“Suddenly I realized.”
It wasn’t a dream, it wasn’t real but something in between. I could feel in hand in mine and knew it wasn’t there. I heard him breathing next to me and knew he had taken his last breath years ago. His body felt warm next to mine, small, scared, helpless, but I had watched him be buried. I had watched the coffin lower into the ground and yet here he was next to me.
I knew it wasn’t real. I knew I was awake in Axel’s bed, the silky sheets were wrapped around my legs, Axel was in the shower, running water sounded through the open bathroom door. I knew the last real time I held his hand was when he died, but when I closed my fingers his were there.
I opened my eyes, knowing I’d see him, knowing he wasn’t real.
He smiled at me. That soft gentle smile I loved so much. I felt his hand tighten again in mine.
Closed my eyes. Tried to remember him as that happy boy, tried not to see my last memory of him.
I opened my eyes again. The weight of his hand in mine was gone, he was gone.
I knew he was real. I knew he wasn’t.
“Stop saying that.”
It nagged at her, a constant thought on her mind. It was there at work, at home, while she ate and read and showered, it was there.
She wished it would go away, wished it would stop. And occasionally it would. The worry would disappear and she could breathe easy.
Then it would creep back in, like a steady fog.
She could see it building, not just in her thoughts, but in her life too. Her morning routine was interrupted by it, dinner was difficult because of it. And it only grew. It grew a life of its own, its own science experiment creating new forms.
She’d have to do something eventually. She couldn’t just let it pile up and take over her life, or the house. It had already consumed her thoughts and the counter and the table and the sink.
One morning was the last morning. There were no more clean coffee mugs, no more clean plates or spoons or forks or knives. The dirty dishes had piled up too high, weeks worth of food scraps had started their own families, had passed down family heirlooms to grandchildren.
She swore she saw a macaroni noodle send its kid off to college.
Gloving up for the task she gathered up dish soap, sponges, scrubby pads, more dish soap and almost felt bad. The uneaten food had survived and flourished in its new habitat of ceramic plates and metal cutlery. But enough was enough.
She had said she was going to clean up for weeks. It was time to stop saying that and just do it.
Down came bowl towers and plate skyscrapers. She cut through well tended broccoli fields and wiped out whole families of rice grains.