Greek Garden

by Michail Velichansky

 

At some point, my husband turned into a statue. One of those white stone ones, like they have in the museums. Except, well… all the men there look better. Strong and muscled and handsome, even if they did have little things. They didn’t have beer bellies, and I think they had hair, though it was stone. And you know, the thing is, I never remembered looking at his hair when it was, well, hair—but when it became stone… It just wasn’t very good looking.

I don’t know exactly when it happened. I know that he wasn’t always like that, not when I first married him—who’d want to marry a statue? Back then, he was the sweetest man. I remember back when we were dating, he used to sing to me, and he had the most horrid voice. Usually it was steady and deep, but when he sang it would squeak and crack… I teased him about it, but really I liked it. I mean, it’s one thing for some great singer to get up there and sing, but the kind of courage it takes to try and do something like that with no talent… He was the sweetest man, my Roger was; never had any real talent for anything except fixing things, but he tried so hard. I really miss him trying to squeak his way through “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.”

But he didn’t just turn into a statue overnight, all of a sudden. I would’ve noticed that. No, it was gradual. He became a little more like stone over the years, and I just didn’t notice. It wasn’t even bit by bit at first, but kind of a whole change. He started to move less and less; he became whiter and paler. And he became harder, I think. Because I remember when we were going out we used to touch a lot, hugging and stuff. He was a big man, but so soft… Later, though, I don’t think we hugged so much.

After a while, we didn’t even kiss before going off to work.

Then, one day, I came home and he was sitting in front of the TV, beer in hands. He didn’t move when I went in, but I didn’t really see anything strange in this—it had been a long time since he’d jumped up every time I walked through the door. I put my purse down on a chair and hung up my coat, and… I just watched him for a while. He was sitting there, the TV lighting up his face, the beer in his hands slowly going flat… I don’t know. He just looked kind of lonely. I went around behind the couch, and put my hands on his shoulder to give him a massage—and I jumped back, because he wasn’t flesh and blood anymore, but cold, cold stone.

I went into the bedroom and locked myself in—I couldn’t stand to look at him. I felt empty. Maybe I cried a little, though I can’t remember. Later, I thought I heard someone banging on the door.

“Leave me alone,” I said to whoever it was.

Roger was still on the couch the next morning, except now he was laying on it, reclining, his head back.

I don’t why, but I said, “Good morning.” Of course there was no response. And when I kissed him on the cheek before going to work—it had been a long time, like I said—he was rough, and cold, and I just felt empty again.

From then on, things got worse and worse. I came home, and he was in front of the TV. Change into sweat pants and he was bent in front of the open fridge. Put dinner in the microwave, and when I turn around it’s gone. There he was, the dinner on his lap, a potato speared on a fork in his stone hands, halfway up to his mouth. We never ate together anymore.

He stopped asking me how my day went. Not even the day I got mugged on my way home. He never asked what happened… No, he never asked where I’d been. I remember now. I didn’t go home right away after it happened. I think I went to see a friend.

But he never asked. Anything.

There used to be nights, when we’d stay up till dawn talking. Talking about anything. We’d laugh, and hold each other, and he’d say something sweet. I’d feel as though I could tell him anything. Or sometimes we’d talk without saying anything. We’d just sit, and I could look into those eyes… I usually don’t like looking people in the eyes so much, but with Roger, it was like someone putting a warm blanket around me on a cold night.

Not like those stone things he had now. They were the worst, I think, those smooth marble eyes. They didn’t even see me, they—

They were horrible.

Later, we stopped touching in bed. I’d get ready, put my nightclothes on, brush my teeth, and when I walked out of the bathroom the statue would be in the bed. I’d curl up, as far away from its rough stone as possible, on my side—away from it.

Though, I think it was better this way. Not like it was before that, before I noticed anything, when he’d just be on top of me with those eyes, and I’d look up at the ceiling, try to count the tiles and wait for it to be over. At least… at least that was better. It really was.

Still, sometimes I’d say something like, “How was your day?” Or I’d say, “What are you thinking about?” It was stupid. Stone doesn’t think anything. It just poses. But… but I still kept thinking that he must be moving. Kept trying to see him move out of the corner of my eyes. It’s kind of funny, because for a while I kept bumping into furniture I was trying so hard.

I was kidding myself, though. It never moved. Just posed.

That’s how I remember the last few years: like one of those garden mazes from the movies, with all the statues standing around, or sitting, or… Just. Not moving. You know?

I tried to speak to him about it once. I don’t know why—maybe I thought I could bring him back to life, like some kind of fairy tale.

“I can’t live like this anymore,” I told him. “You… you don’t talk. We don’t talk. Remember what it used to be like? It can be like that again, Roger. It really can. If you just come back to me. Can you just move a little? Just say something to me? Anything?

“I can’t even feel your breath anymore…

“Damn. Damn damn DAMN! It’s not fair!” I banged both my fists on him, but I just hurt myself.

I kissed him again that night, for the last time.

