The mechanical clicking of the front door latch being opened forcefully penetrated the wildly random violence of Efram's latest dream. Storm waves crashed against the rock below his naked feet. He couldn't discern how many shouting voices were behind him. An image of his mother, lying in a casket, dressed in flowing white robes, her eyes pinned shut, pushed the gray-black clouds apart. He turned to face the voices. He tried to scream as he saw only the long, black steel of the gun barrel pointed at his chest. Falling to his knees, he covered his face with his trembling hands and begged through choked tears, "Please, don't kill me. Please. Not now. Not yet."
He lay, shivering, in the bed. His stark-white t-shirt, dampened from sweat, stuck to his chest. His ears quickly filled with the pounding sound of the blood coursing with seeming contempt through his body with each tachycardic heart beat. He tried to focus a gaze on the ceiling light. The stinging in his eyes and the now-running tears trying feebly to coat the dryness forced a fuzzy memory: garbled words of televised salesmen; the hard seam of the leather couch pushing into the side of his crooked head; waking to the blackness of a cold, quiet room, hardened drool on his chin; stumbling through the hallway, grasping at the walls to steady himself; removing all but his t-shirt and underwear to a pile on the floor by the bed; tearing the covers over himself. He closed his eyes slowly, watching what few and now swirling shapes he could just make out disappear into the darkness of his thoughts.
At once, he remembered the sound that woke him. His eyes opened. His face flushed. His chest clenched. His stomach dropped. He stole the bed sheet into his tightly clenched fists.
I am afraid, he thought.
Ruth lay next to him in the dark, unaware of his quiet, frightened stare. He thought to reach over, to touch her, to wake her so that she would share his fear. He, instead, turned away from her and lay on his side. His heart beating faster and faster.
What will I do; what should I do, he thought.
He did not move.
He became acutely aware of any sound in the house: a creaking floor board outside the bedroom door; the yawn of the cat in another room; the whirring of the refrigerator motor; the ignition of the furnace; air blowing through the wall vent; Ruth's slow, heavy breathing beside him.
The deep sound of her breaths whisked him away into thoughts he'd hoped were forgotten. Here was their first kiss. Here were all of the late night talks and long walks by the beach. Here was the argument over leaving too big a tip for that shitty waiter. Here were countless silences while watching films or playing records. Here were the drunkenly strewn shards of the wedding china after which of the countless, nameless times enough was enough. Here again was the moment he had known that she no longer loved or needed him. Here, now, alone by her side, afraid of the dark, were as many tears and pangs of his heart that he could conjure. He closed his eyes with as great a force as he could bring himself to raise, and he tried to cry. He managed only a dry gasp.
With a slow, silent movement, he left the bed.
Standing in the hallway, he looked left, then right. As though it were for the last time, he turned and looked back at the gently moving mound of covers surrounding Ruth's sleeping body in their bed. He hoped he would smile and think warm, loving thoughts of cherished memories; he instead turned back toward the stairs and began the slow descent.
In the living room, he took up a tumbler of scotch, and sat by the window in the antique rocker they found on a whim during a day trip along the coast. He pushed his heels at the floor and the chair rocked back, as far as it could; he felt the strain of his calf muscles as he held the position. He sipped slowly from the glass, feeling the steady burn of the alcohol coating his mouth, throat, stomach.
As he sat alone, he repeated silently: I just want to die; please kill me; please.