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All I Have Left

Even though she’d seen better days, this old table had great bones; that’s why I knew I had to breathe new life into her. Every curve and handcrafted detail stirred my despondent desires into a whirlwind of anticipation. Restoring this regal beauty back to her original splendour was the project I chose to distract my still grieving heart.

There’s just no easy way to say what I’m about to say. I struggle to even find words to begin my story. Ah, for “a thousand words will not leave so deep an impression as one deed.” Catherine and I always debated the parallels of Henrik Ibsen’s brilliant, discerning mind and that of William Shakespeare’s. I still say they were both geniuses in their own right, and they’ll both retain rooted sentiment in the depths of this old heart. Just like my Catherine will forever hold that special place in my heart.

I miss my Catherine more with every passing minute – minutes that have turned into days, weeks, months, years, even though time has been standing still since the distraction of refinishing my belovéd table has ceased to occupy my time. I remember the day we stumbled across this table, and how her eyes lit up with such joy as she ran her fingers along the edges. She even let out a little giggle before her eyes took on that repulsive look of guilt and she covered her mouth before she had a chance to betray her resolve any further.

It killed me to see her so depressed all the time. Buying her that table was the least thing I could do after all the suffering she’d been through. Septembers were especially hard for Catherine. That’s the month she delivered our stillborn baby; the only child she was able to carry full-term. It didn’t matter that it had been over thirty years since that tragic day. And although each September was one filled with the darkest of depression, my efforts to pull her out of the depths of despair never tired. She was all I had, after all. Hell, as sad as it is to admit, we were each all the other had.

My whole paycheck went into buying her this smile-provoking table. I knew it wasn’t very smart or practical to spend money we couldn’t afford to spend, especially on something that needed so much work. But nothing was too good for my Catherine. I took my scolding like a good boy, too, knowing the benefits had to outweigh the short-lived outburst she unleashed on me. Well, I must admit: I kind of liked her feisty outbursts. They were the next best things to losing myself between her thighs.

Speaking of thighs, there’s something to be said about Latin women. There’s a fire that’s always burning from the depths of their souls. Even on the calmest of days, it can be seen ablaze in their eyes. Every time I caught that fire’s reflection in my Catherine’s eyes, a little pang of jealously stabbed me in the gut. If I could only steal a fraction of that fire… oh, the possibilities!

After my restoration efforts were completed, I’d often sit at this table for hours tracing my fingers along the freshly tiled top while I stared into space. If I looked long enough, I could still see the fire radiating from the depths of my Catherine’s eyes – eyes that no longer saw the light of day. I loved the way the grout felt on my fingers when they passed over the groove between tiles. Sometimes a glittery dust would cling to my fingertips and I would press my fingers to my nose and breathe in the euphoric scent of that mortar. Yes, I know it sounds crazy, but I have all sorts of sentimental attachments to this table; sniffing grout dust was the least of my concerns. And I can’t be too crazy where fixation of that grout is concerned: I can’t tell you how many times I came into the kitchen to find our cat licking at those glittery cracks.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to talk so freely about my Catherine. And, yes, I know I’m playing it safe and I still haven’t said the things that are hard for me to think of, let alone say aloud. These past two years have been so unbearable. I often sit and ponder why the Lord has forsaken me so. This is not how I envisioned spending my retirement years. I never contemplated this solitary life; one filled with such painful loneliness, rendering me incapable of leaving this kitchen table lest I need groceries, or when I have another fruitless doctor’s appointment. Why is it that those of us who want to die are as healthy as an ox, while the ones who grasp at life have every life-threatening aliment under the sun? Yeah, I’ll never figure that one out.

With the back of my hand, I press away any evidence of the tears that now sting my swollen eyes. Ha, I laugh, if only tears actually accomplished anything productive! Yet this is how I spend a large portion of every day: lost in thought and wondering if the tears will ever stop. Funny, I would never have dreamed of shedding a single tear in front of my Catherine. Someone had to be the pillar of strength for the both of us, after all.

Yet, no matter how much strength I maintained for the both of us, in the end it turned out not to be enough to save her. One day I hope to overcome this guilt – the same guilt that I struggle with every slow passing minute of every slow passing day. I often wonder if God will ever forgive me for what I did to preserve my Catherine from ever being seen the way she was that day she breathed her last breath.

All I Have Left

Jenifer DeBellis

Dryden, United States

  • Artist
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Artist's Description

To be loved more than life itself despite meriting it… just what is that kind of love capable of? Some women spend a lifetime chasing that desire, while so many that have it never fully understand or appreciate it.

Artwork Comments

  • Luisa Zajko
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desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait

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