The silk was smothering his hands; he felt incredibly awkward. It wasn’t his place and it certainly wasn’t familiar territory to him. In the past he’d only ever hand out credit cards or cheque books, it was easier that way, and he didn’t have to strain himself by dishing out opinions or receive dirty looks from onlookers in their cashmere cardigans, or whatever it is they wear. He could spend thousands of pounds without leaving the comfort of his own chair. He’d just sit back and wait for six o’clock to roll on by and with it, a suitcase full of ‘treats’ that he daren‘t even look at, let alone touch. The price tags alone were enough to put him off for life.
And yet here he is, shopping in his own unique way. Twenty two years and his hard earned cash amounts to this, an underwear drawer of such value that even he daren’t rummage too recklessly so as to damage the expensive Indian fabrics. Each and every thread so carefully woven into this two bit piece of lace and degradation, the prize poodle to your strip club of a dog show. It sickens him to think of his wife wearing these garments, how her painful expression can be imagined as she sits astride “her handsome knight”, wearing nought but a double D sag-preventer. It had been a while, as can be assumed, since Murphy Salt had last gazed upon his wife of forty five years, bearing it all to the world in the purest of fashions; all that nature intended her to be. He had, however, been doing the deed for the past few months now all in aid of a brighter future, full of youthful smiles and expensive nappies. He and Liz were going through the latter stages of their adult lives, soon to be embarking on the great journey that is official retirement. Naturally, their greatest fear was that they’ll leave the world without having a child, to experience what they’d experienced, suffer what they had suffered. Twenty two years is, after all, a very long time, and it was an embarrassment for them both to have not raised offspring already. It was decided, during the early Spring of 2010, that these two parties would consent to having each others throngs of passion forced together in aid of continuing the human race. The box of tissues was removed from the bed side table, replaced with a calender and black marker pen, and the ladies copy of Wuthering Heights was to be exchanged for a Book of Baby Names and a notepad titled recommendations (to be checked and listed in order of preference at a later date).
When Murphy lunged back into action, rooting amongst the weave of cloth, it became apparent that what was to be sought should not be sought here. Marie was a significantly higher class lady than Liz, and whilst these particular unmentionables were worth more than all Marie could ever dream of owning, they had a distinct air of disappointment, of dissatisfaction and tastelessness. What would a young, vibrant, twenty-something bit of skirt be doing with tools of seduction picked out by a withering ancient, and besides, he didn’t want to be reminded of married life every time he went to unhook the bra. It was a separate life.
He was about to peel away his hand when he felt a sudden peculiarity. A hard, pointed edge of paper or card. The mystery of such an object, to have been found in no less of a cliché than someone’s underwear draw, was too much of a surprise for the old man. He recoiled, though he had no idea why. It was as though a spider had crawled from behind the old wooden chest, along the flat table and onto his hand. He was quick to dismiss the secrecy and took it upon himself to break the vow his wife had made with herself. He once again slipped his fingers into the mish-mash of pinks and purples, of silks and cottons, until he felt the cold rigidity of the paper object. He pulled it out and with it fell a clump of clothing. He placed the anonymous object onto the bed and filled the now seemingly empty drawer with all that was strewn about the floor. When he was done he carefully closed it, made sure it was pressed firmly against the edges of the chest, and turned to what could now be clearly identified as a prescription packet.
