My heart is pounding from the adrenaline rushing through my body. “Steady, girl. Stay steady,” I mumble to myself. I take a deep breath and draw the cool evening air into my lungs. It slides down like smooth butterscotch syrup over vanilla
bean ice cream. I smile at the feeling. I can hear the buzzing, ticking and hissing sounds of the late November evening in northern Virginia. It is very different from Chicago, where I grew up. By late November we would be wrapped up in scarves and pulling
our hats down low in a feeble attempt to protect our skin from “the hawk”—the wind that blows in from Lake Michigan. The only sounds we would hear would be the howling gales as they tried to force their way into the cracks of our wool and
But here, tonight, all is well. It is a crisp autumn evening. I try to steady my nerves as I stand exposed, lurking under the elevated deck of my prey.
I am going to kill him. I do not mean this as a figurative “Just wait
until I get my hands on you! I am going to kill you!” I mean a literal “Just let me get my hands on you! I am going to kill you!”
The lights are slowly extinguishing inside the house, and the point of no return is rapidly approaching.
I know what is taking place inside the house because I have been through it before. First, there is dinner. He will either make something really simple like mac and cheese from a box, or he will re-heat some leftovers from one of his client lunches. He always
has leftovers from client lunches because the cheap bastard doesn’t believe in paying for his own meals. “Why pay?” he would say. “There are so many people dying to get into my pants, I could eat free lunch for a year.”
to get into my pants was his expression for people trying to do business with him. The man at the Genius Bar: dying to get into his pants. The woman in the shoe department at Macy’s: dying to get into his pants. Every relationship he had, whether
fleeting or life-long, was merely a dance with all of the people who were ‘dying to get into his pants.’
After dinner he will spend a couple of hours on the couch, playing fetch with his amped up Boston Terrier, Sophie, and surfing the Internet.
At 11:00 p.m. he will watch the first fifteen minutes of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and then begin the ritual of retiring to bed. He will put the harness and leash on Sophie and walk through the house, turning out all of the lights. His last stop will
be the sliding glass doors that lead from the kitchen to the outside deck. He will leave the deck light on and walk Sophie down the stairs to the backyard. These are the same stairs where I am waiting.
I see the lights go out—one by one—until
just the deck is illuminated. I can hear the doors open, and I sense his weight stepping onto the planks above me. I hear him make that obnoxious phuck-phuck sound he makes with his pursed lips to summon the dog. Normal people would just whistle or
call the animal’s name, but not him. No, he has to pucker up and make that annoying sound reminiscent of the last remnants of mayonnaise being sucked up from of the bottom of the container.
“Come, Sophie,” he finally says when she
completely ignores him. “It’s time to go potty so we can go nighty-nights.”
I hear Sophie’s steps, lively and erratic, as she races toward the gate that leads to the stairs. I wait to hear her come bounding down, but the steps
suddenly stop. “What are you waiting for?” I hear him ask. “Let’s go.” I hear his feet advancing toward the bottom of the stairs, and with a slight whine, Sophie follows behind.
I take in another deep breath and steel myself
for what is to come. I have to kill him. There are laws in the universe that must be honored. The law I am working with right now is the payback is a bitch law. If you screw me, I screw you right back.
He is just a few feet away now; I can
smell his cologne. It has faded from the day, but the aroma still lingers. He has reached the bottom of the stairs, and Sophie is sniffing around for the perfect place to relieve herself. She looks at me with the quizzical expression I used to love. I loved
everything about Sophie. She was my dog, really, not his. She was mine, right up until the day that I died.
It was an evening much like this one. I was sitting in the garage, in my car with my eyes closed, rocking out to P!NK and Kelly Clarkson. The
engine was still running. He hated it when I did that, and he told me so numerous times. “Why don’t you just come in the house?” he would huff. “You are wasting gas, and that music is too loud.”
I sat there a few minutes,
and then suddenly realized the garage door was down. I never close it because the car was running, and that wouldn’t be very smart. I punched the button on the door opener, but the door did not rise. I reached forward to depress the ignition button to
turn the car off, but the car continued to run. I began to panic and my breathing accelerated. This was, of course, the worst thing possible as the carbon monoxide was filling my lungs. I was light-headed, and my fingers were not working properly. I could
not roll the window down; I could not open the car door. The only thing I could do was sit there and feel my life slowly leave me.
It took so long to return here tonight because of my angst over what would happen to Sophie. I did not want her to be
traumatized. I did not want her to wander the neighborhood and fall prey to the animals that rule the night. I had to make sure that she would be safe. So I have made a few trips back over the weeks, just to make sure she would recognize me. Whenever he took
her out for a walk, I walked beside them to make sure that she knew I was there. She did. Every time she saw me, she would cock her head to the side and stare at me. “What’re you doing, Mom? Where’ve you been?” her look would say to
me. When this is over, I will walk her to the neighbor’s house and ring the doorbell. They will find her and, subsequently, they will find him.
How did we get to this place? How did two people who have lived together for 15 years come to cause
each other’s deaths? I am not sure, but as I sat in that car, fading from this world, I knew that he had done it. He staged my death so that he could live his life without me. He could not stand the sound of my voice or the sound of my snoring any longer.
Did we fight? No. Did he cheat? Who knows? People are only as faithful as their options, but I did not care to find out. He did not mean that much to me. In fact, he meant very little to me at all. Most of the time I was pretending that he wasn’t there.
In my imagination I was a cool, single hipster living with her feisty Boston Terrier, Sophie, and that man wandering around the house was just the hired help.
Clearly he was having similar thoughts about me.
It is time. His death, like mine,
will be just a tragic accident.
I rip the gutter down, spout away from the house, and shove it toward his head. He turns around just in time to see it crashing onto his face. He stumbles and falls forward onto the patio, cracking his head hard against
the brick pavers. He is dazed. I grab the garden hose and walk over to him as he lies prone on the ground. I put my full weight on his back and push his face down as I release water onto the ground beneath his nose. A pool of water forms and he is struggling
to raise his head, but he cannot. I can hear him gurgling and gasping for air as water fills his lungs.
As soon as he stops moving, I release him. I am exhausted.
“Come, Sophie,” I say, and she follows me next door.