Nothing. Nothing at all. Just cold stone, and it scratched my lips a little. But when I turned around, he was lying on his back with his eyes closed and his thing was big. And hard, of course. I looked at his face, and I just knew he wasn’t thinking about me. Just the thought of it, hard and rough and cold: it made me sick.

I just ran out of the room.

That was the last time I spoke to the statue that used to be my husband. I went to my mother’s and spent two days there. But eventually I had to leave:

“Is there something wrong at home?

“What is it? What’s he done?

“I told you that he was no good. Didn’t I tell you he was no good?”

I started talking to this guy at work named Matt. He’d been working there for a few years, but I’d never really talked to him. He didn’t really talk all that much, except with some of the other guys now and then. Mostly about work. He’d go out for a drink with them sometimes. He told me that. We talked about work too, really; but still, it was nice, in a way. At least he saw me. Though, usually he didn’t look me in the eyes. I didn’t mind so much. At least he saw me.

After a while, after flashing him little smiles, after feeling him look at me as I passed, we got lunch together. And then dinner after work.

“Do you want to go back to your place?” I asked finally. We’d gotten to now each other a little now; it was probably time. And I was lonely.

He looked up, kind of scared and confused, and mumbled, “No. no, not my place we—” I could see him rubbing the ring finger on his hand nervously. “Maybe we shouldn’t?” Then he went quiet, and turned away, staring off into space. We didn’t talk when we left the diner, just turned and walked our separate ways.

The next day though, he was all flushed. Came and talked to me in my office. “Look, I’m real sorry about that last night. Maybe we can go somewhere for lunch? Your place?” There was a… a hunger in his eyes, when he looked at me.

“All right,” I said. Even though I knew, somewhere, how stupid it was.

We went to my place. It was all right. It was nice to touch someone. Afterwards, I could at least lay in his arms and close my eyes and pretend. Just pretend. Because his body was soft, and it was warm.

It was on the third time that we went to my place. Matt wasn’t done yet, when suddenly he made a kind of croaking sound, and rolled off me. I looked over, and the statue was standing in the doorway. Just standing there, hands hanging by its side. It’s face—it was as though someone hadn’t finished carving it. Just two holes and a slash. No look at all.

I can’t really blame Matt for leaving. And I don’t. He squeezed passed the statue and ran out in his undies, pants tucked under his arm. Before he left, he glanced back: his face was red, and he quickly looked away.

The statue just stood there. Looking at me. After a while I couldn’t take that broken gaze anymore, and looked away. When I looked back, it was inside the room, closer, its hands clenched. Looking at it then, I realized I hated it. I hated it so much, I didn’t want to look at it anymore, so I walked out of the room. There I paced around for a little while, feeling embarrassed and hurt and lonely. When I walked back into the room, the statue was still there, just standing, its eyebrows low, a terrible blank look on its face. It frightened me.

“I can’t live like this anymore,” I said to myself. “I’m leaving.”

It didn’t do anything. It stood, and stared, and stared, and stared, and it didn’t do anything. Just stared through me. I wasn’t even there. It was like a mountain, couldn’t care less about all the little people running over it, trying to change it. What was I?

Just another scurrying thing? Another nothing that it didn’t even feel?

I screamed at it. I spit on it. I hit it. I broke all my nails, and my palms were bleeding—and I wasn’t even really there to it.

I ran from it, and locked myself in the small bathroom, the one that wasn’t in the bedroom. I cried. No, it wasn’t really crying, it was… I was choking, sobbing. I couldn’t breath, I kept gasping, and then I couldn’t unclench my fist, not even when I broke the mirror. At least… at least the pain… I knew I was real. Was. Am.

For a minute, I was sick into the toilet, and then I felt like I could breath again. Had to bandage my hand first, and then as soon as I was done, I ran out and grabbed my keys. The tires screeched in the driveway. Usually, I’m such a careful driver.

I went down to the local hardware store, and I bought what I wanted, just threw some money on the counter and walked out. There was a blur of moving and driving—and then I was home, with the statue of my husband, on the couch, in front of the TV, beer in hands.

I hefted the small sledgehammer with both hands, looking for the best grip. I was very careful, because my hand was hurt and I didn’t want to make it any worse. I walked behind the couch…

Pulled back.

Swung.

And with a great crunch, his head shattered, splitting into large chunks and pebbles and dust.

I got to work on the rest of him. Swung again and again. Each time, it jolted my arm; each time it hurt worse. I was sweaty and dirty, and I could feel the dust sticking to my face where I’d been crying. Who knew there was so much inside? It took me so long—until finally there was nothing left but powder and gravel.

I washed the powder from my face and hair, and I just kept scrubbing and scrubbing even though it was gone, until I was red all over. I put my face under the water so that I couldn’t feel myself cry.

When I got out, I felt a little better. And as I vacuumed up, there was only a little bit of emptiness inside. Or did I have it backward? Like a photo before you get it developed, where what’s something looks like nothing, and nothing… Nothing looks like something.

As I threw out bag after bag of dust and stone, I just couldn’t tell anymore.

 

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