Post "The Last Thing I Said Was"
It had started with vodka from Minsk. Vodka in clear plastic cups from a water cooler and a couple of broken souls. He couldn't bear to go home to a house without his wife, she couldn't go home to the house where her husband still was.
People died. Iraq, Jersey, everywhere.
The only thing they could do? Sip vodka from flimsy plastic cups and look at each other across the table in the employee break room.
"Veronica," Dan said suddenly, the bottle mostly empty and both of them still staring into each others' sad eyes, "we are two of the most broken people I know."
"We are so damaged," she chuckled. A smile quirked on his lips, his beard twitching with the motion.
"Do you know anyone so screwed up as to put a cinder-block through a car windshield?"
"Besides me? Hell, no," she laughed, the alcohol in both of them concentrated enough to make it all funny.
"What about someone so royally screwed up as to care about it while their wife was dying?" he said, that dark, macabre laughter hurting her ears.
"What about someone so stupid as to cheat on their husband with a man they met in Iraq?" The air had sobered up silently, Dan divvying out the last remaining drops of all he had from his wife's homeland.
"Take heart, young padawan," he said, throwing back the last bit, "know in this world, each other we have to compare the shards to."
"Dan!" Veronica said surprised. "I never knew you were a Jedi Master."
"I am many things, Veronica," he said, shooting a basket with his plastic cup and groaning as it bounced off the edge, "but not a basketball player." His fingers immediately went to the gold ring around his finger. "Or a husband." He took the band off and flipped it onto the table.
"I suppose that doesn't make me much of a wife, either," she sighed, slipping her ring off with shaky fingers, hearing the clink as it landed next to his.
"I hate death," he said for the second time that night. "I hate that my wife is dead, I hate that patients die, I hate that your marriage died." He grew silent suddenly and she worried on her fingernails. "I don't hate you, though," he said, after a pause.
"Earlier, you said it was good that some things don't change, that it was good we still hate each other. I agreed with you then but," he stopped again, grabbing her ring and spinning it around on the table, "I don't hate you." She nodded dumbly. "You drive me crazy and you make me want to rip out my beard," he stopped to lay her ring gently back on the table, "but I don't hate you."
"Thanks, Dan," she said quietly. "I don't hate you either." He snickered then. "I know, hard to believe with the whole cinder-block deal, right?" She paused to look down at how their rings looked dull in the bright overhead lights, "but that's just my impulsive personality." The same impulsiveness that made her a lousy wife. In an attempt to change the subject, she stood quickly. "I'm going to sleep now." She walked past him quickly, stopping as she felt his fingers twining around her own, just like on the terrace. She felt the numbness seep into her limbs she always feels when she knows she's going to feel too much.
"Please, don't," he whispers. The breath in her body eased out of her gently, her face again a mask of desperation and fear. She felt the edges of all the raw, aching emotions of both their lives in the air, wallowing in the same sorrow. He stood before her, hands gripping hers ever tighter until she couldn't feel her fingers, until she couldn't feel anything anymore.
She stared into his eyes until she wasn't anymore, until both of their eyes were slammed shut and hands were gripping fiercely. Until lips were pressed roughly against each others' and his beard scraped her chin gruffly. Until she wanted to scream that this was wrong, that they had both made mistakes, wanting it to start and stop and end and begin at the same time.
Instead, she just gripped harder.