On first glance he assumed Liz was ill. Deathly ill. Some form of malignant cancer that was slowly eating the old bat from the inside out. He was sure of it, no doubt in his mind. Old Murphy he was, wise and proud with no doubt in his mind. Reluctant to find the real treasure from this hidden ‘parcel’, he allowed himself the opportunity to go straight to his conclusion. Diagnosis, Mr. Dr. Murphy Sir? It was likely breast cancer, and she only had a few months to live; she was too old to fight it. She had been savouring the last moments of her time in this world by gorging herself on the delicacy that is heated, passionate sex; sex with her husband, the only person she’d ever loved. In that instant he felt as though he were gazing down upon himself from the clouds. He could see himself with some heavenly, godlike halo circling his head – it was gold and gleaming and obscenely expensive. He also saw himself as a hero; she needed him in her hour of need and he was obliging and merciful. She may have treated him like shit in the past with all the mysterious rendezvous’ with clientele – the young gym trainer back in ’98 who wouldn’t say no – and he secretly hated her for it, but at the same time he was grateful. The dedication she displayed, the faith she had in their relationship, it all meant so much more than simple forgiveness, he’d drawn her away and he stole her back. Never again would Murphy come second, at least not in her lifetime. And then as quickly as it was first conjured, the halo turned to sand.
He swooped from up high to deep beneath the earth, crashing as he went. Down below the earths crust, beneath the mantle and magma to the core of it all. To hell and the Devil and an endless suffering. The flames licked his skin, embers sprouted from volcanoes of black lava and in all this burning heat he grew colder and fearful. At last, from along a great track, came a beaten up man wearing brushes in his coat pockets. He tugged at his collar as though he too felt a chill of disaster. He called himself a painter and that for Murphy, he’d paint a very undesirable portrait. He extended a long, thin finger and pointed toward the tunnel he had just emerged from. A friend of his, the artist, as he described him, would be along very soon, and Murphy looked at him with contempt. As an arm tugged at Murphy’s cuff, and with his last look towards the surface, he saw Liz bend down and weep eternally, ‘til her lungs consumed the sadness and she began to drown. In his search for affection, for the love of a beautiful woman, to see the lady he had dreamt about be laid bare and willing, he had forgotten the one who was behind him always. The one who had suffered to science and its incurable truth. The one who sought love and peace where there was only lust and disgust. She needed him to want her and he used her as a vessel, carrying him from middle aged madness and desperation to what shell of a king he is today. He wretched and pleaded that this sight be drawn from his mind and so, obedient to serve his will, he was led away by the shade.
A single tear plunged from his eye, down and across his cheek to the corner of his mouth. He could taste the saltiness of it. His wife slowly pushed aside the door and crept in. He raised his balding, wiry grey head and stared into her stunned green eyes. They darted down towards the bed and the bagged prescription, then quickly back to him. She blinked and then she too sent a tear rolling towards her mouth in the same fashion as his. He moved his thick pink lips but no words came. She too attempted to form a response, nothing. He clenched his eyes tightly together and more tears came. They leaned as if held by wires, staring into each others faces, not eyes, as if to gesture a response. Anything?! They were crying out for something to be done.
A wall between them had to be broken. It was in that moment that Murphy glided towards her and, though she made an attempt to recoil, thrust his arms around her, gripping tightly to the shoulders of her bony physique. She begun to weep into his hulking chest and he too sent out a cry of remorse; a man in mourning. He was angered by the injustice of her fate, but held it back between grimaced teeth and quivering lips. Her nose was bent and buckling under the pressure he was inflicting upon her, as though he could not let her go if only to preserve her for but a moment longer than possible; for a moment longer than necessary.
They stood entangled on that cool, June evening like two shards of obsidian, formed together as a black, soulless swell of rough edges and sharp points. And in that moment, in that second, as if light were refracted through the great windows of their bedroom, the deep purples and reds from within were shone about and beyond the room, covering everything they’d ever owned, everything they’d ever touched or loved and cherished. The gleam of those fierce, showing fangs were like glass, slowly cracking under the pressure of their immaculate emotion. They were in that exact moment as perfect as they could have ever believed.
A miracle of nature’s will to stay close, to avoid being alone, expressing a desire to die knowing you have someone wanting to die with you, waiting to die for you. And then Liz, between gulps of tears and air, and Murphy, between coughing up shards of guilt, came side by side, ear to ear, softly whispered almost simultaneously to each other;
“I’m just not ready to start a family yet”, and “She never meant as much to me, as you do right now”.