Who is she?
A short fictional story
Something changed in my wife that day. She had a very important presentation to deliver to the board and was preparing all month for it. I was a bit anxious when she came home later than usual, looking disheveled with a hollow stare, as if it took a minute or more to recognize me. "It is what it is'' was all she offered when I asked her about the meeting.
Respecting her desire for recovery, I indulged in small talk over the next several weeks, most of which were met by monosyllabic responses. Strangely, the only thing that had any interest was her new red lipstick. She would take it to the bathroom, to the gym, to the kitchen, to any place we went. They were inseparable. "We all have our own ways to recover" was all I could tell myself.
She was a different person. She no longer was the woman who was full of life, who could get excited by any half baked idea, who would be conjuring up new adventures, and who would find any reason to break into fits of laughter. I was puzzled but decided to give her space.
My kids also noticed the change in her. The person who was the life of the house was replaced by a shell of her former self. Finally, my kids confronted me and said, "She is so weird now," "I feel like she’s not my mom but someone else,"and, "What's with that red lipstick?" I decided to do something about it.
That evening, I reserved the best table at our favorite restaurant. I thought the music, the fireplace, and the staff there who knew us for many years would cheer her up and help me broach what was troubling her. When we arrived, she had a strange look in her eyes, as if she was seeing the place for the first time. She responded with cold nods to friendly banter from the staff. This was a surprise to them, as well, because they had seen this person who was so full of life and so human before. She needed help.
When our expensive wine arrived, she did not even take a sip and kept fidgeting with her lipstick. I started with a meek, "Honey, you have not been yourself lately, ever since that presentation day." She stared at me for what felt like an eternity and finally said, "Yes, I miss home." That was a strange response but better than anything I had heard for the last several weeks. I pressed on and said, "And home misses you." Her eyes brightened and she asked me, "So can we go there." There was an excitement and an otherworldly joy in that simple statement that I could not resist. I called for the check with the excuse that we were not feeling well. We left and started driving home.
As we reached the interstate, her voice became high pitched and she told me to go faster, as fast as I could. With slight trepidation, I went way past the speed limit. Her excitement continued to increase and she was twirling the lipstick with the joy of a five-year-old. "Faster, faster, you need to be at 140 miles per hour for this to work." I was worried but I missed this zest for life in her. There was something about her voice that I could not resist and pressed the accelerator as hard as I could. I had not seen her this happy ever. She turned to me and said, "That presentation day was a bad one for your wife. The presentation went very well but she ran into me." Before I could process her statement, I heard the blazing sirens of cop cars behind me. The car reached 145 miles per hour, the cops were coming closer and my map showed that the interstate had heavy traffic in a mile. I panicked and turned to her. She had a glow about her, looked very peaceful, and said, "Don't worry! I will be fine." The needle showed 150. I could see that the stopped traffic was close in front of me. She touched my hand to reassure me. And then the car lifted off into space leaving both me and the cops stunned.
She opened her lipstick and said, "I am coming home, this time with a specimen."
Many thanks to Lyle McKeany from Compound Writing for his critical eye.