He took another drag off his cigarette, held it in his lungs and let it out slowly as if saying goodbye to a longtime lover. He waited a year for this moment—thought about it daily, how he would react, what he would do, if he would still feel the same, would he really go through with it? And now that the time had finally arrived, he did none of the things he imagined. Instead, he took a final drag off his Lucky—God, he missed smoking—and watched the second hand circle around the dial in a race it could never win.
He crushed the butt, washed his hands in the kitchen sink, dried them on a faded gray towel looped in the refrigerator door and walked back into the bedroom.
The footlocker was under the bed. For a year it lay undisturbed. He liked the idea of sleeping on top of it. Knowing what was inside. Knowing what he planned to do. Which is why he gave it a year. To think things through. Maybe he’d change his mind. Maybe he’d meet somebody new. Someone with a better smile or prettier face or sexier body. Someone who would love him more and somehow save him from himself.
But he didn’t.
At first, it was a game. Projected suicide. But the more he thought about her, the more he missed his Honey, the more he knew one day, one month, one year, five years wouldn’t make a difference. He couldn’t live without her—and after today—he wouldn’t have to.
He needed a drink but decided not to. He didn’t want anyone to think he was drunk—that this was some impulsive act of a rash love-sick-man. No! He planned this out very carefully. Stuffed his feelings deep inside—just as he had the mementos in the trunk. Afraid to look at either. Afraid he would drown in the pain and not be able to hold out. Because the idea of life without his Honey was too hard, too final, too inconceivable.
As his hands reached out, he remembered closing the trunk a year ago. Like a priest, carefully preparing the contents, then placing everything just so, in reverse order. He knew what was waiting for him at the bottom, but that’s why he buried it there.
Snapping the locks, he closed his eyes, leaned over, and breathed in the musty air as if trying to recapture the sorrow he’d locked away. The first thing he removed was the candle. Even though he wasn’t religious, he liked the idea of lighting a candle for the dead. That no one had died yet didn’t faze him. A minor technicality that would be set right before the candle’s light extinguished.
He placed it on the dresser behind him. It was the first piece of furniture they bought together. An old pine monstrosity with so many drawers they didn’t have enough clothes to fill them. He didn’t bother putting a plate underneath it. What was the point? As a final irony, he lit it with matches from the Hungarian restaurant where they had their first date and where he asked her to marry him eight months later.
Now, his wedding ring. He couldn’t wait to put it on! For the past year, he felt like a piece of him was missing. A year ago, when he solemnly removed it, he considered melting it down, remolding it, and using it later—but thought that was just a tad too melodramatic. Now he was glad he saved it. He remembered the excitement he felt when he first tried it on before they were married. Sliding it back on, he felt the same chill. It fit perfectly.
Next up, the certified envelope from the state. California Divorce Case #CW038612. Officially married on July 1, eleven years ago. Granted a divorce one year ago on the exact same date. What were the odds?
Which was why he thought it was perfect that one year later—today—he was revoking the state’s claim permanently. Dully, he watched the second hand strike 57, 58, 59 …
You’d think the state would make divorce papers look a little more official. This was just a regular piece of paper. No embossed seal. No expensive watermark. Hell, not even hand typed. A computer generated this heartache.
He stood, walked a few steps to the burning candle and lit the end of the letter that chronicled the end of his life. Mesmerized, he let the flames burn down to his fingertips. Oddly, the pain felt good.
Wow! Or was it “pow”! I was on the edge of my seat.. : ). Very cleverly written. I liked reading both sides. What a cliff hanger...! I truly enjoyed the read!
He is ready, she is ready, I am ready. Love this!
Very nicely done. Reminded me of a classic Twilight Zone kind of piece. Or O'Henry. The Lady or the Tiger.