Creative Writing: The Sudden Silence
Tom pulled the 1997 Buick Park Avenue into the driveway and pushed the button above his head to open the garage door. As the door slowly responded to the pulling chain, he took his wife’s hand and gently squeezed it. “I love you, Baby.”
Doris wrapped her arms around his and squeezed tight laying her head against his shoulder. “Oh, Honey, I didn’t know I could ever love anyone as much as I love you. It’s been forty-seven years and you still make me giddy as a schoolgirl.”
Tom laughed. “Better than Oil of Olay, huh?”
Doris smiled up at her husband. “Yes, much, much better.” She reached up and kissed him.
When they stopped kissing, Tom sat and looked into his wife’s eyes. “Honey, the door is open now. How about we find a much more comfortable place for you to lose yourself in my eyes.” She caressed his face.
“Uh, yea. This armrest is always in the way.” He pulled the car into the garage holding his wife’s hand. As Doris prepared to step out of the car, Tom took her by the arm. “Baby.”
“It’s always been true, you know.”
“What has been, Love?”
“What I’ve said to you all of these years. I do love you more at the end of each day than I did, when I woke up. I don’t understand it, but that’s how it’s been each and every day, since we met. I love you, Baby.”
“Oh, Tom, I love you.” He bent over and they kissed again.
Tom had died suddenly of a massive brain hemorrhage. They had been asleep, when it had happened. It was the silence that had awakened her. He had stopped snoring for the first time in forty-seven years and lay still and peaceful next to her in bed. After realizing that he had passed on, she lay quietly next to his body and held his hand until there was no more warmth. Not since the wedding had they left each other before the morning. After the phone call, he would never return.
The funeral was nice or as nice as a funeral can be, when nobody involved in the funeral really knew the deceased. All of their peers among their families and friends were dead or were too infirm to have made the trip. The expressions of sympathy and support seemed strangely empty of sincerity to her. No one present seemed to have ever had half of her heart buried under six feet of earth.
Their children took turns staying with her for the first few weeks. The sounds and commotion of adults and children had been absent for so many years and she enjoyed listening to the lively, joyful cacophony. Exhausted at the end of each day, sleep came easily and quickly and she dreamed of the times he wrote her poetry. Each morning, she awoke refreshed.
Too soon their children and grandchildren returned to their homes leaving her with promises to visit as soon as their schedules allowed. Some of the ladies of the parish still called on her and she kept up with her various appointments and engagements each week, but the nights were void now of the hugs and kisses he used to give her, of his full-bellied, high-pitched laugh, of his low, sexy voice. Her grandchildren running about at bedtime and their parents yelling and cajoling had returned to where they felt at home. The microwave’s annoyed beeping announcing the completion of its duties was not the same as the two of them working together to prepare a meal. They would stand side-by-side and talk and laugh, wash and chop. She enjoyed cooking the meal more than she did eating it. Now he no longer could talk with her about their dreams, plans, children, life, and love. She began to miss the sound of her own voice and began having conversations with the corner of the couch in which he used to sit. She would curl up next to him and snuggle with her head on his chest and his arm around her body. Oh, she missed him so.
Her friends and family encouraged her to stay busy. To keep her occupied during the coming nights her children had pitched in and bought her a television almost as big as one of her living room walls and each was taking a turn paying the monthly satellite bill. She had protested vehemently. They had never owned a television set. There were always many more things to do. Her children did not listen and even had gotten her a comprehensive satellite package. Nothing she saw on any of the channels interested her in any way and a lot of it only shocked and sickened her, so the large, framed blackness under glass hung on her wall as her commentary on the age. Instead of watching the television set, she spent a few nights finding other places to hang the pictures that had been displaced by it. She had so many pictures of them together; so many more than she had thought she had had and began making albums with all of the loose photographs.
She, also, started cleaning the house and sorting through his belongings. He had never been one to collect a lot of stuff. She had never really realized how little he had kept. He had all of the cards and notes she had sent him. Each child’s baby teeth were in small, labeled envelopes. She walked over to the bed and sat down on her side of it. Oh, how she missed him so, so much. Her tears fell from her eyes before she started crying. Her heart burned with the emptiness and loneliness. For the first time in over fifty years, no one was there to catch her up and hold her close as she cried. He had held her so close and tenderly during these times and would repeat, “I love you, Honey. It’ll be all right.” Her sobbing filled the house until she fell asleep.
