Again, I find myself sitting, sluggishly, on the cracked wooden stairs, in the musty basement of my tiny one bedroom apartment. The stale humidity in the air, and the inescapable heat, leaves me dripping in sweat and sorrow.
Lonelier than ever, I begin to cry. “What have I become?” I ask the echoes of my ghastly white walls. I then hear droplets of water lazily dripping from the kitchen faucet. Was that my response? As I begin to feel another migraine headache approaching, my fingers aim towards my throbbing forehead. In a frenzy, I open my kitchen cabinet, which always makes an annoying squeaky sound every time I open it, find my bottle of extra- strength Advil, and with trembling hands pour spring water into the first glass in sight. There! I finally popped three pills into my mouth. These migraines just keep getting worse! The sun’s rays, beaming through my kitchen window, is stinging my eyes while I squint in frustration, wishing for the nightfall. Looking at my watch, I discover it is only 1:00pm. Oh, why is time escaping me?
Every time I get a migraine attack, I follow a special ritual which keeps me sane- despite what they tell me. Ah, yes… I am going back in time now… it is the Fall of 1987. Boy, was I beautiful then…
I am sitting on ma’s cherry wood chair now, my prized possession, given to me right before she passed away. Her presence helps me . She comes to me as a yellow light. Yes, I can smell her exotic perfume now! Mamma never needed to take any pills. Why does my head always hurt? I begin to cry and wish she were here to hold me and tell me that all will be fine. Ti amo, Mamma…
I am slowly starting to feel the pain disappear and in great relief continue to massage my forehead more gently now .
I turn on my stereo and play my favorite tape called, Misty Rainfall . Suddenly all that is heard is the soft trickling sound of rain, caressing my body like a gentle summer drizzle. My head is swaying from side to side to side and I’m humming an old familiar tune to myself. Musical notes are flowing right through my soul and embracing me with its love. The tension in my head is gradually dissipating . Peace is the white cushiony cloud from up above and the beautiful arc angel dressed in white is calling my name ever so sweetly.
Then, the familiar sound of footsteps re-awaken me and bring me into my nightmare . As I open my eyes, I see a figure. It is- Him. Joe’s ghost is standing tall in front of me. His hands are flaring in the air, like two flaming torches, ready to burn the serenity that just entered me. His words sound like thunder and his eyes, two lightening bolts, wish to electrocute my body into paralysis. Oh, I can feel his taunting presence right before me, camouflaged as a dark twirling shadow against a wall.. .
“Hey, I am speaking to you- what the hell are you doing? What is this business of sitting around all day doing nothing? Supper better be ready!!!”
He always wore his black suit on Fridays and of course no matter what time of the day it was, his suit always looked neatly pressed, even after a long day of hard work. Well, he called it hard work anyway .
Trickles of raindrops, soothing my soul
Your words cannot hurt me as they become
Distant sounds from the forest…
I am drifting, drifting, away, like a little bluebird
Whenever my husband arrived home, it was always done obtrusively- never a hello, nor a kiss, not a hint of recognition of what I meant to him. But, it was HIS house anyway. What rights did I have – for the exception of having his name? As demanded, the table was always elegantly set on red linen, the food authentically delicious, and the wine set at room temperature. My gourmet cooking classes did pay off. Unlike most wives, I had many skills. Sure, I loved to shop, but there was more to life than that. Money did buy me happiness – or so I thought.
Joe was the wild ferocious lion, and I the meek mouse. Acts of violence excited him, like a madman on a rush. I was his pretty little prey.
“Enough!!! Now, get ready for tonight’s banquet and make it fast! Mamma mia, hide those disgusting bruises and put on a black evening dress. He motioning with his beastly hands in pure disgust. I want to slap him, tear him into pieces and then feed him to the lions, but instead, all that I do, is nod in agreement. “Don’t forget, you have to look classy tonight. You will be meeting some important people. You know, those politicians that I mentioned the other evening…” Classy, yes, of course, I guess my black evening gown will do – it is a Versace. I am a walking label after all.
I used to rush upstairs in a panic every time he mentioned these superfluous banquets. I knew that meant playing the role of the perfect wife, “What a pleasure to finally have met you, Mr. Giovanni, …. nodding my head in accordance to whatever was being said, like a puppet unaware of her execution.
