Archive for shiva

The Disappearing Act

Posted in The Word: Stories, Writing Exercises with tags , , , on 01/30/2011 by Janet Fitch

The Word: MIRROR

Finally, the guests left. The old men, the cousins, the rabbi. The aunts and uncles. “Come stay with us, Amy,” said her cousin Sylvie. “You shouldn’t be by yourself now.” Would they never leave? One after another. Her mother and her new husband, Bennie. Her sister Tensi. Out out out! she wanted to scream, like Macbeth’s wife. But she didn’t, she sat during the endless shiva, she listened to the prayers, finally watched them pack up the cole slaw and the cold cuts, and stack them in the refrigerator. Enough!

“Please, I just need to be alone. Believe me, if I need help, I’ll be over,” she reassured her mother, and Tensi, and Mark’s buddies’ wives. “I’ll call. Yes, I promise.”

Then, at last, they were gone.

A houseful of well wishers, all that food. The last thing she wanted, a tongue sandwich.

The little house was so strange. In the bedroom, she almost stepped on a bowl of water, tucked by the foot of the bed. Something grainy on the floor of the bathroom, salt? She sat on the bed and looked at the sheet covering the mirror over their dresser. The bedroom set they’d bought when they moved into this little house, their own little house. The sweet gum in the front yard was bigger than the house itself. Her mother wanted them to cut it down, in case it fell in a strong wind or an earthquake. Her mother, always worried about the wrong thing.

She sat on the edge of the neatly made bed, with its quilted satin cover, where the coats had recently been piled. She was sure she looked a holy mess, but the cousins had covered the mirrors. It was such a ridiculous superstition. Sylvie said it was so the soul of the dead wouldn’t get caught behind the mirror. But the rabbi said it was so she could better concentrate on her loss, to underline that it was a time for sorrow and inward reflection. Like she needed some sort of reminder.

She kicked off her low heeled pumps and curled up on the bed that they were still making payments on. This house, this bed. They had been married eighteen months. They were going to wait to have children. Would it have been better to have had one who would now be an orphan? Or better this way, that she had no trace of him at all?

She turned onto her other side, trying to find a more comfortable spot. She couldn’t breathe, lying on either side. She took off her dress, unhooked her bra, wrapped herself in the satin. Her hands smelled of pickle, and mustard, though she had not eaten anything. She would wash them, but she didn’t want to get up.

The sheet spread across the mirror. How many times that mirror had seen them making love? It was good it was covered. She didn’t want to see herself lying here alone, she wanted to imagine he was lying next to her, on the dead pillow he liked, all squishy and rumpled. She put the pillow over her face. His smell. Stale. He’d been up in San Francisco, a sales meeting. He’d been driving a rented car. they said he had a stroke. How could he have had a stroke? He was only twenty five.

She thought of the way old people put their heads in plastic bags and tied a knot. Eighteen months. She knew she would somehow make it through the rest of the day–she didn’t know how, but it was only logical, unless she stopped breathing, night would come, and then she would somehow live through that as well. It was the way she got through her migraines. If you waited, the time passed, a minute, five minutes and so on. You breathed in and out. You lay in the dark and waited for the time to pass.

It was like a magician’s trick. Like someone had put a silk scarf over him and had made him disappear. Perhaps he was behind the mirror She wished someone would put that scarf over her too, and they could be together behind the mirror, in the magician’s dressing room, having a drink out of a pint bottle of rum, with the rabbit and the doves.

Part of a weekly series of short short stories based on a writing exercise, The Word. “Inspired by a simple word, chosen at random, write a two-page double-spaced story, using the Word at least once.”

Next week’s word is: HAND