A friend from DFW Writers Conference posted a cool prompt on Twitter, and I thought I'd take a stab at it. I was supposed to set a timer for 10 minutes and write, but I forgot to set the timer, my dog started freaking out at the garbage truck, I got a string of texts from a friend. You know, life stuff happened. That, and I got carried away by the story that unfolded in my head and I couldn't force myself to stop writing until I found the end. I probably spent 30 minutes on this prompt. It has not been edited. It's just pure, delicious, writing prompt word vomit. But it was fun!
I felt normal until...Boxes of rocks... Choices... Write for 10 minutes. Incorporate all of these things.
I woke up feeling like I always feel. Sluggish. Disappointed. Slightly confused. I also had to pee like a mother fucker. I have a small bladder, and I'm a deep sleeper, so normal for me is waking up with a dull ache deep in my body. I rolled out of bed and kegel-walked my way to the bathroom to relieve myself, not wasting time to turn on the light.
When I was done on the toilet, carefully made my way to the kitchen. Boxes of rocks littered the hallway, obstructing doorways. Some of the boxes were arranged in sloppy, sagging stacks, the cardboard straining under the weight of the contents. I've been telling Nate for months that if he didn't get the damned rocks out of here, I would. He promised me a hundred-thousand times he'd deal with them, but he never did. Neither did I. Instead, the stacks got higher, more precarious. The more boxes of rocks he lugged in, the less fight I had left in me. I loved him, after all, and if this odd collection of his soothed his soul, who was I to get so pissed off about it? It's not like he was a drunk or a cheat. He didn't gamble our money away. He didn't have mistresses secreted all over the city. He was just a broken man who had a strange hobby. I didn't understand it, but I reasoned it wasn't my place to understand. After what he'd been through, the only thing I could really do was support him through his journey, wherever that may lead. Still, though, it hurt like hell when I stubbed my toe against one of those boxes. Boxes of rocks aren't known for being well-cushioned.
I flicked on the kitchen light and shook my head at the mess on the counter. When he first started this rock collecting phase, it quickly became clear that it could take over our whole house if we didn't lay down some ground rules..."ground" rules...har har har. I insisted he keep his collections contained in some manner--build shelves, stored in giant tubs, whatever--as long as individual rocks weren't strewn about the house. My only other rule was to keep them out of our bedroom and the kitchen. Just because he randomly developed a rock fetish doesn't mean I have to sleep and cook with the damn things. Until that morning, he had always done a pretty good job about respecting my boundaries. The kitchen was a blissfully rock-free 99% of the time.
"Nate," I called as I filled the carafe with water. "Honey, please get these rocks out of here! I wanted to make breakfast, but I can't lift the box off the counter!"
I measured out the coffee beans and ground them into a fine powder before trying again.
"Honey! I need the counter! Get these damned rocks out of here." The coffee pot sighed and sputtered the irritation I tried to swallow down.
"You know what? That's fine. I'll take care of it myself! I wouldn't want to disturb you." I winced at my own passive-aggression. I swear, I'm not a bitch. It's just that living in a house of crumbled and dusty stone was starting to get to me. The coffee maker spat out the last of its brown juice, and I filled two mugs.
"I'm sorry, Nate. That was a total bitch comment." I side stepped the boxes between the kitchen and dining room and set my coffee on the table. I wrapped both hands around Nate's mug. Something was wrong. Nate wasn't into ignoring people. Even if he had his earbuds in, he always kept the volume low enough to hear me if I called for him.
The living room light was on. The curtains were flung open...odd. Since he started his collection, he preferred to keep the curtains drawn. It was as if he understood that his behavior and our current living conditions were far outside the range of normal, and he was afraid of being judged by outsiders.
There was usually a wobbly stack of boxes behind the couch. I don't know what he was thinking, stacking them so high. I'd told him over and over that it was dangerous. They could topple over and crush us while we watched The Office. Maybe he finally got around to moving them to a safer place.
I came around the couch and screamed. Nate's coffee mug fell from my hands, hit a neatly stacked pyramid of rocks, and shattered. Nate was on the floor, his feet toward the pyramid. The pile of boxes that had always threatened to smash our heads in while we watched mindless television had finally come down. But not by themselves. Nate did it. He had positioned his head at the base of the boxes and pulled them over onto himself.
Why? Why did he make a fucking pyramid in our living room? Why did he sacrifice himself at the base of it, to the gods of his inner demons? I was the one person who loved him most in the world, and he chose not to trust me. Not to confide in me. To tell me what was really going on with him. He chose to leave me here, in a rock-hoarder's hell hole, knowing perfectly well I couldn't lift those fucking boxes.
As I screamed my grief and rage at the crushed body of my husband, it dawned on me that I was a widow.
I'd never wake up feeling normal again.