Somewhere deep in my subconscious is a nagging doubt. When it rises, I fling it to the furthest corner of my mind, where it rots and festers. I don’t care. I’m well-versed in denial.
“What are you thinking?” you ask, snuggling more deeply into my arms.
“Nothing. Just… I don’t want this to end.” You smile and let out a contented sigh. I kiss your naked chest and we fall back into silence.
I hate silence. It allows the subconscious to come alive…
The thing in the corner has become corporeal in our room. I hear it rustling but I’m afraid to look. It whimpers but I keep my gaze steadfastly on you. You don’t seem to notice anything.
I pull you tighter to me and pepper your skin with kisses. I’m determined not to ruin our time together. I push the horror away while we make love again.
“I love you,” I say into the silence of our post-coital relaxation. You don’t answer.
“Hal… ” Still nothing. I turn to look into your eyes but they’re gone. Replaced by dark empty holes. There’s growling from the corner.
“No! I won’t look!” The growling becomes fiercer but now it’s emanating from you.
“Hal!” Your face is demonic and I’m actually terrified of you. I jump from the bed and run to the door, flying through it without a second thought.
I’m in a white room lying on an examination table. Everything is clinical and sterile. My mind scrambles to pull it together and then I remember. I reach up, desperately feeling my head. One by one I rip the electrodes and leave them dangling from the mechanism. The attendant’s face is filled with bemused sympathy.
“You said it would be like dreaming!” I accused.
“It was a nightmare!”
“The whole thing?”
“No… ” I feel the adrenaline releasing its grip. “No. Not all of it. But still.”
“You wanted the widow’s package. We gave you that. Tell me what part went wrong.”
“I think I knew… I knew it wasn’t real. My subconscious broke through.”
“Maybe you just feel guilty about the way you treated me when I was alive.” Before my eyes the attendant’s face becomes yours.
“No.” I whimper, “Hal, no. I meant to be a good wife. I just got frustrated.”
“You were a terrible wife. You made my last days hell.”
Once again, I run for the door and wake up in the sterile room, pulling the electrodes off in a panic.
“Are you ok?” the attendant asked.
I sit blinking into the whiteness, still feeling your wrath and love, neither of which I can ever access again. It breaks me and for the first time since you died, I cry.
The attendant leaves and is quickly replaced by the therapist. “Yuli,” he said gently, “it’s time to face your fears so you can mourn Hal’s death in a healthy way.”
“Is that what this exercise was about?” I sob.
“Yes. You’re ready. It’s time to talk about Hal.”
I nod but keep sobbing. How can I tell him how horrible I was to you? How could I admit the things I had thought and said in our final days together?
“I… I loved him but we were fighting. I was so mean.” I cover my face with my hands.
“I see. That’s why you haven’t been able to mourn…”
“I don’t want to think about it. I hate myself too much.”
“And Hal? How did he feel about you?”
“He loved me and I hurt him because I was angry.”
“And he’d want you to suffer like this?”
The question stops me cold. Would you want me to suffer no matter how horrible our last fight was? I shake my head. “No. Hal wouldn’t want that.”
“Good. That’s a starting place. Let’s step into my office and we can begin the process of making you whole.”
I nod and follow, not because I want to let you go but because I want to remember you clearly. For the first time, I feel your presence with me and realize you’ve been here all along.