Thump

Our car passes over the seams joining concrete slab to concrete slab. An infinite number of cold, hard squares patch together the highway as it grows between me and the husband I just buried.

Thum-thump thum-thump.

The steady drumbeat of the road thrums through my body as I stare without seeing through the window.

Thum-thump thum-thump.

My heart syncs with the new and foreign rhythm. Seventy years of knowing one man’s heartbeat and it feels wrong for mine to beat on its own.

Thum-thump thum-thump thum-thump.

I try to think of the life I will have now that Jacob is gone, but it stretches out in front of me like this highway, grey and plain and unknown. I lived a life before him, but it was long ago swallowed by the tall gregarious man with hazel eyes.

Thum-thump thum-thump.

A car behind us switches lanes and picks up speed. As it passes, I see my son, pedal to the metal and eyes intent on the road.

Thum-thump thum-thump thum-thump.

We’re headed for the same destination; no doubt he hopes to beat us there and case the joint like the carrion bird he is.

Don’t touch a thing, sonny boy. Every single piece of that house belongs to me and your father. Every tchotchke, a treasured memory. They’re mine; without them, your father is gone.

Thum-thump thum-thump.

Mine–the picture he drew of us on our first date, walking between cars at a drive-in burger joint. He’d just taken my hand, under the guise of helping me navigate the dark parking lot. When he touched me, I knew. With blind certainty, I knew. My life had just skipped beats, skipped town, skipped tracks for another destination. I would never be the same. In the picture, my face is turned up to look at him, seeking him out like chlorophyll does the sun.

Will you think that valuable enough to pilfer, little vulture?

Thum-thump thum-thump.

Mine–letters written while your father served in World War II. Letters full of promises and love and fantasies sufficiently bawdy to make even you blush. We lavished it all on each other and on the army intermediaries censoring soldiers’ mail.

Mine–the letter announcing that you were born, the one he read and re-read while hunkered in the mud, fighting foreign enemies. Letters written when he fought in the Korean War–stories of you and life at home, stories of war, stories that laid bare Jacob’s darkest thoughts, born from killing enemies and watching friends die.

Page after page documented our separate lives until they were separate no more.

How much would those fetch you, son?

Thum-thump thum-thump.

Maybe they’re not what you’re after. Would you prefer his knife collection? Guns he polished at night while we all sat together in the living room? The tools he tinkered with, standing at the workbench in the garage? The pipes he smoked after dinner, always carefully cleaned and polished?

Go ahead. Take them. What do they matter? They don’t anchor me to your father; he was my anchor. Without him, I could float away into this cloudless sky—up, up, up, until there is nothing and nothing matters. All that stuff, the clunky baggage of our lives together only weighs me down, keeping me behind when I could just let go.

After all those years spent living and loving, creating and fighting, making up, making do, making out–maybe there is no letting go. Just the relentless thrumming of the highway.

Thum-thump.

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15 thoughts on “Thump

  1. Beautiful story, beautifully written. It’s brilliant how you paced it with the highway noises, that one physical glimpse of the son in the other car.

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  2. Heartaching. I am sure my mother-in-law, who lost her husband almost a year ago, and my grandmother, who lost hers 25 years ago, and all the other husbands and wives who managed to live a life together and then lost one or the other, I’m sure they all feel this disoriented, unanchored feeling you describe so well. I loved this line: “My life had just skipped beats, skipped town, skipped tracks for another destination.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I will never understand certain people’s obsession with material objects over people. I think your use of the onomatopoeia and it’s similarity to a heart beat highlighted that idea well. Also loved the chlorophyll/sun simile. (When did you change blogs?)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you know where the seed for this story came from. Everyone has their way of dealing with grief; even that can be hard to understand. But I will never get those who bypass the grief altogether.

      I’m in process of migrating over to WordPress. How am I doing so far?

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  4. The repetition of the thumping and then allusions to heart beats was nicely done. Some really lovely lines too: “Seventy years of knowing one man’s heartbeat and it feels wrong for mine to beat on its own.” I shared the protagonist’s anger toward her son but you whisk that away with the simple truth that possessions are nothing. Beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

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