Easy on My Grave
Rosemary puts the towel down, near the cutlery with its sharp blades and long black handles tucked tightly into their wooden slots. She straightens the canisters of flour, sugar, pasta and tea bags. She reminds herself that the next time she goes to the grocery store she needs to buy more coffee filters. She moves her head to the left, looking at the peeling wallpaper with its fading pattern of daisies. The clock on the wall ticks and tocks and seems to agonize the passing of each hour. There is a wooden plaque on the wall, no bigger than a paperback. On it, two graceful hands are pressed together, in prayer and just below them, in silver letters, words read, and “God bless this home”. Rosemary’s eyes continue to move around the room, blinking back tears from another round of pain, until they come to stop on the buzzing refrigerator, gasping along like a lawn mower. She spots the smear and smudge of the greasy handprints near the silver handle. Almost by instinct, she goes to work, with the blue sponge in hand, scrubbing and scouring, trying to get the dirt out. Tiny beads of sweat form on her forehead, behind her ears and above her lip. John always leaves a mess behind, wherever he goes and Rosemary has to clean it up.
It was last Tuesday night when Rosemary realized that John was definitely having an affair. The blonde hairs on the broad shoulders of his navy blue pea coat were the first suggestion that infidelity had crept into their lives. Rosemary’s hair is a bright auburn and has been since the first day her mother took her to a beauty parlor. The other woman is Rachel Riley, a married woman herself and the mother of twin boys. Rosemary made the discovery of the identity of John’s mistress on accident as she had come home a day early from her mother’s funeral. Still dressed in black and her eyes yet not dry from grief, Rosemary had entered her home at 1212 Juniper Street at 6:12 on Tuesday night and to her shock and dismay, her husband was not alone. Rachel Riley’s easy-to-identify red satin high heels were sitting in the middle of the living room, poised in the center of a fraying area rug. Instead of marching into the bedroom and confronting her husband, Rosemary had simply turned, walked out the door and checked into a nearby motel that promised “The Best Sleep You Will Ever Have!” The next morning, she walked to the train station and waited for John in the depot. Clean-shaven and smelling of Old Spice, he kissed her cheek, handed her a bouquet of wilting white carnations and explained that the house needed to be clean. Rosemary had never said a word. Instead, she washed the sheets by hand – boiling them – and dried them on a clothesline in a particularly brutal August sun.
Satisfied that the kitchen is clean, Rosemary leaves, shutting out the light. She walks into the living room. She finds him there, John, asleep in his favorite recliner, which is tattered and torn and is the color of rotting plumbs. Rosemary licks her lips, feels the anger burn across her mouth, leaves them dry and cracked. Cracked. Like the porcelain princess doll in her maple hutch, tucked away in the far corner of the living room, away from the television and out of John’s view. As if it isn’t supposed to be there.
John has finished half a bottle of vodka and is now in a drunken sleep, still wearing his blue shirt from the garage with his name on a patch, sewn across the left shoulder. The sight of his name is what beckons Rosemary closer. Close enough to touch him. She notices that there is a new hole in his right sock and his big toe peeks through the torn black cotton like a roadblock. His hair is thinning and combed back, away from his broad forehead and his tiny slits of cold blue eyes. She watches his chest rise and fall and she wonders where he finds the room within himself to bury the fury and rage he likes to inflict on her. Like the night he had broken the arms off of the porcelain princess doll and told Rosemary that she was the ugliest thing he had ever seen. She was lucky he kept her around and hadn’t decided to throw her out with the garbage months ago.
It is the doll that Rosemary looks at, just briefly, before her hands that still sting from the dishwater and soap, reach out and wrap around the skinny neck of the vodka bottle. The doll has ringlets of sable hair and a wears a hand made white chiffon dress with rhinestone beads sewn on it, making a delicate trim. The doll’s eyes, bright and wide and alert, seem to stare back at Rosemary, urging her on. It is the doll, with its missing arms and cracked lips that Rosemary feels bad for. The bottle feels cool and comforting against Rosemary’s palm and once again, she remembers the sand at the beach, soothing her seven-year-old feet. Rosemary knows she is doing the right thing. She can hear the radio, just faintly, like a lullaby in the kitchen.