Blues Notes

The Last Exhale: Sample Chapter

4

Brandon

 

The chime of a soon-to-be empty gas tank transports me back to the present. I look for the next gas exit. When I grab the receipt, it tells me I’m in Montgomery, AL. Been driving for nearly three hours with Anthony Hamilton’s The Point of It All CD on repeat. My thoughts were so caught up in what my marriage has become I hadn’t realized I was in another state. I put the car in drive and get back on I-85 headed back north.

Just as the night prepares to clock off and switch shifts with the dawn of a new day, my truck pulls into the garage next to Rene’s car.

Home.

The last place I want to be, but it’s where I lay my head at night.

I’m dazed. Wondering what is the point of it all. This is not the way I planned to spend nine years of marital bliss. Maybe because it hasn’t been that blissful. I take that back. The first six were great. Rene and I shared so much love.

We lived.

We loved.

We were one.

I knew what she was thinking before her thoughts could even form. She always knew what I wanted before I even knew. We were in harmony, in sync. Every day felt like the first day. We were amazed with each other, discovering parts of one another we had never discovered. Every day was like that.

Then, one day it all changed.

I remember the day like it was last night. We had just finished making love. Her head was on my chest and she was twirling the only five pieces of chest hair I had around her fingers.  Her breathing was different. It was out of sync with mine for the first time. I noticed it almost immediately. She inhaled short and hesitant, exhaled hard and long, did that like she was on the verge of her last exhale.

“You okay?” I asked while rubbing her short-cropped hair.

“Just thinking.”

“About?”

“Life.  Love.”

She talked freely. Didn’t think about it. Just talked. Her breathing was still different, second-guessing itself.

“Okay, what about it?” I kept rubbing my fingers through her hair.

She continued playing in my chest hairs. “Do you love me?”

“Of course I do.” My lips touched her forehead. “Why would you ask me something like that?”

“Just thinking.”

Since she put it out there, I had to ask, “Do you love me?”

Her fingers released my hair. She lay there motionless. Only her lips moved. She said, “Nothing ever lasts. No matter what you do or say, nothing ever lasts.”

The love of my life was starting to scare me. “Talk to me, babe. What’s going on? Where is all of this coming from?”

Her head moved up off my chest, legs untangled from mine. She got out of the bed and went into the bathroom. Closed the door behind her.

I wanted to go after her, get to the bottom of her sudden despondence. I stayed in the bed, figured she needed a few minutes to herself to get her thoughts together. She would be out shortly and we would talk then.

A few minutes turned into twenty.

Twenty turned into an hour.

Moist sheets from our lovemaking were frozen underneath me. A chill ran through my body. I got up to close the window, knocked on the bathroom door. “Rene?”

Nothing.

I knocked again. “Rene,” my voice louder. “You okay in there?”

Still nothing.

As I put my hand up to the knob to make sure it wasn’t locked, the door flew open. She reached up and pulled my face to hers. Did it so fast I didn’t have the chance to search her eyes for answers. Her lips touched mine with such a force it demanded me to kiss her back. I felt warm tears roll down my skin. I wanted to pull her away, separate my lips from hers and get to the bottom of what was bothering her. Her hunger for assurance in that moment kept me from pressing the matter.

We kissed.

She moaned.

She cried.

Hasn’t been the same since.

 

__________

 

The house is quiet when I make it inside.

Upstairs in our room, my wife sleeps as though our marriage isn’t in trouble. She doesn’t move when I walk in and sit down on the bed next to her. Doesn’t flinch, not one bit.

My head falls into cupped hands. I just don’t get it. I’m a good husband. Never cheated; never had the desire to. Never hit her, pushed her, disrespected her; never had a reason to. I’ve been here whenever she needed me, even when she didn’t. None of this makes sense. My wife has lost sight of me and I don’t know how to get it back.

I turn and observe her. Eyes closed effortlessly like all she had to do was lay her head down for sleep to pull her in the way an ocean’s current pulls in an inexperienced swimmer. Her face denies worrying of my whereabouts.

I get up, grab my pillow off the bed. No point in sleeping in an empty bed even though there’s another warm body lying there. Slowly close the door on my way out, watching her until I can barely see what’s left of the moon’s glow painting her skin a luminous shade of blue.

Her leg moves.

The door pushes open slightly.

My eyes peer back in on her, waiting for more movement. When hope fails me, the door closes.

If I weren’t in my right mind, I’d swear I heard her exhale.

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