She was beautiful and chatty. Perhaps you could call her eloquent or charismatic or charming. But in reality, she was just loud. She talked all the time. Sometimes about nothing. Sometimes deep, profound insights. Most of the time, just general ramblings.
She could carry on a conversation with anyone about anything. She talked to herself. And when she wasn’t talking, she was singing, off-key and full of exuberance. Her lips were never still.
Her eyes lit up when she chattered. As she rambled about the origins of tea while making toast and eggs. She examined out loud the pros and cons of this scarf and that pair of socks to wear that day. She surmised about the weather and how it might change and how beautiful the lamp posts were, all in a row, in the car. She mused about the fascinating quirks of animals, like the ability of snakes to unhinge their jaws and how bees organize their hives, as the hours at work drifted past.
She spoke of a hundred different things at every opportunity. It was her way to express and entertain herself.
Most people found it annoying.
He found it charming. He loved coming home at night, to find her already halfway through a conversation. He would smile as he sat his desk, punching away at his computer keyboard, as she went on about the benefits of wood floor versus carpeting. He held her tighter as she added her own insights to the TV show they were watching.
He was sitting at the table, delicately sipping the coffee that was much too hot, peering at the small print of the paper. She was telling him about the bug she found on the plant in the windowsill this morning. In great detail.
The phone rang. She stopped right in the middle of the sentence and picked it up. He smiled, knowing she would continue just at the spot she was interrupted, After she finished explaining to him who was on the other end, in great detail. Even…no especially, if it was only a telemarketer.
He was wrong.
Her face was pale and her lips un-moving, as she tucked the phone back on to the cradle. She stood frozen.
He stared back at her. He had never started a conversation with her before. She always launched off without any encouragement. He did not know how to react.
He glanced down, suddenly realizing how hot the coffee cup in his hand was. He set it down hurriedly. On the newspaper. His eye caught a picture. A familiar one. With the last name she carried, when he first met her. Under the glaring words OBITUARY.
He abruptly stood, drops of brown coffee splattered on the table. He held her. She slumped in his arms. But she did not speak.
The day passed. A dark day of phone calls, offering condolences, asking about plans, and weeping. She took none of them. He listened to them all, assuring them, yes she was fine. She sat by the window, staring down at her hands.
He held her through the long night. Neither of them slept. He kissed her head and pushed her hair back from her eyes. She did not speak. She stared up at him. She did not cry.
Flowers began to come the next day.
The mortuary called. He went, to confirm the plans, among the rest of her family. She stayed at his side, a dark, silent shadow. Most people did not recognize her with drawn face and silent lips. Some did not even realize she was there.
The funeral came the next day and passed. She dressed in black and stood in the corner, her head bowed. Still tears did not come. Her lips remained still. He put his arms around her. Feeling helpless.
All the mourners gathered, embraced her, clasped her limp hand, expressed their regret. She replied to none of it. Her face pale. The group straggled off, one at a time, returning handkerchiefs to pockets.
They stood alone. Surrounded by looming stones, etched with simple reminders of once flourishing, many-faceted, much loved people. Who were only a strip of dirt and a piece of stone now.
They stared down at the fresh heap. There was no stone yet. The words were still being etched into it’s face. The words that were meant to encompass a whole life, but could not.
She was distant and silent. He persisted. He put his arms around her, pulling her head onto his chest. He did not care if she hated it or pulled away. She needed it. She needed love and comfort.
She did not pull away. She collapsed into his arms. The tears began.
“Only you,” she whispered into his shirt. “Only you can fix me, now.”