew. It was enough just to hold each other and cry.”
Lois remembered how safe she’d felt in his arms that night; safe enough to lay there hurting, in honest silence. She needed to feel safe again. “Jack. That’s all I want now. I hate this perfect house. I want your muddy footprints all over the carpet. I want beds to make and laundry to do and the grandkids we never had breaking everything I used to think mattered. I’d do anything to have this house messy with life. I want you to hold me, and I want to cry in your arms.” She turned around, frantic for the sanctuary of his embrace.
But no one was there. The carpet was perfect and all her pictures glimmered as the airconditioner hummed monotone. In the kitchen she found two tea cups. Hers was empty; his was cold. Her eyes bounced off an obituary magnetted to the fridge before she dumped the tea, letting the cup clang into the sink. Her head sank to her hands and she sobbed.
After a few minutes, she dried her eyes with a doily and poured another cup of tea. Then she hobbled across the perfect carpet and grabbed the rag and cleaning spray.
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