Episode 11 was incredibly important (and nerve wracking) for me. It was the episode in which, as a thank you, I read a story on air that I created. Now that I have this blog I decided to post the written version in case anyone preferred to read it instead of listen to it.
There are a couple of differences in the written version than the spoken version due to sentence structure and general flow, but 99.5% of it is exactly the same.
Hope you enjoy!
It had been two weeks since Sam’s, well, I just can’t say it. I can’t say the word “accident”. I can’t say death, because I cannot comprehend those words right now. I couldn’t comprehend them at his funeral. I couldn’t identify his body, because it couldn’t have been him. It could have never been, my Sam.
His brother went in and did it. Even when Jeff came out crying I still couldn’t believe him. I still didn’t believe it. I wanted to scream and shout at Jeff. How stupid could he be to not know what his brother looked like? I refused to believe it until I received his belongings, and right there, inside was a single gold wedding band. Scratched and unpolished from years of hard labor. It could have been anyone’s. Hell, it could have even been mine! But there, on the inside of the ring sat a single inscription, “7.2.10, The day I met P.C.” Even that could have been anyone’s initials. Paul Corbin, Peter Chine, but I knew it. I knew it because those initials stood for a nickname only I called him. Penny cheeseball.
No one knew that nickname, not a single soul. I knew him around school, I always called him cheeseball to myself. Head full of strawberry blonde hair, curly, fussy, and unruly. But the first time we spoke he walked into the hardware store where I worked, and instead of paying like a normal human being, with dollars, or a credit card, he paid with rolls of pennies. My manager wanted to kill him, but in all honesty, his oddities amused me. The next day I asked him why did he only have pennies. He told me he collected them, some mantra his grandfather used to say “if you save a penny a day you’ll be rich by 45”. I didn’t believe that one bit, I thought it was the dumbest thing, but the way his face lit up as he told me the story. The obvious joy, love, and respect he had for that man. How much he wanted to believe that, his dedication and determination? I fell in love with Sam, over fucking pennies.
And now he was gone. Was, there’s that word again. People kept saying it at his funeral, they kept using his name in past tense. That he was gone. I cursed them out before running away to the house. I didn’t even stay as they put him in the ground I couldn’t because he wasn’t here. He had to be, he had to be, but my heart knew. The darkness that settled there ever since the news ate away more at me until I crumbled into pieces of nothing. I sobbed I screamed, I cried for hours until my voice was hoarse and my body ached. The grief drove me past the point of exhaustion and before I knew it the sun was pouring into our home.
Stiffness ate at my joints. I’d wound myself into a tight ball and fell asleep on our old wood floor. It hurt, I hurt, but that hurt was from the inside out. I walked into our bedroom on autopilot. Took out a new change of clothes and paused as the smell of Sam’s aftershave hit me square in the chest. Alcohol, spices, and mint. That’s what it smelled like. I turned to greet him, to kiss him and then yell at him for worrying me the way he did but there was nothing. There was no one, and somehow my heart broke all over again.
I ran out of the room and out of that house until my knees buckled and I fell over. Our neighbor, Dana, ran out to me. She rocked me as I cried and screamed into the air that he was gone. Completely and utterly gone. My husband, the father of my future children, the person that I wanted to share the rest of my life with, my soulmate, was gone. I hated the world at that moment, everything and everyone in it, I hated it all. Most of all I hated the person who caused this, who ran my husband off the road all because a fucking text message was more important to them than paying attention to the damn road. If I ever found them, even God wouldn’t be able to help them.
At night it was worse. Everything got worse. It’s funny the routines your body remembers. Sam gets home by 6 p.m. we always have dinner at 6:30. But there was no garage door opening, there was no whistling through the house, no hug, no kiss. For several weeks I would pick up our cast iron frying pan with the idea of cooking something and then remember he wasn’t coming home today. That he would never come home again. My anger, my rage continued to build and build until that Friday at exactly 8 p.m.
He always watched that stupid Syfy show. I always made fun of him for it, but I still watched it with him. He was so in love with science fiction and horror, always said we’d need the information one day to protect us against the zombie apocalypse. It was ridiculous, absolutely 150% ridiculous, but I missed it. I missed that routine, I missed him, and something in me snapped. I don’t know what it was, I don’t know what you would call it but it was like a bridge that had exploded from the bottom. The entire structure fell and collapsed, and everything, everything just became hot. I launched over our sofa and ripped that television off the wall. It tumbled and crashed to the floor but I kept hitting it over and over. I hit it until the screen broke and even then I didn’t stop. I threw the vase on the table, broke the remote apart with my hands, I tried to tear the sofa cushions apart but the material was too strong, so I just overturned it. The lamps? Gone. Those bulbs? Broken and demolished the same way my heartfelt. It wasn’t until I got to that blueprint that I stopped. It was the first design Sam had ever had accepted by a client. It was what fueled the success of his company, and I couldn’t, I couldn’t destroy that. I just, couldn’t.
Staring at that blueprint with bloodshot eyes I felt like I found my voice, for the first time since all of this. “Why did you leave me, Sam? How am I supposed to go on without you?”
That rage, the feeling, and acceptance of his loss woke something up inside of me. For the first time in almost a month, I entered our bedroom. I stepped into the bathroom and took a shower. I used his soap, wore one of his shirts, and I know it’s crazy but I swear I could feel him. For the first time, in over a month I swear I felt his arms wrap around me and the warmth there made me feel stronger than I knew I was. It took me hours to clean up the destruction I had caused in 20 minutes or less and I fell asleep on the same couch that I had been trying to break apart.
