By Amanda Brooks Eldridge
Scene: A man is standing stage right. There is nothing on stage.
Man (to audience) I want to show you something.
(a pause, he looks towards stage left)
Can’t you see my broken heart? It’s torpid. It’s slowly beating. It’s still bleeding. Maybe you can see her, though. She’s beautiful, isn’t she? Maybe I should render for you the quickly passing, tempered and fluctuous hot story we had together…or maybe we should just look again.
(he turns his face again to the ‘woman’, gazes, then snaps out of it)
But if we looked again, we’d be looking for hours with lustful etiquette, upon that glorious and yet wretched cheek, that soft shoulder, those long, sinewy arms. We’d be looking for hours, and the hours would flow into a delta of overturning nights and days, and then what would become of us? We’d be poised admirers, turning sour, our sallow faces thinning until we became a mass of old reeking bones while she turned more and more sparkling each day. It’s been so long now, our tempest. I can still reproduce an image of every inch of skin on her.
I first saw her through the windowpane of her front door. I was walking home. I was thirsty. I stopped at her house to beg a glass of water. And so my maiden comes to her door, opens it, and says ‘yes?’ Nothing more. No demanding ‘I’m sorry I don’t know you’ or a hard ‘who are you?’, just a sweet, light, delicate ‘yes’. Tears welled up in my eyes. I missed a heartbeat, choked on my breath. She asked me in, gave me a glass of water. She cordially spoke. Her name is Catherine. I drank glass after glass of water, just to hear her speak. She asked me questions, urged me to lament or tell stories. She gardens. She has a garden. She walked me through it, picked flowers, told me to take them home, put them in water. Her wrists, as she gently cut the flowers, looked so thin, almost stems themselves, I thought they might break.
The time passed quickly, lustrously, perfectly. And then, a car in the driveway, the cry of a child. Her husband, walking through the very same door I walked through. Congruently matching his immaculate wife, Catherine’s husband, whose name I shall never give an utterance, was profoundly handsome, witty, athletic, honorable, and any other adjective describing perfection. She introduced us. He didn’t seem to find it odd that I was in his house with his gorgeous wife. I withered. I was devastated. I was dumbfounded. How stupid of me, how naïve! To think a woman like Catherine wasn’t married. What an imbecile! I don’t know if I can rightly tell you how it felt to be standing, just a quick pace or two, from the man Catherine doted upon. The man that could touch her, kiss her, pull her into bed. I wanted to kill him. I couldn’t stop staring at him. They smiled and laughed together. They gave each other light, loving touches. It was making me nauseous.
Abruptly, I told them it was getting late, that I had to leave. They smiled and waved. I went home, numb.
I tried to push her out of the recesses of my mind. Then she appeared in my dreams. I saw her every split second my eyes closed to blink. I lasted a week without her.
I had seen a garage to the side of their house. It was full of old bikes, and picture albums, tarps stashed in a corner. I chose this as my hiding spot. It became my sanctuary. My respite. A window conveniently gazed into the kitchen. To the left of the kitchen was the living room. To the right was the door to her bedroom. I was dumbfounded again, but this time by my luck.
I came every day after her family left. The first day, I was a bit nervous. I wasn’t sure as to exactly how I could get from the road to her garage without being seen. But it worked out perfectly. When her family left, Catherine took a shower – sometimes a bath, but mostly a shower. I slipped past easily and unnoticed. Thankfully, her neighbors still had their curtains drawn.
I watched her do dishes. I watched her clean. I watched her read, do calisthenics, garden. I watched her choosing outfits, all the while under my breath telling her which one looked best. I listened to her sing, though she didn’t have a good voice. I sang along with her, holding my hand in front of my mouth to muffle my voice. I praised the moment she was still, when I could look at her in detail, when I could watch her think. Once, right after her husband left, I watched her get angry. She yelled. She screamed. She threw the telephone and broke a plate.
Then one day, she looked back at me. My pulse fluttered and fell. She tore her eyes away, and kept on washing the dishes. She pretended I wasn’t there. She liked that I was watching her. At first she was a bit self-conscious, but then gradually she was herself. Occasionally, she would do certain things just for me. She would dance. I would dance along with her, clasping my arms around myself in lieu of her embrace. I twirled my shirtsleeves imagining her silky gown. Once, she unpinned the laundry outside in a slip. Another time she undressed in her bedroom. I unbuttoned my own shirt and laid it on the garage floor, pretending I was resting my head on her pillow.
Now, this story doesn’t end well. One day, the car was still in the driveway. I saw Catherine, and the sight of her soothed me. But then suddenly I saw her husband! I was seething, I was venomous! I watched him go into the kitchen and take hold of her, rocking her slowly. He leaned close and murmured something in her ear, and she laughed! He kissed her. He slid her blouse off of her shoulder, kissed her neck. She smiled, she looked as if she was enjoying it! And I was watching! I lost control, I flushed violent red. I couldn’t help myself—I flung open the door and dashed into the house. I tried to pluck her out of his arms. She screamed, and he hit me. I fell to the floor holding my jaw. My face was pressed to the linoleum as he called the police. I heard them yelling ‘what is he doing here?,’ ‘did you know that he was here?’ I heard police sirens, and I looked into her eyes and saw that she was crying—she didn’t want me to go! And all I could think about was: I’m never going to see my love again.
©2003 Amanda Brooks Eldridge