Once when I was young, I read a story in the newspaper.
A man had gone on a picnic with his wife and children. They spent the day by the lake, playing in the water, throwing a football, and doing all the typical things that families do. At the lake, the man and his wife struck up a friendship with another couple with whom they shared a few small confidences.
When it was time to leave the man stood by the car, a station wagon I think it was, making small talk with the couple as his wife straightened items in the trunk. She positioned a picnic hamper here, a blanket there.
“Hurry up,” the man said to his wife. He was eager to be on his way.
“Just a minute,” the wife replied. For she was not easily hurried.
The man tapped his watch.
The wife found a new spot for the children’s floats.
Exasperated the man turned to the couple standing nearby.
“Women,” he said with a sigh as if this explained something.
The couple laughed.
The man became lost in thought.
What was he thinking?
Who can say?
The long road ahead?
The tediousness of the situation?
What do men think about at the end of a long day?
That’s not for me to say, but something.
His hand rested on the trunk handle, impatiently clicking the hasp when without a word of warning he pulled the trunk lid down.
The wife’s name was Claire. The couple had been married for seven years. From all accounts they were happy.
The wife stumbled from the car. It was as if her legs were made of wood.
She whimpered, yes, but mostly she was silent.
For what is there to say when you have been wounded by someone you love?
The couple standing nearby were helpful.
One brought ice from a cooler, the other retrieved a blanket.
They both clucked with concern as they walked to their car.
In this state the man and his wife drove toward home.
The wife nursing a growing lump with a handful of ice, the man silently castigating himself for his misfortune.
For what else could it be called? He hadn’t actually meant to hurt his wife, had he?
Before the lake was out of sight, the wife complained of a headache.
By the time they reached the main road, she spoke only in syllables from childhood.
Then as people say, in the blink of an eye she was gone.
A hematoma had formed, under the surface of the skin. The result of something broken. A rare consequence of a bump or bruise.
The death was ruled accidental, and I think this is true.
For what is love, if not certain carelessness?
A desire in the larger sense to forgive?
And what is marriage if not an insensitivity to danger that is born of trust?
But I will tell you this, though I sit here whole— I was that wife.