“The Hollow Figure” by Nicole Solera
I could see it in her eyes. They were dark and her eyelids always seemed too heavy for her to bear, just like her shoulders. I pleaded. I begged her to tell me what she felt, what I could do to help. But she never said a word. At first, she had just seemed quiet and then she seemed blue. Then the conversation was limited to small talk, and then just “hello” and “goodbye.” Now, not even that was said. Her pain seemed so great I couldn’t even bear it. I felt like I needed to be the one to save her. I tried to encourage her to do new things with me, like go to restaurants we’ve never been to before, or trips to places we had never seen. But nothing worked. I felt like I was drowning. I felt that there was no hope to reach the surface again. I felt guilty because sometimes I got those thoughts: that I hated her and that I wanted to leave. I wanted to leave her and her problems and to finally be able to breathe again. Sometimes I wanted to strangle her, I wanted to choke her real self into coming out from inside her throat, out of the deep crevice she was trapped in. I always imagined her skin underneath my hands. I wanted to feel the movements of her throat as she struggled to breathe. I wanted her to scream, to claw, to gasp. I wanted her to do something. But I loved her too much to do anything like that to her. I was hesitant to touch her because I feared that she would shatter as soon as I laid a finger on her. Or worse, that my fingers would go right through her and I would discover that she was just an apparition, not real. Or that she would feel frigid to the touch. Each day I looked at the vacant space that used to be my wife. But I still found her so beautiful. I still loved her soft skin and her rich hair. I remember I used to love her eyes. They were a brighter blue than I had ever seen before. God, they were clear. They were like windows and I swear if you looked into them long enough you would see a deep part of her and of yourself as well. I wanted to look into her eyes but they weren’t the same anymore. They were dead,
clouded over by some darkness that I couldn’t see and couldn’t understand… a thick smoke. I still had so much hope for her. She didn’t seem to have any idea of what she was capable of, how many talents she had. I would always compliment her but she would only look down at the floor and nod slightly, disregarding what I said. “Please tell me,” I would beg her. But she would look at me sadly. I could tell she was feeling tortured inside. I wanted to help her so bad. I wanted to help her for her. I wanted to help her for me. She had tears in her eyes but she kept them in. She strained so hard not to cry. I couldn’t understand it. Why couldn’t she just let go and cry? Why couldn’t she just tell me? Why couldn’t she just come alive again? She loved me, I knew it and not in the “I’m-in-denial” way. I knew she did. I could see it when I asked her. I could see it when she wanted to cry. I could see it in the little things. But I couldn’t help but feel that the little things just weren’t good enough anymore. I felt so selfish. I should have been patient and caring and do everything in my power to help her. But I just couldn’t anymore. I was so tired. I just wanted to go to sleep for a very long time.
It was early in the morning. She was eating at the table. No, she wasn’t eating… she was just sitting, staring off at something I couldn’t see. Sometimes I wondered if she even saw anything at all. I doubt it. I think she just saw emptiness, she just saw the thing that was within her. I walked over to her. I knelt beside her. I thought of telling her what I always did, “Please tell me,” “It’s ok,” “Trust me.” But for some reason I didn’t. Without really meaning to I told her what I had been thinking. “You’re killing me,” I whispered. This caught her attention. I knew that she could hear the despair in my voice. Her face turned towards mine and I could see the excruciating pain gushing in them. I felt like I was being ripped apart by her gaze. But I have to admit that at the time I lived for those moments. Seeing her pain was a sign to me that she was still present. I
preferred her tortured gaze to her desolate stare. Her mouth slowly opened but she knew what to say. “I know.” There was a deep, suffocating silence between us. “Is it me?” I asked her. There they were: the tears. They were fighting to come out but she did a good job of locking them in. “It’s not you,” she whispered. I could hear the despair in her voice too. I stayed quiet. I felt like I should have understood, but I didn’t. “What’s wrong?” “Everything.” She seemed sure, as if she’d thought about this for a while, “I can’t take it anymore. There’s no escape.” I had wanted her to tell me what she had been feeling. I had wanted it so bad. But now that I had heard it I just wanted to block it out. This wasn’t the woman I loved. This was something else entirely. “What’s the point? I feel like I have no point, no purpose. There’s nothing. Everything’s awful.” I grabbed her hand and cradled the familiar fingers I had held so many times before. “Even us? Are we awful? Am I awful?” She looked deep within me and my heart lurched forward. I wanted to hold her. I wanted to feel her in my arms but I knew that if I did I wouldn’t feel anything. I’d only feel uninhabited air. “Not you,” she said lovingly. She raised her hand and caressed my face. The feeling of her loving me made me feel alive again. I felt love. I didn’t want to admit it to myself, but by then I knew she was gone. That slim part of her coming through was heaven but I knew that she would recede back into herself and be gone again, empty again. I contemplated asking her more,
gouging out more of what she held inside so closely. I don’t know why I didn’t. Why didn’t I just ask her? It could have made a difference. But in that moment, I just felt so tired…It was if an omniscient entity overtook me and it just knew that this was the way things were supposed to go, as if I had no control anymore, that it was time to let go. “I love you,” she said and I knew she meant it. It was so beautiful to hear her say those words. I started to cry because I didn’t want her to leave. I didn’t want her to leave me with the empty carcass. I told her I loved her back and I’ve never believed anything more. I ache all over.
The next morning she was gone. I awoke to an empty house. I searched for her in every room but she was nowhere. She had been nowhere for a while. I should have gone looking for her. But I didn’t. I felt like I already knew where she was. I heard a knock at the door and opened it to reveal a police officer. I can’t say that it was unexpected. She threw herself off the local bridge early in the morning. It had been a cold but clear dawn. I wonder now if that was how she felt when she was standing on the edge: cold and clear.
The funeral was short. All our family arrived but I didn’t really care. I didn’t want to see her. It wouldn’t be any different from when she was alive. The eulogy was short and I didn’t hear half of it. I only remember them burying a casket with a hollow figure inside. I feel like I’m dead too.
I stay at home a lot now. I work, and I eat and do other things. I do hobbies for my own good but nothing makes me happy. The only thing that gives me comfort is imagining the last thing she saw: the sky. I imagine her looking at the horizon, just as the sun was rising. I imagine the sky to be a strong golden color. I imagine swirls of yellow and reds and soft streams of blue
and purples here and there. It’s beautiful. The image of it in my mind is beautiful. But it’s not good enough.
Please God, I just want my wife back.