Chapter 2 Murder in the First Degree
I had been telling anyone who would listen that Jenny had killed me, murdered me in cold blood, and that I was doing my best Lazarus impression trying to rise up from the grave. I told them, those who would listen, that I had my head out, but my pants leg was stuck on something, and it was delaying my grand entrance back into the society of the living.
I knew the story was a lie. I knew that I was dead and hollow long before that dark night when she had deftly removed my heart and tossed it on the ground. It was the size of hard little raisin by then, and my insides were as rotten as a cantaloupe cut from the vine and left out in the sun to dry. Flies buzzed around my head and vultures hovered above me as if they could sense that I had all the will of a squashed dog lying in a middle of the backcountry road on a hot summer day.
By all accounts I should have been very happy by then, but I was far too crazy to have ever measured happiness by a successful career, a house, two kids, and a lot of debt. I heard footsteps. The loud, ever present footsteps of the grim reaper coming up behind me. Footsteps that said I couldn’t rest because the moment I did, it was over. It might take 15- 20 years, but the moment I quit moving, I was dead. The rest of my life would have been as a ghost doing ghostly things with all the other ghosts who weren’t quite dead but not alive enough to be counted among the living.
I knew that it was ironic, fleeing from death and yet dying at the same time. The ceaseless forward movement cutting me off from any enjoyment of the moment, I was lost in a forest of my own creation. It was dark, crazy place full of lunatics, religious fanatics, drugged up saints, liars and thieves. The animals all laid low in this forest, afraid that the bored housewives and their blood- thirsty children would tear them to freaking bits. The point being I was lost and confused and the background noises were driving me crazy. Hell, even the silence inside my head was like listening to Ozzie Osborne on a scratchy LP at 78 speed.
God, if he was looking, couldn’t find me, and if he was calling my name trying to get my attention, I couldn’t hear it above the din. That’s what made everything so crazy. Jenny would look at me seriously. She would peer hard into my eyes trying to see something, and I guess on the surface, I looked pretty normal.
I tried to explain that I felt weird. I didn’t know shit about existentialism at this time, or anything like that; at least not enough understand that any person with the slightest bit of self-awareness should have been feeling somewhat the way that I was feeling. I was lost in the dark crazy woods with nightmares that were within nightmares, and my vocabulary to describe the experience was no better than that of school child.
She just thought I was slacking, trying out to get out of things that I didn’t want to do, and that might have been partially true. That is if what I didn’t want do was become like everyone else and pretend that life wasn’t the craziest shit ever. I wanted to feel better. I wanted to understand what I should do about the footsteps I kept hearing, and becoming comfortably acclimated to life inside the insane asylum wasn’t a high priority.
There were signs, but they were like the road signs on the side of highway that you have traveled every day for one hundred years. The kids were grown up and gone and the glue that held our common story together was fast dissolving in the humidity neglect and the diminished hope of advancing age.
She would come home from work, give me the obligatory kiss at the door, and then head up stairs for a bath and bed. The sun outside was still seeping through the blinds, and she was already in bed. It was okay with me; it meant that I could watch whatever I wanted to on television.
Many nights I would come from working late, mix a scotch and water, sit down and watch TV until I fell asleep on the sofa only to be woken up by the blare of someone trying to sell me something like a water hose that collapsed when not in use and could stored away in coat pocket or a small waterproof pouch that would provided as a extra bonus if you only bought two of the hoses for the price of one and paid the extra shipping cost.
I didn’t need one water hose much less two, so I would turn the television commercial into a constant reminder of just how stupid we Americans could be. Somebody was buying those hoses. It was like watching a miniature religious ceremony. The huckster preacher convincing the sinners that all of God’s blessings were being without until the sinner broke out with the price of the extra shipping cost.
It also reminded me of Lenin’s quote about the capitalist selling the mob the rope to they use hang him. I could see this infomercial in my head, with an all too earnest pitchman explaining to the all too earnest straight woman why we needed two ropes for the price of one, and if we paid for the second shipping cost, they would generously throw in extra helpings of God’s love and forgiveness.
This would be my mindset as I climbed the stairs to bed where I would find her already asleep, her back to me and her head turned toward the opposite wall. I crawled under the blankets and backed right up against her in the middle of the mattress. This is my best memory of being married, not the kisses, the laughter, the love. It was the feeling of comfort and warmth of knowing she was there.
Small fissures soon became a yawning chasm that was almost impossible to traverse. Our silences became louder, and we started to speak to each other in the stilted language of the dead, clipped phrases echoing across ever growing distances as our hearts steadily moved away from each other.
I came home late from work one evening, and she wasn’t upstairs. I knew she was home because her car was in the driveway. I found her sitting outside by the pool in the dark. It was so dark I could barely make out her outline.
I made my way toward her walking slowly and carefully so I wouldn’t trip over something, “Hey, Babe, what’s up. Why are you sitting outside in the dark?”
At first, she didn’t answer. It was like time was frozen with the seconds carrying the weight of an eternity. Then out from the pitiless dark came the austere voice of a high priestess, spitting out words as sharp as a surgeon’s knife, “ I don’t love you anymore. I haven’t for quite a long while. I don’t think I ever will again.”
All the signs had pointed to this moment, and I had chosen to ignore them every one, so I guess I had brought it on myself, moving toward this finish with all the sublime ignorance of Custer heading toward the Little Big Horn, and with the blind fatalism of White Chapel whore scurrying for her rendezvous with Jack the Ripper.
The heart is generally well protected by the skeletal structure, but she struck with surety, swiftness and force, turning the blade sideways so that it slid easily between my ribs. I knew in an instant that she must have practiced the strike over and over until it was smooth and perfect. This was premeditated murder and not clumsy assault.
I pressed for an explanation, “Why are you doing this? We’ve been married for twenty-seven years. Why now?”
She waited a moment then her words came out in a velvet hiss, “ You’re boring, Danny. At first, you were fun to be with, and we had a lot of good times. We’ve become too different. I want to go camping. You want to go see a play. I want to go snow ski. You would rather sit around the fire at the lodge. You love books; I love the outdoors.”
“We have made it work this long. Why are you doing this now?”
“John said that you’re a fraud.”
“Fulton, my linguistics professor.”
“Your linguistics professor? What the hell!” Jenny had been lost her job about a year before. She had never even been slightly criticized at work before. Even this time, it was more a case of professional jealousy than anything she had done wrong. Losing the job had done something to her head; she had a really hard time with it, so I had suggested she go back to school.
“Yes, my linguistic professor. John and I have coffee sometimes. He is a very good listener, something that you are not.
I was completely speechless; the words not only pierced by heart but also sliced the connection between my brain and my mouth. I was as stunned as Caesar must have been when he saw the hatred in the eyes of Brutus and then every bit as lifeless as when his gored body slid to the floor.
Caesar’s death had at least made him immortal and remembered with his both his genius and his shortcomings growing in mythological stature. Not so with Daniel Lazarus. I was just dead in my own backyard, standing upright, eyes wide open, face frozen into a grimace.
There would be no Anthony to sing my praises, no weeping or gnashing teeth. Hell, it was the perfect crime; no one even knew I was dead.