The words over at Three Word Wednesday are occur, ragged and tidy.
The Recently Departed
There’s a fly in the cramped waiting area, incessantly buzzing and flitting to and fro.
It turns his stomach just a little.
“Filthy little bastard,” he thinks. “Goddamn unsanitary.”
He’s seated on a textured couch that has the unpleasant feel of burlap. It’s seen a lot of action and with each new visit, he thinks, there’s a new stain that’s been left in memorial.
He picks the end that’s pocked with cigarette burns, like tiny wounds, and shies away from the middle cushion with the rather large blot, which could be urine or something far worse.
He keeps his palms cupped on his knees, and every once and again runs a thumb over the small snag in his gray wool trousers.
When not watching the fly, he sneaks sideways glances at her.
She’s slumped against the fabric in what he ultimately decides is bad posture, but he’s taken with her simple beauty. He likes how a few strands of hair – fine and golden like corn silk – have come loose from the ponytail she wears.
When she turns to face him, he notices her eyes - glassy like marbles, but dull, sad. And it occurs to him that he’s staring.
She’s uncomfortable and picks at a few of the errant hair strands and tries to smooth them behind her ear.
He coughs, gestures with an open hand, index finger in a lazy point.
“Did that hurt?” he asks.
He’s pointing to the small, but ragged hole at her temple.
“Actually, no,” she says, suddenly conscious of the hair that’s singed from powder burns.
“I’m guessing .22-caliber?” he asks.
“Yes,” she says. “How can you tell?”
“No exit wound,” He says. “Very tidy.”
She wears no expression on her pale face, her white cheeks dotted with soft, reddish-tan freckles.
She’s staring at his skinny wrists.
“What about you?” she says, nodding her head toward him.
“Disturbingly so,” he says, running three fingers of his left hand over the waxy flesh of his right wrist. “And I was totally unprepared for the mess I left.”
He holds both hands palm up, studies the twin cuts on each wrist, each precisely two and three-quarters of an inch long.
“Straight razor, actually. Amazingly sharp blade, really good high-carbon German steel.”
The conversation reaches a terminus and the sounds of the buzzing fly returns.
But he’s both curious, smitten. Embolden by their proximity in space, he inquires as to reasoning.
She instead describes her final moments in her bed, covers pulled up to her chin, gun pressed to her temple.
“It’s silly, really,” she says, finally. “It was over a boy.”
He raises his eyebrows at the news.
He describes coming home from work, his things tossed haphazard into a cardboard box with no lid, after being laid off from a position he’d held for exactly 30 days shy of 25 years. He tells her about a slow reorganization of the contents in the box, all while filling a red wine glass several times with a bold, spicy Zinfandel he fancied.
He tells her about the final impulse to shave his wrists, deep and vertically speaking of course.
She listens politely.
“Makes you think,” he says, coughing into a clenched fist.
Another terminus, another cold, somber silence, fills the waiting room. She studies the weave of the fabric on the couch's armrest; he's back to stealing glances.
He jumps when his name is called, like a current has been run through him.
He stands awkwardly, runs his hands across his thighs to smooth out any wrinkles in the soft wool, clears his throat.
“Maybe we can talk again sometime?”
She looks up, meets his eyes with hers.
“Sure, maybe, I mean if, well, definitely - I hope we meet up again.”
He tries to grin, but can’t.
There is no smiling here.
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