Gerard F. Kennedy Writer

short story / 2014

The Myth of Choice


Somewhere above me a balloon, on a piece of string, floats untethered.  It is not always visible; maybe because it is sky-blue.  It floats without purpose.  I can only see it with my eyes closed.  Behind the shade the balloon has become my guide.


It is a comfort to hear her voice; my pretext for lying in self-imposed darkness.

Sometimes there is noise.  This morning it is quieter than usual.  But if I open my eyes the sound of absence will become louder.  So I have chosen to wait.

I’ve been awake for hours listening to the night.  It has moved gradually; I followed the changing light from the cover of my shade.

Lying in a bed feels odd.  It is a novelty; one that I’m finding hard to accommodate.  I cannot settle into this unfamiliar way of being.  I wish Émilie hadn’t left so soon.

When she was here I had someone to talk to; I felt needed.  I had a purpose.  Her lively spirit emanated warmth and generosity.  She was always there; waiting.

But some days her energy could be exhausting.  There were times when it was a relief to collapse onto the sofa next to her bed in the kitchen.  With my eyes closed I would follow her shallow breathing.  It was comforting for both of us; sometimes.

As Émilie’s condition deteriorated the periods of comfort became relatively brief.  I used to read; I got through so many books.  When she was in the mood I shared the stories; Dickens was her favourite.  I have yet to finish the one I was reading the day she died; ‘Great Expectations’; ironic really.  Now I’m in danger of becoming my own Miss Havisham.  If I were to look at the clock I expect it would say ‘twenty minutes to nine’; and if I could see myself in a mirror…  Émilie would not approve.  But then she didn’t look so great herself in the end.  I am sorry; that is very unkind.  Deep down Émilie was always beautiful.

My untidiness used to drive her mad.  She would swear in French; I loved it when Émilie swore.  I could never have become tidy with Émilie swearing so much.  Her swearing was almost an incentive to leave things lying around.  But as her illness took hold I changed.  I’ve no idea if it pleased her; it didn’t really matter anymore.

At some point I will have to tackle the dust.