I was reading some Amy Hempel stories when I was trying to figure out an inspiration for this story. I came across one in my collection of her shorts that really piqued my interest called The Harvest, and it gave me the idea of an old woman who blames her problems on others due to her age. Her narration is sparse and unreliable because it is mainly complaining. The reader should not have a clear indication of what she’s trying to say because she doesn’t know herself. I thought the lack of memory was a good fit for minimalist style because there are very few details alongside the narrator being unreliable.
Another Tuesday, another episode of The Young and the Restless blares through my television screen. There is reticence in this room, and even though it is common by now, it never will be. Common, that is. The reason I’m talking to myself right now is to fill this goddamn silence. But it won’t be over. It’s never over. I certainly did not agree with the phrase “silence is deafening” when I had kids, but does it ever resonate now. I’m not too sure what to do with my time nowadays, aside from watching TV or going on my iPad. I’m trying with technology, but what else is there for me to do besides write out my daily lists and watch my shows? The whole world is in a hurry, and as I deteriorate, everything speeds up.
I look around this room and all I see is a mess. There are dishes that my grandson hasn’t cleaned for me. I’ve asked him so many times and he never listens. He knows it hard for me to get around with my knees. Fruit flies are starting to gather and I feel myself gag at the black swarm hovering over my garburator.
Beside me is my husband’s chair. It’s getting a film of dust on it now. I should’ve noticed that. I always notice his things, even though people think I don’t. The family thinks I’m senile. Remembering is all I have now, but who’s to say what’s worth remembering anymore? The things that have continued to haunt me at night? I remember being young and thoughtless. I got married when I was twenty-one and didn’t consider what family may have thought of that. His complexion was no picnic, either. I’m proud of myself for not caring. I’m sure he was proud of himself too.
We had to make decisions when we started our life together. I’m not sure how we did it, but I was grateful for him at my side. I remember holding his hand walking down Albert, way back in 1961. Being a couple with onlookers was one of the most scrutinizing experiences of my life. People stared, inspected, not subtly, I might add, or they’d simply make their stance clear by stomping off to the other side of the street. No one should be ashamed of who they love, and I never was.
I don’t want to remember his death, two months shy of our fiftieth anniversary. Don’t let anyone tell you you’ll get over death. You never will.
The trouble is ambiguity. I should know. The past seventy-six years of my life have been nothing but trial and error. What could I have been doing that took up so much time when I was younger? Why do I have so much time now? God help me if I knew. I don’t know where this ambiguity came from or why it haunts me as it does, but that’s what I want to know.