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December 21, 2018 by The Citron Review

by Tara Isabel Zambrano

 

After his death, my husband lives in the walls and fixtures of our home. They rumble and shake when he’s pacing inside them, bulge and contract. Sometimes, an outline of a face emerges out of the paint, I blink hard, and it’s gone.

My husband loved our home, the soft paneling, the silk lanterns, high ceilings, low wooden sofas and our king size four-poster bed. The French windows, a green echo of trees outside.

In the beginning I didn’t know he was there. I mean there wasn’t much to do before and after work, except to sleep, eat and stare at nothing or fall asleep while watching the TV, holding the remote as if it was his hand. Until one day, while taking a shower, I looked at the vent, and felt a rush of his breath on my face, a familiar cocktail of smells – Old Spice mixed with Listerine. He felt so near, and I stood naked, long after I’d finished, covered in goose bumps, trying to enfold my body in his scent.

In the dim lit evenings, when I return from work, our home looks dark and deserted, but I know he’s inside, sliding in the pipes, or crouched behind the toilet, or waiting in the closet. Often, I rest my head against the wall and sense his fingers in my hair, easing the day. A door hatch inside me opens. I let him in. Together we watch porn, try out different poses that I wasn’t comfortable doing when he was alive. Afterwards, the bed gently rocks me to sleep, stacks my dreams on the side table, next to a broken clock and a dusty statue of a laughing Buddha.

For months we go on. I stop going to work. Dirty laundry piles up on the floor, unread mail stacks up on the kitchen counter. My head feels fuzzy. Something pulses between my legs desperately, constantly. I hear his heartbeat beneath the ground, deep and low. “You’re dead,” I say out loud one day, I write it down a hundred times. Then I load the laundry, pour chemicals on the floor, the scent of polish fills my head. The task of waxing and buffing makes me forget.

When I finish and walk outside, the sky is the color of a tinted church window. From the driveway, our home hunches like an old man−a stone exterior on the front, vinyl sidings, and a sick yellow inside the lamps. The kitchen garden is a swamp, the rose bush is dead. It has rained recently, the mud caking around my feet, more and more with each step.

In the backyard, hangs a birdhouse, there’s shit all over it. Birds come in and go. A lumpy silhouette of a forgotten grill, a picnic table that needs a fresh coat of paint. Whispery glints of fallen leaves. I sit on the patio floor. The concrete is hard and cold. I am on my hands and knees―my body low on the ground like a strange, ancient creature, listening to the low vibration of him―muffled words admitting his want, my restraint falling away like daylight―and then only stars, a heat of blush traveling up my neck, the fabric of his breath shaped around me like a shimmering gown.

 

Her work has won the first prize in The Southampton Review Short Short Fiction Contest 2019, been a Finalist in Bat City Review 2018 Short Prose Contest and Mid-American Review Fineline 2018 Contest. A list of her published stories is at https://taraisabelzambrano.wixsite.com/website
 

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Mushrooms

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