How my husband died (a cut-up)
by Michelle McMahon
Before I knew he was dead
I decided at 4:37 this morning that I would rather have him arrested. My husband was dead. A widow at 24. Bail would probably be $10,000. I felt more sorry for myself. Would I have more debt? Would I rather have him be a book? The book flew out the window, cutting through the summer air, and it was later found by geeks. I was not scared because I didn’t care because I was dancing.
Outside the window, I heard someone/thing singing, “Hallelujah,” and dancing the night away. I wondered what they had found that made them so happy.
Then a black could whispered, “What’s it to you?”
I said, “Just take a place. My ear won’t hear.”
So I waited, and I waited because I was one of the few survivors. He was touching me, but I didn’t mind. And there was a drawer labeled LOST AND FOUND.
“Let’s dance through the night,” the black cloud said.
But the music was dead. It would be easier to mourn. He wants me to move on. I wondered if maybe he was dead. Paralyzed for life? I would be running with a condom in the garbage can and medical bills and debt for years. I was in the bathroom with his sperm slow dancing with my barren heart thinking maybe I could impregnate myself.
“Your name used to taste so sweet,” I said, more to myself. I realized that I could live without him if I had his child. He had beat the love right out of me, and without a child I was nothing.
“It’s a mystery how people behave, how we start all over, find someone or life as a slave when he kissed someone else,” the black cloud said.
“Who would marry me?” I asked the cloud. I would gladly fight nobody because he was supposed to be home by 2:30.
“We can wait. We will wait,” I told the cloud.
We waited until the bars closed at 2:00. So when I woke up at 2:42, I worried. I thought he must be on his way and felt the beat of the earth home. When I woke at 3:07, I thought to start to dance again.
“He must be getting something to eat,” I told the cloud.
“I could tell by the way he moves that it’s not his friends, the guys,” it said. “What will you tell him when he comes home?”
“As you let me down, I looked pretty good,” I said.
“Murder is an act of faith, baby,” he laughed.
The world moved faster and whip-lashed us around and down.
“I don’t want to go home,” the little black cloud told me.
My husband had left me blue with a black cloud over me that night, circling over me, but I didn’t mind. And he didn’t mind. He said it was the summer breeze.
“Just dance with me and we’ll be all right,” I said. But he wanted to leave anyway, so then I planned to say it at his funeral. I would need to try to make $2,000 on internet poker.
“We worry ourselves to the grave in the morning instead of treating them all,” the cloud said.
When he kissed me, it felt like shots of vodka, tequila, and whiskey. And there were beers to marry. What would I wear? There were so many beers and cigarettes that I would need a new black dress and black leather marijuana.
When I went back to bed, there were new boots and a cardigan where the black cloud used to be. I thought he was trying to buy me, or time, or eating pancakes and drinking coffee. Then I remembered that his friend had called from some diner.
When I woke at 4:28, I thought something must be something wrong. I got up, my feet on the cold tiles, and I hit *69. The phone rang for 36 hardwood floors. I ran my hand over the rings and no one picked up. I hung up on cool pillows. He hadn’t been here to make some love, so I made love to the cloud.
Maybe he was hanging over the toilet, having memories or thoughts, passed out on the bathroom floor. I couldn’t dream, but if I could, there would have been a message from him on the answering machine. Maybe to dream is to relax, and I couldn’t do that. And I couldn’t come either. I thought he was on the front stoop dreaming because he had lost his breakfast.
I found out
The sun was coming through my screams. Anger had made me free. I opened the windows on the slick glass of speaking, making fiction. I was the kitchen table and opened the blinds. I had to go to the bathroom thinking this couldn’t be happening. Not to me. This was a place where girls can be free: widowed at 24.
I couldn’t do that, couldn’t have gotten into a bar fight for yelling. Then the phone rang. I picked it up with someone, a shaky hand.
I said, “Hello?”
Then his friend, one working for him, one he went out with last night, said, “I’m so sorry.”
I started bawling. I wanted to call the hospitals and ask if I was there and I cried so hard I couldn’t breathe, like I was there. I was in bed until 6:49, like women in the movies when their husbands die in war or car accidents.
He said, “You were worried?”
“Yes,” I cried. “Yes!” I was wrecking acrobatic backwards bends and saying, “Where is he?”
The black cloud came into the kitchen and said, “It’s a mystery how he was there and he was fine and people behave.” Everything was fine. He was passed out. I thought about the great big sleep.
I said, “Wake him up. I’m troubled about it in some deep sea.”
He came back to life
I talked to my husband, but he was a diver whose oxygen was pouring out and doesn’t remember it. I cried and banged the counter with my fists and said, “Now maybe if the gods be willing!” I thought he would give me something to fill my scrambled eggs and ate empty cups with toast and an orange.
Then I sat down on the boat and tried not to spill, or take a shower, or read on the couch. I just had to line back up and wait and wait for dried brown puke and yesterday’s slow disaster and dirty clothes.
He smelled when he came home and I hugged him. Falling down I said, “Yes. We wait. And we wait.”
Then he slept on the floor until 4:30 in the afternoon and I waited and I couldn’t be mad. The black cloud was hanging over town. “You would too if you knew like I knew,” it whispered.
“I don’t mind. I don’t mind,” I said.
Love is a powerful force. The cold breeze that night told me that it’s a mystery how people behave sometimes. How they let you down, how the music wants to make me tumble.
“Will you let me down?” I asked him. I went into any open arms that looked pretty that night. “You harmed me,” I said.
There was that little black cloud, little black cloud.
“I’m not done yet,” he said. “Look at me!”
“This cruel love is not much to be proud of. The music wants me tonight. What time will you let me down?” I asked.
Then I got up and I did it again. This cruel love is not much to be proud of, ass-kissing, mercy-missing, faithless friend. Thanks for the happy end.
Lyrics from the following songs were used to make this cut-up: And Then You Kissed Me II by Nina Persson and Nathan Larson (Copyright Control/ EMI Music Publishing France), Little Black Cloud by Nina Persson (Copyright Control), Godspell by Nina Persson and Nathan Larson (Copyright Control/ EMI Music Publishing France)