Love is bullshit. Emotion is bullshit.
I am a rock. A jerk. I'm an uncaring
asshole and proud of it.
~ Chuck Palahniuk
Thank you, but I don’t need anyone to stay the night, you try to say. They’ve come to visit. To pay our respects, they tell you. It’s the least we can do, they tell one another. And you hear their crude and distasteful whispers. And you see the gleam of burdensome, self-inflicted responsibility on their faces. They’ve brought flowers and cards and casseroles. Just a little something to help out, they say. And you try to smile. To pretend like nothing has changed. But you had never asked for Graham’s brain to have a short and bleed without stopping until his heart had stopped, too.
Take a few days, Nadia, your boss tells you. As long as you need. And just as you’re thinking, As long as I need might be forever, Dr. Becker arrives. Late. As usual. He had arrived too late to save Graham the night his head had gone haywire, too. And he can’t seem to explain exactly what had happened that night. Cerebral aneurism is all he has to offer. And he doesn’t want you asking any questions, so he’s avoiding the subject, and he’s avoiding you like the plague. Life is complicated enough when it’s simple, right?
But nature has its secrets. And it has its ordinances, too. And today, Murphy’s Law has ordained that Dr. Becker be sitting right next to you on the ungenerously sized loveseat you and Graham had once shared for countless movies with countless bowls of buttered popcorn. And while small talk dribbles from one pair of lips to the other, Dr. Becker thinks to himself, somewhere in the back of his head, that by the time he sees you again (and he’s hoping that won’t be anytime soon) he will have found a slightly more detailed explanation for the death of your husband. But Dr. Becker's main focus is on something else. He tries, out of the corner of his right eye, to see the mark of Graham’s loss on your face, and in your body language. This is alternated with quick glances at his wife, Veronica, who is sitting across the coffee table from both of you. Would she be so “business as usual” if I suffered an aneurism and met my Maker? He wonders.
And you’re seeing all of it and hearing everything in between. Especially the quietly whispered conversation between Veronica and Frieda. I didn’t know what to write on the card, says Veronica. I feel so awkward. And Frieda says, It’s like being in a third world country and trying to communicate with the locals, right? And Veronica says, I just signed a condolence card from me and Charlie. I think she’ll appreciate that, don’t you? And Frieda says, Oh, definitely. How did he die, anyway? And Veronica says, An aneurism. And Frieda says, An aneurism? What’s that? And Veronica says, A fatal disease, I guess. I never did get around to asking Charlie. And the tears start to brew in your throat. But your eyes are dry. You don’t want to show them that what they just said has affected you so violently, or that you even heard it; that would be humiliating. You don’t want to show them that they matter so much.
And though it’s a strange evening, it passes. And over the following days they invite you over for dinner or snacks – the Mortons and the Dyers and the Taylors. And you accept their invitations – every time; you don’t want to start a domino effect of rejections. But one evening, as you’re driving to dinner with the Shermans, you make a U-turn and go back home. You call and apologize to Mandy. And Mandy says, Rain check, hon? You can hear the sigh of relief in her voice. And you say, Of course. I’ll call you. But you don’t call Mandy. And she doesn’t call you. Life is a lot easier without her having to deal with Nadia’s Curse, right? It’s as if your widowhood is contagious. Not to mention the insecurity. You’re a widow. Your husband is dead. You’re available. Oh! You’re available! All of a sudden, you’re a threat. You’re not to be trusted. You’re not to be left alone in a room with their husbands. You’re a bitch in heat and there is no man in your life to quench the fiery thirst between your legs. You want to be fucked, and any man will do. And they think about their potential future grief from another dimension – they might lose their men, not only to Nadia’s Curse, but to Nadia Herself. All of a sudden, you’re right up there with dangerous bodily malfunctions and death. You’re a probable contagion. And you’re lethal.
But over the following weeks, you start to tell yourself to mellow out. You start to tell yourself that it was all in your head – the whispers and the looks and the sighs. So you call. And they all come over to visit – only the ladies, of course. And they all act like they’re competing to help you. Their faces are understanding and patient and kind. So you begin to feel comfortable. Comfortable enough to talk about the dry bone in your throat. About the lack of appetite. About the apathy. About the anomie. About the zombie days and the comatose nights. But their faces don’t fool you. They savor every word like it’s caviar on white bread, listening closely to the parts of your “confession” that confirm to them you really are a curse. You can smell the condescension for your misfortune oozing like unwanted sweat out of their pores. You can see the gratitude for the normalcy of their lives shining like a wet lust in their eyes. And it hits you like a plane falling out of the sky hits the ground.
In your throat, that dry bone begins to moisten. And you dare a swallow – maybe this time it will cooperate and slide down, disappearing for good. But the bone digs deeper into your throat, and you choke on the tears in your chest and behind your eyes. You just want to curl up in a fetal position on that ungenerously sized loveseat you and Graham had once shared. You want to curl up and become comatose all over again, just like you’d been those first couple of weeks after Graham’s head had imploded. And they start to get uncomfortable because they see it in your eyes… that you’re on to them… that you get it.
And now, when they see you somewhere, they start to glide against the walls, trying to get as far away from where you’re sitting, or standing, or might possibly move – as far away from you – as they possibly can.