The Tear Bottle
This is the first short story I have completed, and I wanted to share it.
Caution: This is not like the typical humorous post you will find on Haycomet.com; this is a story about love,death, and coping.
I was lying there trembling inside, not really knowing what just happened. I could only see dark shapes in a haze; my mouth was dry and tasted bitter. I couldn’t recognize the scent, but it smelled hot, like when the furnace ignites in the house during the first cold day of the year. I was missing something… Or someone. I was confused and possibly hurt. I tried to move my right hand but I couldn’t. I tried with the other hand but I felt bound. The panic started to set in; it was happening again.
I gasped for air, my head started to pound, and I could hear the rush of blood in my ears. I needed to relax and wake up. Just wake up. This was all a dream, right? I’m in my bed? I was struggling for the moment of clarity that I had achieved in the past. The time when I take a deep breath and I can move again. It wasn’t happening this time, I was still trapped. I tried to move my legs and managed to kick out further from the covers. My skin felt like it was on fire but the air around me felt cold and damp.
These nightmares have to stop. They are becoming more difficult to wake up from each time. I had to keep trying to wake myself up from this hell. I attempted to move my arms again… Then it happened. I heard the gasps and the horrifying sound that I know as only my voice during these times. I couldn’t form words, only the sound of inhaling after not being able to do so for so long. Breath after breath was sounding in my ears and my heart was trying to start a rhythm of any kind. Tears started to stream down my face and then the reality set in – I was alone.
I was released from the nightmare only to be plunged into a reality that was so much worse. He was gone. I had witnessed his death and now it was playing in my head like a horror film. I had felt so helpless at the time, yet now my mind taunted me with all of the countless ways I could have saved him. I could have kept him from suffering and he would be with me right now. My gasps for air turned into sobs and I longed to be back in my paralyzed state of oblivion. I clawed at the sheets and pulled them to my face to absorb some of the tears. I can’t do this, it felt wrong. I was nauseous now but I could finally move and I sat up quickly. I reached for what was in the drawer of the bedside table. It was dark in the room but I knew exactly where this item could be found – it was part of me now. I pulled out the cool smooth glass bottle that he had given to me during our first year together and cradled it in my palm. It was blue glass with a band of silver around the middle. I remember the day he gave it to me and explained its significance. He said we would share all of our days – we would live as one being -we would have good times and bad, and this bottle was to capture tears from those times. I twisted off the small glass cap and held the rim of the bottle to my cheek. I didn’t have to be precise with the placement, my tears were finding their way home just as they had been for the past ten days. Would this pain ever go away? Do I want it to? I don’t want to forget about him, and that idea seems ridiculous… Because it’s impossible.
I have sat in this bed for a few days now. I couldn’t bear to lie here alone at first. I stayed in the living room, on my knees mostly, with my face buried in the couch. It was a weak attempt at praying; screaming was all I could manage at first. I felt gutted and bruised, and very angry.
I had been with him for seven years. I knew no man before him or during our time together. He was the beginning of my day, the end of my day, and in all of the thoughts I had in between. We were inseparable and the source of envy for many of our friends. There were so many things we had in common which is all the more reason why I felt like I should have known how to help him. I should have at least known to warn him and told him to be careful. Knowing how he was though, it was comforting to think that any warnings I could have given him wouldn’t have kept him from helping someone; that was one of his qualities I adored. But why did such good intentions have to result in his death?
I do have some peace now. I wake up from these nightmares knowing immediately what had happened. Not like the first days after he passed, when I would wake up and think that he was just outside smoking, or grabbing a bottle of water from the kitchen. Then I would wonder why I had fallen asleep on the floor, and the reality would hit me. I would vomit, or due to not eating, just heave violently until my stomach muscles were strained. I couldn’t function at all: I ignored phone calls, I wouldn’t answer the door. My boss was kind enough to give me two weeks off with pay, but I can’t see myself being able to work even after a month. There isn’t anything anyone can say to comfort me. He was always the one that knew how to calm me. He knew what to say to me in every situation. He was my sedative during the stressful times. Now I was relying on the pills that I had been prescribed for anxiety and sleeplessness in the past, but he had convinced me that I didn’t need.
The fourth day was the worst, because of the finality of everything. I had managed to pull myself together long enough to attend his funeral and briefly talk about how sweet, kind, and loving he was, and how he was everything to me. To say the word “was” while speaking of him made me physically ill, and I walked away from the cemetery thinking I would collapse because my whole body felt numb. One of my friends drove me home. I know she had been speaking to me during the whole drive back to my house, but the words weren’t registering and I don’t remember saying more to her than a thank you. I walked into the house, locked the door, dropped my purse on the floor, and then collapsed on the couch. Right next to where he used to sit, and I leaned the side of my face against where his head would have been. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply. I could smell his shaving lotion that he loved so much, and his cologne that I gave to him last Christmas. I breathed in his scent, it made me smile, and I quickly fell asleep that night without the assistance of pills. That was the night I got to dream about him.
