I am on death row. Ha, to write that on actual paper. I have said it out loud plenty of times. But to write it: I am on death row. Death row. Damn, will I ever get used to it? Death row. I am on death row.
I Am On Death Row.
Okay, I will stop now.
Reader, let me explain what has happened. How I landed here. Here on Death Row. Sorry, sorry. There’s a sense of addictive giddiness in writing that again and again. But let me explain.
I must warn you, it isn’t a good story.
It’s something I refuse to address for three main reasons:
1) People say I am bull-shiting the whole thing (how could I possibly be bull-shiting eight years of my life?)
2) The details of it makes me wanna barf (like literally barf)
3) I am made to look like the villain (see reason number 1)
Reader, you decide what you think is true.
Here is a slightly detailed account of what happened:
I was 23 years old. A normal 23-year-old, working a job at the local newspaper, writing the most depressing column on earth: obituaries. Yes, there is someone who writes them. And no, they don’t get sent in to the paper to be printed. I had to write the obituaries for the dozens and dozens of strangers who Will Be Deeply Missed By Their Parents Because They Were Such A Gentle Soul Taken Too Soon By The Good Lord. And it was a pretty ridiculous job if you ask me, because, all I was doing was writing Will Be Missed and Taken Away Too Soon in multiple ways. Writing the obituaries just about paid my rent and kept my stomach full. For the remainder of my income, I had to waitress at the local coffee shop. It wasn’t too bad. I would divide my time between serving coffee, reading magazines, imagining what the lives of customers that came into the shops must be like, and imagining what I would write in their obituaries. A Cheerful Man Fond Of Bicycling, Active Member Of Gay Men’s Club, Taken Away Too Soon. A Quiet Lady, Spent Half Her Time Reading and Caring For Her Ailing Grandfather, Gone Too Soon.
It was a regular day like this, between the coffee serving, the magazine reading, and the scenarios I formed in my head, that I first saw him.
Reader, it’s time for me to eat. The food here is shitty. I thought that being on death row, ahem, meant better food because, well, I was dying. Being electrocuted, if you are keen on gory details. But no, the food tastes like shit here. But I have to eat it. Give me a moment.
* * *
Right, I am back. Where was I? Where was I? Oh yes, him. His was a fresh face. Unlike the regular old and groggy customers that were the norm of our coffee shop. He was young. My age, maybe older by two, three years? He was dressed like the men in the magazines I read. Suited up. Smart. The Rich Business Men that have an in-house library type. He was tall and skinny. His hair was blonde and gelled up so much that the light from the lamp bounced off its sleekness. He spoke with a stammer: “Can I get the m-m-m-macchiato, and a br–br–brownie, please?”
“You’re a wri-wri-ter?” He said to me some six weeks after his first visit. Yes, technically. I am a writer. He asked if he would have read anything of mine. Sure, I said. The obituaries in The Daily. “They get someone t-t-to do those?“ They do. “Wow.”
A year later we were dating. And a year after that he got on his knees, “m-m-arry me?” I said yes. The first few years of our marriage were great. It was just like we were dating. The same kinda excitement. The same kinda love. The same kinda sex. It was year six of our marriage when things began to change. He began to change. “You c-c-can’t even gi-gi-ve me a ch-child!!” he said during one of our billion arguments.
That one always got to me. It hurt the most. I had failed as a wife in the eyes of my husband: I was still writing obituaries. I was still serving coffee. I was still thin. I was not popping babies.
My husband and I had spoken about children long before our marriage. Way back when we were dating. “I have nev–nev–ver really p-pictured myself as a fa-ther either,” he had told me when I told him I did not want kids because I would make a shit mother.
I think it was around then that I had fallen in love with him.
I still did not want kids. He suddenly did. “B-b-become a mm-mmother, you wh-wh-whore, then you wi-will know ho-w to r-r-respect yours-self-,” He said to me during an argument about the Same Thing. He had started to change. He had never sworn at me to that extent before. All the promises he made during our dating days and during the first five years of marriage suddenly seemed to have watered out of him and evaporated into thin air somewhere. They lingered, but barely. He had changed.
It was his 30th birthday. I was writing him a card. What I wrote was: I love you, Happy Birthday, Handsome. What I wanted to write was: Okay Man. Kind of an asshole. Gone. But Not Soon Enough. Ah, to write an obituary of someone I know and love. No, loved. Imagine that.
He came home on the night of his 30th birthday. Cut his cake. Read his card. Ate the pasta. We had sex. He told me “I l-love you, b-b-eautiful.” And fell asleep. Everything was so systematic. It was as though he was one of those pull-string dolls with big black eyes that stared directly at you and spun round and round and round probably saying some shit like “I love you, mommy” until the string ran out, bringing the doll to a sudden halt and filling the room with an eerie silence. It was then that I had decided. The string had to run out. He had to go. I had to write that obituary.
I have to go, reader, it’s time for my daily walk. Did you know they let us death-rowers (I just made that word up, damn, death row is doing the writer in me well) step outside? It’s like a fucking ball. I love going outside.
– Elizabeth A.