Monica de Wet

De Profundis

She stands with her back to the room, looking out over the familiar landscape of fields and meadows, a view she has known all her life. Her arms are crossed protectively over her chest, her green cardigan and floral dress as much her as the room. She stands silently for a minute, and then with a sigh she reaches up and closes the curtains. Lovely curtains, a blue floral which matches the chairs. You really can’t beat Sanderson linen for wear and comfort. For a minute she is back in the distant past when they were newly married, and doing up the old farmhouse. But enough of that now, the nights are drawing in, and she has her evening chores to do.

She crosses the sitting room on her way to the kitchen.  She can just glimpse the top of Jim’s head above the back of his favourite chair. Amazing to think that they have been married for nearly fifty years, and that their love for each other has not diminished in all that time. Yes, they’d had their fights and disagreements, and their tragedies, losing baby John when he was only six months old, but in the end all the ups and downs, though frightening at the time, had drawn them even closer.

She walks over to Jim’s chair, just to look at him again. He is still a good-looking man, thick grey hair, and a straight nose. He leans back; eyes closed, one hand loosely on his lap, the other resting on the arm of his chair as if reaching for his beloved pipe. He is rather pale, but that is inevitable, and she rests her hand for a moment on the top of his head to comfort him. 

She must get on with her work, but just wants to look at him for a little while longer. He has such beautiful hands, long, slim fingers, always immaculately clean. They tease him, saying that he should be a pianist or a surgeon with those hands, not just a GP. She knows those hands so well; gentle with the sick, with children, with the frightened and the malingerers.  She can feel their touch, cupping her face; her skin recognises his every touch. A shiver of longing rips through her.

Well, she can’t hang around; she has things to do. She hopes desperately that their youngest daughter, Margie won’t decide to drop in. She lives just down the street, and often pops in unexpectedly. This is her time, hers and Jim’s and nobody else has the right to interfere. She realizes that she isn’t thinking straight. How can she after the shock, and the fact that she hadn’t slept all night? But she must stop thinking about it – things will work out. As long as she keeps herself busy, and her thoughts in control, she will be all right. If only she had not slept late yesterday morning, and had come down to make the tea as usual, this wouldn’t have happened. Stop it; she scolds herself. Just carry on as normal, and the future will take care of itself.

She decides to make sausage and mash for supper; it’s one of Jim’s favourites. As she bustles about the kitchen, doing what has now become second nature, the forbidden thoughts creep into her mind. She should really tell the children, and the relevant authorities …

NO, NO, NOT YET! She needs time for just the two of them. You can’t love someone for so long, and then just let them go. She knows she is being ridiculous, and a huge sob rises in her throat.

NO, she will not let herself go, she has too much to do.

What would Jim say if he could see her breaking down? He always admired her strength and relied on her, and she wasn’t about to let him down now. Dinner is finished and in the oven. She’ll go and sit down in her chair opposite Jim, and they can relax until dinnertime.

There is so much she wants to ask him. How will she manage without him? And how is she going to tell the children? Where will she live? Bitter, bitter thoughts; she wishes she could vomit them up like bad food, but not now.

Sitting in her chair, facing her beloved husband, she tries to see things clearly, to put them into perspective, but the thoughts dart around in her mind like demented hamsters.

She must try and relax, but her brain is mush. And then, clear as a bell, she hears Jim’s voice; “Ag, love, you know what you have to do – let me go.”

The tears come at last, cascading down her face. She lifts the phone.