June 22, 2022 by The Citron Review
It started small, as most things do. On Saturdays, my husband would pop out for the papers. Just to the corner shop at the end of the road. If I stood at the front door of our house and threw a stone, I could probably hit the back wall of the shop, that’s how close it was. Still, he liked to take his time. I’ve seen him in action. He’d carefully examine the front of each one before riffling through them, thumbing the pages to ensure no one had swiped any of the loose sections, though I don’t know who would have such a notion so early on a Saturday morning.
One week, while he foraged for the perfect paper, I was in the pantry. As soon as he shut the front door, I headed to the back of the house like a woman on a mission, which I suppose I was. I shut myself in and locked the door. I yanked down the yellowing blind and crouched beneath the window. I don’t know what possessed me to do such a thing. I just know that I kept doing it every time my husband left the house for those newspapers. My own little weekly ritual. I think it was the one time I felt in control. The stillness would overwhelm me and I would feel safe.
When the key rattled in the lock, signalling his return, I would straighten up, unlock the door and gently pull up the blind. The light would spill into the room just as he trundled into the kitchen, all six foot of him, always laden with so much outerwear.
“You’re always in that bloody pantry,” he grunted.
I suppose for a time, I was. Until the pantry no longer satisfied me. Then I moved onto our wardrobe. It has beautiful cream, floor-to-ceiling sliding doors with ample shelving for all my clothes, which mostly consists of soft, cotton jumpers in a variety of thicknesses and colours. He buys me one every year, always one size too large. I gave up correcting him years ago. The other side had two rails, one high enough for long dresses, though it had been years since I had an excuse to wear something so glamorous. The other couldn’t take a full-length dress but it could take a few long skirts, which I still wear in the summer.
I would often run the silky, pleated one through my fingers before lowering myself under the rail and climbing into the back of the wardrobe. I would clamber over the shoes and try to figure out how long some of them had lived in there, forgotten and untouched.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered to them one Saturday while sitting beside them, scrunched up like a child on the naughty step. Once again, the sound of the keys in the cervices of the front door lock would tell me my time was up and I would scramble gingerly out of the wardrobe.
“Look at this, four pages in the property section. Unbelievable. They make it thinner every year, as if we won’t notice.” He says this to me one week as if I’m part of the ‘we,’ but I know I’m not. Although I’m not sure who is.
The weeks rolled on and every Saturday morning I climbed into the wardrobe and settled into the corner, caressing the limp skirts as I passed. I started shuffling the clothes in front of me as if to hide myself from view. Then I started shimmying the sliding door closed, bathing in the claustrophobic darkness, with nothing but the sound of my own heartbeat and the soft smell of leather to keep me company. Sometimes I’d stroke the worn-down suede of an old pair of boots I used to wear, back when we would go on romantic walks by the river. The boots were sturdy, practical, but stylish enough to make me feel young and pretty. The suede used to be thick, almost like tightly knit fur. Now it just feels flat and rough, like the carpet on our stairs.
It’s one of these days, while I’m enchanted by my own boot, trying to think of its last venture outdoors, when he finds me in there.
“What in the name of God are you doing?”
I say nothing. Instead, I just stare back at him begging to be seen. Yet, as horrified as his expression is, it morphs into a blank canvas before he slowly slides the door closed again and I’m enveloped in darkness once more.
Jenny Darmody is an Irish journalist and deputy editor of sci-tech news site, Silicon Republic. She has previously been published in The Galway Review, The Incubator Journal, Sonder Magazine, Vastarien Journal and The Honest Ulsterman. In 2018, Jenny was one of four Young Writer Delegates at the Dublin Book Festival. She tweets @Jenny_Darmody.