The doorbell woke me, the incessant ding-dong. I was tempted to ignore it just as I had been for weeks. Whatever neighbor who made me another pity casserole could leave it on the doormat, I’d get it later. But then I heard his voice, “Vanessa, I know you’re in there, open up.”
I grimaced. It was Jeff. I thought ignoring his phone calls would have told him everything I needed to say. To leave me the fuck alone. Then the banging started and my sleep-deprived mind couldn’t take it. It felt like he was literally knocking on my skull. I opened the door and he paused mid-knock. He took one look at me and I braced myself for him to say something, anything, but instead, he just hugged me.
It was odd, unexpected, and comforting. I realized then that I had been selfish in my grief. That I thought Jeff had Cara, his wife. That he had someone to share that pain with while I didn’t have anyone. That I didn’t want that from anyone, not really. That I just wanted to stay here in this dark hole that kept pulling me under more and more every day. But to know someone, for the first time, felt what I did even at the smallest degree, that someone knew my pain. It made my hole a little brighter. I motioned for him to come inside and as he did, he froze at the sight of the living room.
“I know,” I said quietly fully expecting the judgment. I wouldn’t be mad at him if he checked me into a mental hospital right at this moment.
“It’s worse than I thought. I guess I got that message right on time.”
“Huh?” I asked, “What message?” But he simply shook his head, “Let me get those bags out of here for you then we’ll talk.”
When he came back with a drink for the both of us I scrunched my face, “I could have gotten that for you.”
He gave me a “yeah right” face and sat down next to me.
“Do you want to tell me what happened?”
“I got a little, upset.”
When he didn’t respond I glanced over at him. Jeff was loud. He was frank, unfiltered, a tell it as it is sort of guy. He was almost the complete opposite of Sam. The fact that he wasn’t yelling at me right now unnerved me. “I just, I’ve been having a hard time.”
“Yeah I figured, you haven’t been answering any of my calls.”
“I couldn’t,” I said, “I just, I needed time.”
“Don’t you think a month was more than enough, V? Jesus,” he muttered. “The last time I saw you, you punched me in the face. I thought you were dead.”
“Sometimes I wish I was-” the words flew out of my mouth with such ease they shocked me.
“Don’t ever fucking say that again, okay? You may have only married Sam, but you’re like a sister to me. You’re family and I can’t lose anyone else right now, alright?” When I didn’t say anything he continued, “Do you believe in ghosts?”
“And you wonder why I didn’t answer any of your calls?”
He glared at me. “Yes, I believe in ghosts. Why?”
He paused. I could tell he was considering how to tell me something. “Jeff, just say it.”
“Sam’s been haunting you, but you haven’t been able to hear him. So he left me a message, that’s why I came over here today. He told me it was important, he-“ I busted out laughing. I rocked back and forth. My sides hurting as I tried to breathe.
“I’m being serious, V.”
“Jeff you can’t honestly expect me to-“
“You’ve smelled him around here. Haven’t you?”
I froze, my eyes wide as he continued, “And he’s been trying to get you to cook. Something about how tater tot casserole isn’t enough to keep you going?”
My neighbor, that’s what she brought over recently and I’d been eating it breakfast, lunch, and dinner, “How did you-“
“He told me. In a dream, he told me what to say to you to get you to believe me. I think that’s the only way he can communicate right now but you need to sleep. Actually, sleep, have you been sleeping in your bedroom?”
“No, I-” I began but he cut me off.
“Do it. It doesn’t have to be tonight if you’re not ready. If that’s the case come home with me we’ve got the spare room. But, you need to sleep in your bed to be able to hear him.”
“I,” I stammered, “are you for real right now?”
“You tell me,” he answered with a casual shrug of his shoulders like he hadn’t just told me my husband’s ghost spoke to him.
I thought it over but finally answered, “If there’s a chance, I’m staying.”
He nodded and then he smiled. The first smile I’d seen on his face since he got here. “I’ll let myself out,” he gave me a tight hug, “I’ll be by tomorrow, and we’ll talk about it then, so answer the damn door, okay?”
“Okay,” I said sheepishly.
The night took too long to come. I approached our bed with caution and wonderment. Should I do something? Was he already here? Should I announce when I’m going to bed so he can come into my dreams? Do ghosts see what you’re wearing when they’re in your dreams? It was crazy to think he’d even be there, and yet, how else did Jeff know all of those things if he wasn’t? If he couldn’t be? I had to believe, at the very least I had to do that if it meant I could see my husband one more time.
I climbed into bed, and fell asleep faster than I had in over a month. I don’t remember dreaming, but when I woke up I felt peace. I felt like I had slept for ten years. I felt energized and, just alive. I began to wipe the sleep from my eyes but paused at the gold shimmer on my thumb. I checked my ring finger to verify but my wedding band and ring were still in place. I pulled the gold ring off of my thumb and read the inscription inside, “7.2.10, The day I met P.C.” That ring had been stuffed away in the same bag the police had given me and hidden in a drawer in our kitchen. I hadn’t been able to look at it much less touch it, but here it sat on my finger.
I whispered up to the ceiling, choking back tears, “Thank you, Sam. I love you too.”