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  • Diana Johnson

A Thousand Sundays

A short, sad story.


I opened my swollen eyes and saw my forearm laid out in front of me on the bed, my fist closed around our wedding rings. The late afternoon sun tried its best to creep in around the yellowing blinds but only served to warm the room with a bronze haze. I opened my hand and studied my palm. Which line was life? Which was love? I traced them around the rings with the index finger of my other hand, down to the joint of my wrist. I followed the bumpy rope of the vessels lying just under the surface of my skin. Then I felt it. I felt my pulse. I was alive. I had survived. I had woken up and my heart was pumping. My lungs filled with air, and emptied, and filled again. I felt my legs under the weight of my Aunt Lyda's quilt. Damn it to hell, Lyda. Why? Why are you still sewing quilts and he's gone? I kicked myself out from under the covers, sending them hurdling off the end of the bed. I threw myself to my feet and stood stock still, listening for a clue for what to do next.


I heard nothing but decided to move anyway.


Turning down the hall, I started toward the rooms where we lived our lives. The kitchen was idle; the dining room table strewn with my purse, keys, and coat. I walked to the couch. I stood in front of it, staring. Staring at the last place I saw him. Staring at the left arm where he always laid his head; one pillow under, one pillow over, held in place my his big arm hooked across the top. I stared at the sag in the middle cushion. How much thinner it was than the rest. We beat the life out of this couch squatting over dinners at the coffee table, playing games, and cards, and hours of drawing when Beth was little. No wonder he always woke up stiff after his afternoon naps. There couldn't have been any support left in that middle section. Then I stared at the right arm and the permanent divot left exactly in the middle of its length where his monster feet lay crossed at the ankles in clean white socks, never so much as budging an inch to the left or right. The groove was so prominent I had a hard time disengaging his heels from it when I drug him to the floor exactly twenty-four hours ago.


I'd come in like I had every Sunday afternoon for a thousand years and grabbed his toes and gave them a gentle squeeze. Yes, I woke him from his nap every Sunday, upon his request!

"I'm gonna shut down for an hour, Georgie Girl. Please wake me by three and we'll get into something."

He'd kiss me and assume his coveted position on this couch. I never got him up with just one squeeze. The toes were just the first wave. Then I would fix a cup of coffee, loudly. And then I'd turn on my music. Then, as if he'd swallowed an alarm clock, he would release a rumbling fart and eject himself from the couch exclaiming some disastrous event had taken place.


"Georgia! It's the Russians again!"

"Take cover its a twister!"

"Everybody down, he's got a gun!"


I always laughed. I never laughed at his lame jokes. I never laughed when he clowned for our daughter and her friends. His puns were so far-reaching that he always felt the need to explain them. But every Sunday for a thousand years, I laughed out loud at those thunderous fart gags.


I would trade the rest of my life on Earth for one more.


I stared at that couch trying to agree with what happened there yesterday. I tried the toe squeeze, I fixed my coffee, and Barry White was blaring on the radio. But he didn't budge. I crossed with my cup and planted my ass on the coffee table next to his head. "Ham!" I nagged and a tug of his overlapping arm revealed the cold flesh of an empty body. I tore the pillow away from his stone face and violet lips. I grabbed his face and screamed into it. "Hamilton Ramsey! Wake up!" I tripped to the phone, spilling my coffee and scolding God like a toddler who was heading for a hot stove. "No, no, no, God! NO! NO! NO!"


"Nine-one-one, what is your emergency?"

I stared at the couch where I cried to a stranger clinching the phone in the crook of my neck while I wrestled him to the floor. The heavy table under me disappeared and I knelt down in the puddle of my coffee, pounding on his chest. What was she saying?


"I'm trying!"

"What pulse?"

"Breathe!"


He was cold. He was blue. What the fuck was she talking about?


I stood there, staring at that couch when my eyes heated up with the sting of white hot tears that raced each other down my cheeks.


He's gone. He's really gone...and I'm still here.

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