Like This

by J. M. Linton

Im five stories up, perched on the windowsill watching the cars in the parking garage come and go. A trick of the sun shining straight into the room makes his truck vanish and I hold a hand up to shadow the blinding light. Oh, there it is - I see it now. The truck hadnt disappeared; it was just hiding behind the brightness.

His pride and joy, that truck. Never more than a week without a wash and polish. Now, it was dusty and dull after sitting like a hunch-backed turtle for more days than I wanted to count. Hed said he didnt care anymore about the truck right before he left. Give it to your brother, hed said, even though he knew my brother would trash it within weeks.

Hed been anxious to move on, so anxious he didnt care who or what was left behind. Like me. Like our son and daughter. Like his mom. He gave us all up. Just like that.

He wanted to get out of this white-washed room with its smell of piney antiseptic and stale filtered air. The false cheerfulness of the reproductions of bad art hanging on the walls had made him laugh until a slow tide of darkness began to hide them from his view. His laughter had stopped as his plans to escape the four-walled cage escalated.

Two shelves along one wall were filled with flowers and one lone plant trying bravely to live up to their expectations, but failing miserably with depressed leaves and sad sagging blossoms. They were dying despite my blind devotion to their care.

Id polished leaves and stalks with a wet washcloth and made sure theyd gotten their fifteen minutes in the sun. A fourth of a cup of water every four hours with a pinch of ground aspirin and a lot of whispered encouragement to grow and thrive was what the florist had ordered.

Theyd come in a week and a half ago looking normal and bright and living. Now, fluorescent green leaves and pastel petals were turning brown and their beauty had turned rotten. A persistent fly kept buzzing around, attracted by the sickly sweet decay. Id already killed three of them, but they kept reincarnating out of thin air.

I leaned closer to one of the wilted buds. As I looked down, a drop of water hit the dead thing, but my salty tear didnt do a thing to rejuvenate the stupid plant. Stupid, stupid, stupid plant, I said out loud as another tear hit a brown, shriveled leaf.

In the quiet stillness of the white-washed room, a rattle startled me. A pump that hadnt been turned off hissed to life and breathed like it had a purpose. Hissssss. Breathe. Hisssssss. Breathe. Hiss.

Leaning against the bedrail, I straightened the collar of the pin-striped pajamas Id bought as a lark a few months ago. Hed told me at the time they made him feel like a sleepy mobster. Even then, hed been too tired to do anything but stroke my hair as Id fall asleep with my head on his pin-striped lap.

The top button was undone. I buttoned it and then undid it, again and again. It had been choking him, hed said a few days before, not yet realizing he was drowning in his own body. I redid it, but undid it again.

I touched his forehead with my hand but couldnt bear to kiss its icy coldness.

Hed left me behind.

Whyd it have to be like this?

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