"Dani, honey, are you home?"
There was no answer. I had worked late trying to complete a project that was due the next day. When I pulled into the driveway at home, Dani's car was parked there, but when I went inside the house she was nowhere to be found.
Her purse and briefcase were sitting on the dining room table, and when I went upstairs in was plain to see that she had changed out of her work clothes because they lay in pile in front of her closet. I went back down stairs and looked into the kitchen where I saw a partially opened cabinet door and wine bottle opener lying on the white tiled counter. Dani must have a hard day I thought to myself while walking toward the backdoor to see if she was outside.
I opened the door and stepped out into the darkness. It was a moonless night and I couldn't see anything. After my eyes adjusted, I could make out the fact that she was sitting at the patio table to the right of the door.
Before I could step toward her, her voice came out of the darkness in a hiss, "I don't love you anymore, Cyrus, and I never will again."
The words were like a shotgun blast to my chest. My whole world suddenly stopped spinning, and she used the time to stand up while lifting a dark obsidian blade of an Aztec high priest from the table which she used to remove my heart from my chest, hissing as she sliced through the muscle. I couldn't make out what she was saying because I had lost the ability to translate her words into meaning. I knew it was bad because the hissing noise, and the fact that she was soon standing there before me with an evil look and holding my still beating heart up for my inspection.
In the darkness, she then raised it up toward the sky and then lowered it and took a huge bite out of it before tossing it down on the pool deck.
I began to pick out a word or two from her strange soliloquy and recognized that she was expressing a litany of her grievances against me; the total adding up to the theme of the evening which was that I wasn't much of man, and mentioning that she had stopped loving me a long time before she decided to kill our marriage off with a ritual blood sacrifice.
Her complaints were all news to me. I'll admit for the sake of honesty that there were some indications of ill winds blowing, but nothing adding up to the need for a ritual murder. At first, I was taken by surprise. I had had no idea that Jack the Ripper was waiting outside in the dark. I wanted to see her and rushed out outside with the naivety of a child. I always wanted to see her. Whenever she came home in those days, I would always rush down the stairs and outside to meet before she got out of the car.
Later, there were times that that I was convinced that I was an innocent victim of the murder. At other times, I couldn't shake the notion that it was well deserved retribution for my failures both as a husband and a man.
I admit that I wasn't anywhere near a model husband. I had my flaws. I've always had flaws. Most humans fall way short of perfection in some regard. And with knowledge of our shortcomings, comes a deeply entrenched sense of guilt that aligns very neatly with the concept of original sin. It makes it hard to argue forcefully when the person you love tells you that you aren't good enough. You need to muster up the audacity of a used car salesmen to plead that case.
I needed such audacity at that moment. Standing in the darkness bleeding from a chest wound and a fifty caliber shot to the head, I needed the comfort of knowing that I deserved a much better fate than to be murdered on a pool deck in the shadows of the night.
I understand now, sixteen years later, why Dani had to do it that way. You can't just leave a half dead marriage lying in the road to suffer and die on its on. If you must kill it, you kill it deader than hell so that it don't come back later to haunt you like that crazy fucker in I Know What You Did Last Summer.
Our twenty-one-year-old marriage died immediately, and so did any chance of a reconciliation. You could never completely trust someone who is capable of ripping your heart out of your body and eating a chunk out of it. Ironically, there was still the ghost of love wandering around in each of our wounded hearts. I was still in love with known killer and she with a zombie. Fuck.
The biggest problem was that we were both still very much alive and living in close proximity of each other and we had a family. It took me a few hours of blindly stumbling around in the darkness before I snapped back into reality. I couldn't just stand there forever gaping like a fish out of water. I had to become like Osiris or Frankenstein and put my shit back together. I had to pick up my heart, of course, and tear my t-shirt into pieces to bind up my wounds.
Long afterwards, there were stitches on my forehead, stitches in my chest, and stitches in my heart which always murmurs a bit because of the missing chunk, and I still have a tendency to lean to the side while I shuffling down the hallways of existence like a lost zombie with my arms outstretched and the muffled words, "What the fuck, Dani," stuck in my throat.
One of these days though, when the time is exactly right, I am going to go outside in the dark and lie down on that patio table and open up my mouth up wide to catch the light from a passing star. I'll close my eyes tightly while fingering the raised stitches on my chest and fall asleep, and I'll awake in the morning and rise up all shiny and new.
And the first words from my new formed mouth will be barely louder than a whisper, barely louder than the morning breeze, "I love you, Dani. I always will."