We had three Roman style bathrooms, yet I always used the smallest one in the basement of the house. This tiny bathroom with baby blue painted walls had mirrors across the left side wall and ceiling. Somehow, mirrors intrigued me – almost felt like an extension to my soul. I undressed, ever so tentatively, dreading the moment of truth. I couldn’t look behind me. My purple bruises covered my long arched back. Those bruises had become a part of me, perhaps a dark camouflage of my pain. Yet my body, no matter how provocative it looked, no longer spoke to me, “You are my possession, Nadina, like my house, my car, my rolex watch, That’s ALL you are to me”…
As I looked into the mirror once more, I hardly recognized my reflection. My 30 year old face, fake tan, tinted auburn hair and my black evening gown was perfectly fitted to my mummified body. “Nadina, it is now time to feel like a perfect wife – exuberant, elegant, exquisite … that is what you must project to the rest ”, I used to whisper these futile words quietly to myself, like in a ceremonious chant and graciously, walked up the marble stairs to meet him.
“ Do I look elegant enough for you, now?” Am I worthy enough to be called your wife ?”
“Yah, let’s go! We’re late. We don’t have time for stupid questions.”
Of course, my husband looked deceptively handsome . Every single strand of his jet black hair was immaculately gelled back in its proper place. His charcoal colored flannel suit, off-white silk shirt and cream-colored silk tie were perfectly matched. Oh, how can I possibly forget his expensive French cologne, its sensual scent, a trap for any vulnerable woman. Lust, oh yes, I had given myself to the devil and he now owned my body.
We barely uttered a word in the car. Racing on the highway, in his favorite black BMW convertible, my husband seemed untouchable that night. Sicilian classical ballads were playing in the background, setting the mood for the momentous evening at the banquet hall. The thick smoky air, made my eyes squint in an unfamiliar way, and despite my resistance, tears fell down my cheeks. Yet, he didn’t see my eyes, nor hear my soft whimpering sound. He had become my shield of ice, which froze away any emotion that may have been felt in his presence.
Just as he turned left on the main road of the banquet hall, he pulled out his square-shaped mirror, along with small plastic bag. At a red light, he gently poured a small amount of white powder onto the mirror. He smiled at me mischievously, anticipating the exhilarating feeling that would soon overcome him. “ Do you want some, eh Come on, Nady baby, don’t you like to feel good anymore ? I nod my head visciously from side to side, too afraid t utter the word “no” to him. Eh, you’ve become so boring!!!”
Sitting in the passenger seat that night, I felt like a stranger. How I had wished that I were a star among the midnight sky. That evening, I became a stranger to myself, an enamored cripple mourning over a long perished love. But, I had intentionally missed its funeral. I ran away that night with $300 in my wallet and never came back.
A wife’s grave is a lonely place
For how can any woman feel alive, if she has never died?
I now open my eyes find myself confined among these four walls. Where has the time gone? They are calling my name, “Ms. Canno… supper is ready… how are you felling now?” I no longer hear the leaky faucet nor am I sitting on the stairs, overlooking a ghastly white wall. Who are these unfamiliar voices calling my name from a hospital room? One woman with blonde hair tied up in a pony tail with black-framed glasses is looking over me, she seems concerned. Why does she have that look of pity all over her face? What is wrong with me??? Can I move, I don’t feel my arms or legs. Now a man, in a bright blue uniform is holding a glass of water, with two red pills… “I do not have a headache!” I whisper to him in bitterness. My words seem to be troubling him because someone else is standing right behind him now and is holding something in his hand. I let out a shriek and enter my grave.
A wife’s grave is a lonely place
It looks like a pile of ashes
Hoping to metamorphose into a garden of flowers
My wish never came true. I will await metamorphosis in another lifetime.
Anna Panunto lives in Montreal, Quebec. She is of Italian origin and speaks three languages. Anna is an adult education teacher both at McGill University and at a local school board. She has been writing poetry for over two decades. Since 1997, she has published poetry books, a play, and several short stories along with educational articles on poetry. Her two greatest loves are her dog Beulah and her partner, Tony. They give her life meaning and purpose.