- Open the Bible.
- Remember Mass and hear your father tell you, “Gracie, it’s because of God we’re on this planet; pay your respects, Sweetheart, to something bigger than yourself.”
- Balance the closed tome on its spine; hold it up with the poise of an introvert. Look at the clock and wait until it strikes three, and then
- let the pages fall
- so that they gain mass and become heavy, and are, quite literally, out of your hands, their gravity like the weight of the flat line of your father’s passing through the thick, cement walls of a hospital waiting room.
- Take a breath, and
- read the passage that’s been chosen for you: SO SHALL YOUR JUDGMENT BE; it says, YOU YOURSELF HAVE DECIDED IT. You nod, a willing congregation.
- Chant the words in your head like a mantra; let them lift you, and
- float through the study into the bedroom where you find your husband. Flick on the light. He’ll flinch, burying his nose into a bed you haven’t really ever slept in.
- Pull out a suitcase and gather enough clothes for about a week—you’ll stay at April’s—but keep that pulsing passage in your heart. Fold the garments carefully. It’s dark, now; you’ll deal with wrinkles later.
- “It’s the middle of the night—” he’ll slur with sleep in his throat. You won’t answer because it’s not a question.
- “God,” he’ll say. Think back to all the three AMs you’ve spent together: in the beginning, at bars, drunk with friends or high on Ambien (well, not him, he was always too scared), but, soon enough those three AMs became pure panting and dry heaving, not from sex, but from stony indecision.
- Find your passport. Grab your wallet. Hold back tears because this is not your father’s funeral. This is just a leaving.
- Close the suitcase. He’ll whisper, “What’re you doing?” “Go back to sleep,” you’ll say, because it is a question. Briefly feel guilty, and realize this is how you felt when you asked your brother to give the eulogy instead.
- Pick up the suitcase and feel its weight. You could use some help lifting it, but your husband will just lie there.
- Struggle down the stairs, knowing that you would have mustered up this courage years ago. You would have packed your bags in a fervor and thrown divorce papers in his face as evidence of his inattentiveness, his milquetoast inability, but this was never your choice, not while your father was alive; if your dad had known, he would have purged the glazed-over looks of your husband’s, expunged those empty stares directed towards long-legged waitresses, the ones with darker skin, with smoother lines, glossed up and sealed like the wood varnish on the floor of the cathedral. And so, instead of choosing conflict during your dad’s dying years, you will now creep out so silently in the middle of the night as if you are woman who simply cannot decide.
- You take a breath, and
- with suitcase at your side, shut the door to your tired mausoleum. Finally resurrected, remember that Christ’s three blank days are nothing compared to missing a man you loved in lieu of a man you would love to miss.
David Lerner Schwartz lives in Austin, TX where he designs products and services for various industries and performs improv throughout the state. David graduated from Tufts University in 2013 and most recently studied at the Kenyon Writers Workshop in Gambier, OH.
Schwartz’s list structure captures the sense of despair that follows letting go of the commandments — the list of rules for living established by both father and Father.