She awoke with a start. “Stephen! Are you alright?” Her eyes focused slowly in the dark. No light was on in the bathroom. She looked to his side of the bed and then realized that he wasn’t in the house. “Yea. I guess you are alright, Baby.” A pain in her heart burst through all of her defenses and she doubled over. When she could, she reached the phone and dialed 9-1-1.
Five men wearing blue t-shirts with white Maltese crosses above the left breast and large, bulky firefighter pants entered through the unlocked front door carrying bags, equipment, and a large, yellow cot. By the state of their hair and one man’s yawn, it was easy to tell that they had all been sound asleep only a few minutes before. As one man took a knee in front of her and began asking her questions about her identity, medications, and health history, another placed a blood pressure cuff on her right arm. “Ma’am, I’m going to take your blood pressure, so just relax as much as you can.”
As the cuff tightened on her arm, a third man was pulling thin wires out of a pouch and placing sticky pads on the ends of them. “These are the leads for the heart monitor, Ma’am,” he explained as he placed one on either side of her chest near her collar bone and one on either side of her torso. “Just relax and breathe normally.”
He then placed a white clip on her left index finger saying, “This will tell us how much oxygen is in your blood.”
Soon the monitor was beeping and the third man took off the oximeter. The man who first spoke to her depressed a button and with a whir a strip of paper was ejected. The man ripped it off and took a few seconds to look at it. He then turned to the man, who had taken her blood pressure, and showed the strip to him, teaching him how to identify a healthy heart rhythm.
“Well, Ma’am, all of your vital signs are in normal limits and your heart rhythm appears normal, too. You stated to me, when we first started talking, that you were experiencing chest pain. How do you feel now? Is the pain still there?”
She hesitated. “I’m sorry to have dragged you here in the middle of the night for a silly old woman.”
The man placed a hand on her shoulder. “No, no, ma’am, you don’t need to apologize for anything. We’re only doing our job. Are you okay?”
“Yes, I am. I think I ate something that didn’t agree with me. My husband died recently and I’m not used to being alone.” She looked up at the man and noticed that all five men had drawn a little closer. “He was a good man and took good care of me.” She paused, working to control her emotions. “I miss him so much.”
“We’re sorry to hear that ma’am. We know you do. It’s been pretty hard on you, huh?” The man on his knee leaned in a little.
“Well, yes, it has. I haven’t really had time to think about it with all of the funeral arrangements and then my children and grandchildren took turns staying with me for a few weeks, and now it’s so quiet in here. My husband was a huge snorer.”
The five men laughed and one said, “We could leave Rob here with you. You could keep him next door and his snoring would still be loud enough to keep you awake.” They all laughed again and she found herself laughing with them.
“Oh, do you snore loudly?” she asked Rob.
“Yes, ma’am. I have to sleep downstairs in a recliner, I’m so loud.”
“No! They don’t let you sleep in a bed?”
“If we let him sleep in the bunk room with us,” another firefighter replied, “he’d be the only one sleeping and our wives would not be happy with us coming home so tired.”
“All of you are married?” She looked at each of them in turn. They all looked too young to be married.
“Yes, ma’am, we are all married, which means we all have someone in our lives we can’t keep happy.” The man on his knee looked at the others, who all chuckled at that.
“Oh, honey,” she replied, “all of you, do your best to keep your wives happy. Don’t let her walk all over you, but do what you can to let her know how much you love her. You have to take her out all by herself at least once a week on a date. Do all of you do that?”
All except one shook their heads. “That’s good advice, ma’am. We’ll start dating our wives again,” the firefighter who had taken her blood pressure said. Suddenly, their radios crackled to life and a woman’s voice started giving out an address. “That’s in our district,” one of the men said.
“Ma’am, thank you for letting us spend some time with you,” the first man said. “That run is in our district, so we have to go now. Go back to bed and get some sleep. You can always call us back, if you ever need to.”
The other men had picked up their bags and equipment and had started out the front door. The first man spoke into his radio, “Dispatch, disregard Engine 225 and Ambulance 332. Mark Engine and Ambulance 221 on the run.”
“Clear, Engine 221. Mark your status with your buttons.”
The last man out shut the door. A heavy silence fell into the house and she began crying again.