'Forever' by Mary McGill


Stuck staring at the four walls, I sit here in my dressing gown. He’s left his bowl in the sink again, his dirty socks on the landing and a scatter of cigarette butts in the fire grate. A grown man with an able body and a mind as sharp as glass, God forbid he should have to clean up after himself. And sure, why should he with muggins here running after him like a hungry pup, yelping for a taste of his scraps?

Stop, I say, stop will you. But words are easy. Actions are not. Whenever I promise, ‘I’m not going to take this anymore,’ he sneers, turning back to the TV, as if I’ve embarrassed myself and he is the big man choosing to overlook it.

When we met, I knew who I was and who I was spurred something ferocious within him, something that frightened and delighted me as nothing before. The future suddenly lit up like Las Vegas and in the rush to turn two into one, I took a misstep, a tourist in unfamiliar terrain, wandering further and further off course. By the time I realised I was lost, someone had eaten the map.

So here I am, at noon on a Tuesday, in a dressing gown stained with tea and tears, waiting for the turn of a key and the clump-clump of boots upon the mat. I won’t say anything and neither will he, busying himself making a sandwich, his back to me, the radio on. Who could blame him? He didn’t see me in life. Why should he see me in death?

The day I went down to the river, feeling the icy water lapping at my chin as my legs gave way I thought: he’ll be sorry now. It was a comfort, albeit a silly one, as the thick darkness wrapped around my chest like black ribbon and squeezed tightly. By that stage, the light within me had dwindled to almost nothing. It didn’t take long to extinguish it entirely.

He takes his sandwich and sits at the table, munching. Our wedding photograph has vanished from the mantelpiece, as has the band on his finger, leaving a thin, pale line. It has only been three weeks but I am as much as an afterthought as I have ever been. I reach out and put my hand on his. Of course, he doesn’t see me. He doesn’t even flinch. I can’t remember the last time I touched him.

I leave my hand on his.

Once on a damp day when the primroses were in bloom, he promised to love me forever, planting a kiss on my forehead, leading me into the garden his eyes alight as if I were buried treasure he’d uncovered. I thought my life was beginning. I was wrong.

No one ever tells you, do they? How lonely forever can be. 

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