by Josh T. Alto
A woman lies sleepless in bed waiting for the right time
|She was lying in her bed watching the lights of the passing cars as they stole along the walls, crept further up to the ceiling and faded out eventually. She often lay there sleepless; awaken with a start in the middle of the night, listening to her husband’s snore, with scenes of her last dream still in her eyes.
She stared steadily at a dark spot on the opposite wall waiting to be flashed by the headlights as usual. She didn’t have to wait long, suddenly a sharp beam swept over the wall and revived a colorful picture of a sunny beach with palms edging the sand all along the bay and picturesque waves running up to the shore. The photo was taken out of a magazine that featured the island where they once had spent their honeymoon some ten years ago. Her heart jumped when she first saw the picture, then she got it framed and hung it on the wall in their bedroom. It reminded her of the happiest days of her life, their honeymoon when they had just tied their lives together forever, when anything still seemed to be possible. They were in love and incurably romantic, all they could see was a bright stairway in front of them leading somewhere far beyond the clouds.
She looked a little bit away from the poster, over the door; there hung that mask they had bought on the island from an old white-bearded man at the marketplace. It looked like the masks the islanders used to wear at their numerous festivals when they marched dancing through the streets and parks of the capital. They liked to watch them marching, it was a ritual that enchanted them even the first time they had seen them. She couldn’t forget those faces, they were engraved in her mind, she only had to close her eyes to see them again dancing. As the car lights passed over the mask’s face its eyes glimmered, or was it only her fantasy? It seemed to her that from those eyes someone was calling her, but she often had that kind of feeling.
Sometimes she also heard voices from nowhere calling her name or merely singing a monotone melody she thought she had heard earlier somewhere but couldn’t remember where or when.
The next thing her eyes glanced at was the small sculpture on the bedside table, carved from the soft volcanic tuff of the island. It represented the God of Love in the islanders’ mythology and visualized love from the female and male point of view at the same time, looked rather strange but no doubt extremely sensual. Looking at it freed her fantasy somehow, from all the complexes she had before and after the island, rooted in her philistine education.
As she closed her eyes again she felt a kind of satisfaction. Having all these things around she could live on her memories whatever happened to her, they couldn’t be taken away. She always froze from the thought that she once could be forced to go away from here and leave everything behind.
The house belonged to her husband; it was his inheritance from his grandmother, years before their marriage. They even made a prenuptial agreement on it to make it clear for both of them where the limits of their relationship were. Even if it was rather disadvantageous to her, she also wanted to have it settled, to show her husband that it wasn’t the money that attracted her.
She looked out through the window, at the trees on the other side of the street, painted gray and silver by the full moon hanging over them. There were some moths moving about around the streetlamp in front of the house. As she watched them a sudden wave of sadness flooded her heart. Long ago, before their marriage, people used to call her Butterfly and now she even felt envy while watching the moths outside.
She didn’t know how it could have happened but it must have been her passionate love to him or rather to his ease of living or both of them that made her give up her freedom and get married. Earlier she didn’t have much to live on but there had always been someone who helped her out. She was really like a beautiful butterfly, flying from one flower to the other. She was once a pretty girl, during her school years and even at the university there had always been a dozen of admirers around her. There was one boy though who never paid any attention to her and he became her husband, an incalculable grimace of fate.
She often sat nostalgic at the window, daydreaming. Actually she lived most of the time for her dreams; in her real life there wasn’t much to hold on to. After their marriage they didn’t plan any children for a couple of years, her husband was working on his career and she also tried to reach something in her own field. She was probably an idealist; after she left the university she started working on such ambitious plans at which she could only smile now. She thought lots of companies would be rivaling for the fresh specialists right from the university.
After a while she gave up searching or rather she chose the easier way and let her husband support her though earlier she couldn’t imagine that she would depend on someone for the rest of her life. First she really enjoyed it, getting up late, having breakfast leisurely while watching TV, going shopping almost every day although it was more window-shopping lately. She didn’t really enjoy it any more, at least not as much as a few years ago. Around the house she didn’t have too much to do, her help would come every day so she only had to instruct her what to do.
She even started drinking. That made things worse since she became fairly sentimental already after the first glass. Her thoughts drove her back every time to the butterfly she once had been and her resemblance to a cocoon at the moment, waiting to be hatched by the warmth of the sun. Although he wouldn’t admit it even her husband suffered from this situation, he often worked overtime and came home late, trying to avoid seeing her drunken. She often looked at themselves as two drowning men holding each other until both of them went down. She knew they should try to let each other out and swim to the shore to save their lives and to get help while it’s not too late.
She wondered if they still loved each other. Nowadays they never went out together, she even avoided disturbing him while he was working in his study. Their passion for dancing vanished under all those years though once she had been an ambitious dancer. She was really good and even on their honeymoon men were rivaling for her, which made her husband quite jealous after a while.
As she lay there watching the picture, a thought began slowly whirling in her mind, creeping through her nerves, and echoing in her ears alarmed her whole body. There were four words that appeared from nowhere in front of her eyes and slowly lit up the whole wall: ‘The time has come’. As if awakened from a bad dream she looked around and took a deep sigh. The room was the same, also her bed and her bedclothes, her husband was still snoring beside her but something had changed. Something had broken that kept her locked-in and she could breathe freely again.
She drew her blanket slowly aside and emerged from the bed, crept out of the bedroom without a noise, almost floating above the carpet as a beautiful butterfly having shred its cocoon skin and just trying its wings. She dressed quietly in the bathroom, put on some makeup and got all her money from the shoebox in the wardrobe where she had saved it since she first realized that she was going to leave one day. It was not too much but enough to take her back to the island, as she calculated.
Then she opened the bedroom door carefully and had a final look at the picture on the wall, the mask and the small sculpture; her heart was banging as if it wanted to break into thousand pieces. What could hold her back after all? Those moments of happiness were far away on an island, and the island was waiting for her too, she was quite sure.
She stood still for a few seconds, then closed the door quietly, walked out to the street and looked up to the sky. Playful clouds were chasing each other obscuring the moon from time to time. All her doubts had disappeared; she felt a new kind of confidence, she knew she had made the best decision she had ever made in her life. She never came back again.
(Word count 1,502)