7:59. I watch the alarm clock patiently as the seconds drift by. It's a pointless exercise, I have to admit. After all, I'm wide awake and there's nothing stopping me from getting out of bed right now. I could just flick the switch and turn the alarm off, but I simply feel like lying here, just as I've felt like doing little more than lying about for the past few months. Even breathing feels like a chore sometimes and
There it is. That shrill EEE! EEE! EEE! sound. The thought suddenly occurs to me that this is the last time I'll ever hear that noise, but I'm neither happy nor sad about it. I'm merely . . . contemplative. I quickly flick the switch as she moans softly beside me, turning to face the warm sunlight streaming through the bedroom window.
I reply to her sleepy moan with a soft sigh of my own. Nothing reminds you more of why you love someone than the innocent looks on their face as they sleep. At least, nothing reminds me of why I love someone than that. I gently push the hair away from her forehead as I lean over her and kiss her cheek. She moans softly one more time and smiles. It's the type of thing that can make even grown men weep to see an expression of love so pure it's expressed in her sleep and yet I feel no emotion at all. I love her and admire her as much as I do the day we met, but now I only feel sterile feelings like respect and calculated admiration, but not those sensational feelings that make you feel like you're electrified. I don't even feel bad about not feeling anything. I just don't feel anymore.
She lies smiling softly in the morning sunlight and pulls the blanket tighter. I sigh and finally roll out of bed. My ankles click loudly as I put weight upon them. When did I suddenly turn old? Where exactly has the time gone? Just yesterday she and I were dancing at the prom, listening to Forever Young and today we've been married for six years with a deadend job, two cars and a mortgage. They say time flies when you're having fun, so I must have been having fun, right? Maybe I have been having fun all along, but I just don't like it. Sort of like my cousin who hates pizza- I thought every one loves pizza, but apparently not. Maybe it just runs in the family?
I walk to the bathroom and look at myself in the mirror. I'm already fully clothed. I have deep bags under my eyes and a five o'clock shadow, which is hardly surprising because I've been up all night. And yet I'm not tired. I know what I have to do today. I know right where the guard rail is
Stop thinking about it. Just brush your teeth and shave. I reach for the toothbrush when the notion strikes me that there's no point. I turn the brush over a few times in my hands, but shrug and reach for the toothpaste anyhow. I get myself looking presentable for the day. Except for the shadows beneath my eyes. I can't really do anything about those.
I walk out of the bathroom and down the hallway. The family photos on the wall watch me, judging me. My parents. My pizza-hating cousin. Even myself as a child. Glares in colour and sepia tones. In some small way I've failed them all, and I know they'd all disapprove of what I'm going to do, if they knew. But they'll never know, as long as I make it look like an accident
Stop thinking about it. I walk to the coffee pot and get a cup brewing. A small bluebird lands on the other side of the kitchen window will and chirps cheerfully at me. It's such a beautiful and graceful creature with a splendid song. I recognise its beauty and yet I'm still unmoved by it. I stand watching it for a few moments as it cocks its head this way and that, studying me as well before losing interest and flying away.
The coffee finishes brewing as I pour a cup and think about the bird flying freely through the warm spring sunshine. I open the refrigerator and pull out the milk jug, pouring a little into the coffee. An idea runs through my head, and I lift the gallon directly to my lips, drinking directly from the jug. For once, I'm not afraid of getting in trouble for doing that. I screw the lid back on, sloshing the small remaining amount in the bottom of the jug as another thought drifts through my mind. I could play a prank and drink the rest and put the empty jug back and
Nah, I'm not that cruel. My little angel could use that milk on her Fruity Pebbles. But it does give me an idea. I open the freezer and pull the ice cube trays out. Our first major fight was over the ice cube tray, all because I put them back empty. Ever since that fight, I'd jokingly return the trays to the freezer empty if she was standing around to see it. It always got a laugh out of her, and even when I'd legitimately forget to fill them again, she'd just laugh through her annoyance since we both agreed life was too precious to let little things like that be such big issues.
I empty the remaining cubes into the sink and put the tray back into the freezer. One last joke for old times' sake. I sip my coffee as I walk past the glaring photos one more time. I open the door to my little angel's room and stand in the doorway. She's curled up tight beneath her Pinkie Pie bedsheet, her face glowing in the morning sun drifting through her window.
Bringing her into this world is the only thing I've ever done right. And her existence is because I screwed up. Because of those ice cubes, I got into an argument. Because of the argument, my wife and I made up. Because we made up . . . heh. She's here because of those damned ice cubes. And even though I did well by bringing her into this world, I've not not a great job at treating her well. I look upon her sleeping face and feel horribly bittersweet.
I'm sorry I missed your ballet recital. I'm sorry I forgot to take you to the zoo that weekend I promised I would. Tears begin to pool up in my eyes. I'm sorry I never got you that fucking puppy you've always wanted. I'm sorry I was never able to take care of you the way I should have. I know you don't understand, but the insurance money will take care of you in ways I'd never be able to, and you'll be all the better for it.
A tear falls from my eyelid as I turn and pull the door halfway closed behind me. I pause briefly, and turn back into her room. I walk very slowly toward her as my lip quivers uncontrollably. I lean over to kiss her and she whispers in her sleep, "I love you too, Daddy." I look up to the ceiling, blinking as I try to flush the tears back into my eyes. I turn away and walk back toward the door. I stop as I pass her dresser and look at the piggy bank atop it.
I pull out my wallet. Nothing in there except for a lone $20 bill. I remove the money and a pen from my pocket and begin scribbling a note on the border in blue ink. "You can be anything you want to be. I'm so proud of you. I'll always love you, now and forever." I fold up the bill and tuck it into the bank and quickly walk out of the room, pulling the door closed until I hear it click softly.
The lift the trembling mug to my lips, but the coffee is bland and flavourless. Moments ago I was enjoying it, but I realise that it was bland and flavourless even then. Why is it that any food you are enjoying becomes appalling once you've started crying? I remember the sandwich I was eating when I heard my father died. It was the most disgusting sandwich I'd ever eaten, but I recall how much I liked it just seconds before I'd heard the news.
Now is not the time to be having second thoughts. I know what I have to do. I sip a little more of the coffee, but I cannot finish the mug. I walk to the sink and pour the rest out. I watch as the warm coffee floods the sink and the remains of the ice cubes melt away.