Thinking about that dream put a smile on my face now, and I moved the tear bottle to the other cheek, but felt wetness seeping between my fingers and the glass. I carefully held the bottle still and reached to turn on the lamp. It took a few seconds for my eyes to adjust but then I saw that I hadn’t spilled the bottle, but instead it had started to overflow. That bottle had gone six years with barely any reason to have been opened. I caught a few tears when his dad died and I had cried not because I knew his dad, but because I couldn’t stand seeing my love in such emotional pain. I caught happy tears when he proposed three years ago and more on our wedding day a year later. I used it just months ago for tears of disappointment when the doctor told us I was unable to have children. Now I had managed to fill it in less than two week’s time and hadn’t even used it constantly. I was shocked. I slowly placed the cap back on, gently sat the blue bottle on the bedside table, and stared at it.
I turned to sit on the side of the bed and kept staring. I took a deep breath and broke my gaze away from the bottle. I looked down at what I was wearing: one of his shirts from the laundry and my gray sweat pants. I found myself in the mirror across the room – I looked like pure hell – my eyes were almost swollen shut from all of the days of crying and I hadn’t brushed my hair since the funeral. He wouldn’t want me to be this way – not because of him.
I stood up and while staring without thought at the wall above the hamper, I undressed. I placed the sweatpants on the other dirty clothes in the basket that was now overflowing after weeks of neglect. I don’t know why, but I folded his t-shirt and placed it on top of everything else. I slowly walked into the guest bathroom, the only one with the tub, and turned on the water. I sat on the side of the tub and watched the stream of water as it became shorter and shorter and the water level was deep enough to cover me. I never took baths; I always showered and even then, I rarely did that by myself. The bath was ready and steaming. I snapped out of my trance enough to realize I had forgotten my towel. I walked back through our bedroom and grabbed one of the big plush towels and then I saw it again- that little bottle, now full, just sitting there next to the bed. I walked over to the table and picked it up. What now? Not just with the bottle because it was full, but with my life in general, which now felt so empty.
I just stood there, naked, with the towel clutched to my chest, and remembered the rest of the story he had told me about these bottles. In Roman times, the women would collect their tears in bottles. Sometimes the bottles were placed in the tombs of loved ones to show respect. In the Bible though, there was a woman that used her tears to wash the dust off of Jesus’s feet. I always thought that was a beautiful gesture.
I walked back to the tub placed my towel on the counter, my mind was wandering now, and I stared through everything that came into contact with my gaze. I sat on the edge of the tub again, turned to place my feet in and slowly eased my body under the water. The steam swirled around my face as I settled back to rest my head on wall and I inhaled the vapor. I started thinking of the first time he and I ever bathed together, he sat behind me, kissing my back and neck, he washed my hair and held me until the water started getting cold. Now I realized that I was calm and very warm except for my right hand… I was still clutching the bottle. I raised the bottle to my face -I almost hated it now- and with little hesitation I removed the lid and poured its contents into the bath water. This was my answer to “What now?”. I watched as the last drop hit the water, replaced the lid, and hung my arm over the tub and loosened my grip to let the bottle hit the floor. I want so badly to be with him again. I thought of him one more time, new tears started to flow, and plunged my head under the water.
I waited there, with my head pressed against the bottom of the tub, and held myself down by pushing on the sides of the tub. My heart was racing and my chest ached. I closed my eyes and I could see his smile and feel his embrace. The air in my lungs was running out, and I knew I had to take one more breath. Would it be a breath full of air or water? It was an easy decision. Water would fix everything, and I wouldn’t hurt anymore. A few more thoughts forced their way in, as if they were trying to make one last rebuttal in the debate I had been having with myself. I paused for another second; my chest and abdomen were twitching in protest. I opened my eyes and I could still see him, I smiled, relaxed my grip and took that breath my body was craving.
Air filled my lungs and water flowed down my face. The tears were washed away now, and I sat there quietly, hugging my knees to my chest, as I caught my breath. Every sense was intensified. The light seemed brighter, the air was crisp and wrapped itself around me, sticking to my wet skin like a cool smooth bed sheet. I even thought I could taste the salt of my tears in the bath water that was trickling down my face. I heard every little droplet as it fell from the ends of my hair and hit the water. My thoughts were as equally intense, and I felt as though I were fully awake for the first time since his death. I no longer felt depressed or angry, but more so foolish for ever thinking I had the right to end my life. Part of living is having pain that proves you are in fact alive, and having memories – good and bad – is what makes you the person you are. I was changed at that moment. I pulled myself out of the tub, wrapped the towel around me and picked up that little bottle. I was sad that I had emptied it, but in a way, those tears cleansed me of the dust I had gathered along my journey of the last two weeks, and it was time to start a new part of my life. Not a life without him, because he will always be with me, but instead, a life through different eyes. Eyes that will cry tears now and then, but will no longer provide tears for that bottle.