The last day of your life. The last hour. The last minute.
A final second that you exhale, cigarette smoke trailing glamorously up to the sky, your heart beating like always, thick and slow, as you enjoy an ignorance you’ll never feel again. The promise of life is so often unsaid. It’s there with you from morning to night, existing within itself. Today, this is a promise your heart will not fulfill — that you can count on it beating a hundred more times.
Five more times?
On the third slow beat, all you can think of are other devastations. The time she flirted with that woman at the traffic light, back turned to you as if you didn’t have ears. Her, curious and bubbly with an excitement she hadn’t shown you in any given moment at any given time. Your heart, it beat through the devastation of knowing that you, her husband, the one person who loved her through anything, would never know her.
It beat through that just fine. It kept its promise just fine.
Now, here, in these bushes with this cigarette, spying like a professional coward, you feel it crumbling. The life you led crumbles into a warning for future generations. The things you’ve done wrong start preparing for disclosure — we all love a good cautionary tale and a good cautionary tale loves to be told. That smoke trails upwards, now a boring straight line that leads to your snapped cigarette, cut off by a reaction. Oh, yes. This is a devastation your heart couldn’t beat through.
It tries, anyway, sending all that red blasting into your face, your raising arms. You think about the time she smiled at you, really smiled, and you almost shook you were so shocked. You almost shivered. You think about how sharp the change in mood was — feeling loved and appreciated and then, boom, realizing that this was rare. She did not smile for you often.
What a devastation, and yet your heart kept its promise.
For a moment, in a fit of anger at your traitorous heart, you forget about the coffee shop in front of you, the one with the cute awnings that you liked to take her to, fake icicles dangling year round. The one where she sits, her hand cradled in someone else’s, her face obscured by all that hair. Was she smiling, then? You told her to get a damn haircut probably a thousand times. Maybe if she’d known her hair would obstruct the last time you’d get to see her, get to take her in, she would’ve listened.
You forget about the waiter bending delicately to pour the man dining with her another cup of water. You wonder why she’d wear such an ugly outfit to cheat on you — she could’ve AT LEAST dressed well. She wore that beautiful pearl necklace you’d given her for your sixteenth anniversary the last time she’d stepped out. It draped her neck so delicately that you’d traced it, trailed along her neck, and she winced at your touch. She’d enjoyed it, though, she loved it. She’d even worn it at the hotel with the man later, the photos proved, well after she’d stripped off her Louis Vuitton dress.
Maybe she wasn’t as into this one? Did she write out a budget when she fucked random men? Did she have an agenda somewhere, a profit and loss sheet?
That was the devastation just before this one, such a bigger devastation, and your heart beat through it just fine. It’s funny, the things you care about. The moments you’d die over. You can learn a lot about yourself as you’re falling to the ground, clutching your chest, still trying not to make a scene.
Still trying not to be an embarrassment to her.
The guy, the one she won’t get dressed up for, his face is a blur, a throbbing blur, and it’s too much work to try to see around it. Does it matter? You can kind of make out her cheap, ugly pleather shoes. Oh, she really must not be into this one.
The devastation before even that last one, the one your heart really should’ve given up on, she’d worn heels so high her ankles could’ve snapped. You nicknamed them her ‘Achilles Breakers’ and you accidentally mentioned them while you were shopping once. She didn’t notice. The heel was thin, metal. Dominatrix style. The photos caught her slipping one into some lustful fellow’s throat, staring bored into his eyes, body taut in latex. The investigator should’ve won an award for that one, he really should’ve. The loft they were in had old, chipping windows and the whole feel of the photo was very attractive. Maybe the artistic value kept your heart going, kept your heart racing, through that devastation.
But this one, this cheap outfit and these cheap shoes…she could at least try!
And then, even quicker, her big hair and cheap shoes are lost to you, you, the one who usually cares about such things. Those heels, her rare smile, the ache of staring at photo after photo after photo, it all existed in another time. You’re leaving this time, oh yes.
You, all you see is rock, brown, stone, gravel. Even the embarrassment of hiding in the bushes, smoking, watching your wife be bored with yet another man, it sinks into the dirt. Have you ever been this low? All that’s left of your world is quick gasping and pathetic groans.
Oh, yes. This is a devastation that your heart will not beat through. Your fall will last forever but those thick, fading beats won’t last another four.
And now, everything was always black.