She sat at the kitchen table numb, oblivious to the cigarette butt still burning between her fingers.
Now she often alternated between fits of laughter and tears. In her last phone call with her sister, the words “clinical depression” were mentioned several times by her younger sibling.
“You’ve been through a lot… this is probably normal,” her sister had said, but that hadn’t cured the numbness or random mood swings.
Since the loss of her 16-year affinal relationship, she had felt as if she had tried to perform heart surgery on herself with a rusty butter knife. The ache was deadening to the point of desensitization.
The heat from the cigarette butt sizzled against her skin. She felt slightly thrilled to feel anything.
She hadn’t smoked a cigarette in 17 years. Now she sat with several ash trays around her wondering what she had done. Had she really ended her marriage? She had signed the paperwork with flourish, using her best penmanship. He had probably received it by now. She wondered if it had crushed him the way he had hurt her these last few years?
She stared at the stamped out cigarette butts filling the trays.
When she first met him, his mother was in hospice, succumbing to the effects of being a lifelong smoker. The little woman’s gaunt morphine-laden body was enough to make anyone vow to never touch another cigarette.
She had held that vow until now.
“Well, we vowed a lot of things 16 years ago,” she found herself saying aloud to the empty house.
The tears came again.
This is what she wanted, to have him out of her life. But she hadn’t realized how badly it would hurt, how even though she felt like she’d hated him for the past year, that pushing him away seemed like a worse fate than being left alone. Even though her husband was a workaholic and rarely home, since the separation the house seemed quieter than usual, the bed colder. The days were more dreary. Even having all of the bed sheets to herself had lost its luster because there was no one to steal them from in the middle of the night.
She should have thought of that earlier. It was too late for that now.