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Irreconcilable Differences

The forgettable is forgotten

Noel slipped out of the sheets like a ghost from a grave. The cumbersome by design alarm clock on the bedside table blinked 3:42.

She never slept well in hotels, not even ones with 1000 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets and a memory foam mattress. Noel would curl her stiff,wrinkled limbs into a ball, like she did as a child jumping into Lake St Lucia.

If only she was as strong as a cannonball.


If only she was as everlasting as one.

The sheets on the side of the bed closest to the door remained pristine as she padded her way around the foot of the king-sized bed. Had beds always been this massive? Noel didn’t know if it was her hazy memory, or if big beds too were just a byproduct of comfort that Howard used to bestow upon her.

With a strike of a bony, curled hand, she wrenched the duvet down, ruining the virgin snowbank of the Hyatt hotel suite.

She scrunched her face up and entered the modern bathroom, complete with one of those flat sinks that in her opinion didn’t count for squat.

Despite her arthritis, she turned on the tap and splashed some water in her face. Closing her eyes, letting the cold water vacuum her skin closed. When she rubbed and rubbed the water from her tired eyes, she held her breath for her wish to come true.

She opened her eyes and disappointment cascaded through her skeleton like a dilapidated house finally falling down.

It was only her.

He didn't stand behind her, shaving his beard, singing My Girl by the Temptations anymore. They used to laugh, then he'd nick his neck, and she'd go fetch a plaster.

Instead, dark lurid space coiled around her, licking at the edges of the mirror’s muted  lighting. The emptiness unhinged its jaw wide, beckoning for a taste of her sullen soul and sun-spotted skin.

When she was a child outside Pretoria, she once saw a black mamba open its dark maw and launch into a persimmon tree. She didn’t understand why the dark wanted her now, when her limbs hung bereft of leaves, and fruitless by the cruel pickings of time.

She placed her hands on the wet, flat marble sink, her wedding ring clacking like their old wagon used to before they upgraded to the bucket-seated roadster.

Now that Noel thought about it, that sports car should’ve been the first sign that she’d be here without Howard. She should’ve foresaw that after so many times she held his hand, listened to his words, pressed her lips against his, that only she’d remain.

She couldn’t remember much now, even with her prescriptions with the easy-open cap for Aricept and Reminyl in her handbag. She forgot where she put her phone and what color her front door was, prompting her to check into the Hyatt.

Yet, she remembered where his hand held her back for their first dance as a married couple, and the lightness of her white lace dress.

She recalled the acidic churn of her stomach at being betrayed by the language in the divorce papers that cited: irreconcilable differences. She knew it really meant, she isn’t the same woman I married.

She remembered he vowed ‘til death do us part’.

Only Howard wasn’t dead.

And neither quite was she.

Power in Numbers




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