The day Lydia died, I stopped being normal. The phone rang, a voice told me she was
gone and I hung up. I didn’t know what to do. I could see the pink sunrise. Morning.
I should eat some cereal and take a shower, I thought. That’s a normal thing to do
in the morning.
I don’t know how long I stood under the water. A long time, I think. I felt guilty
because I could still take long, hot showers. Not like Lydia, because Lydia’s dead.
Standing there, naked in front of the bathroom mirror, I wondered when the crying
would start. Normal people cry when their best friend dies, right? I looked at my
reflection, pondering this. That’s when I noticed it - the dark spot below my ear.
Had that always been there? Could be melanoma, even though I’m only 30.
Lydia was only 30, but that didn’t stop a disease from killing her. Youth doesn’t
I decided if Lydia could die at 30, then I could, too. I decided it was probably
Gawking at myself with a towel still wrapped around my head, every flaw and blemish
jumped out, became bold and threatening. These all had the potential to kill me.
Is that how I would die? Would my own body betray me?
Something above my eye began throbbing. An aneurysm. It’s probably an aneurysm, I
thought. A vein in my head was about to go “pop”. An image of myself dropping dead,
naked on the bathroom floor with a towel on my head flashed through my brain.
Aspirin. That’ll fix it. Aspirin is good for the heart, too, they say. An aspirin
a day keeps the coronary away.
Maybe I should just go to a doctor. No, I can’t go alone. Lydia would’ve gone with
me, but now she can’t. I’ll have to do things alone now because Lydia is dead.
Then, there’s getting to the doctor’s office. Someone could smash into my car. A
piece of glass from the windshield could fly at my throat and sever my jugular.
But, I couldn’t stay home alone. If I did, someone could break in. People get murdered
in their own homes all the time.
I couldn’t look away from that horrific, terrified me standing in front of me. This
pink, fragile sack of weak meat that could die at any moment.
That could cease to exist. Just like Lydia.
I tried to be a normal person doing normal things for the next three days. Lydia
said she found it useless for the living to sit around bawling and blubbering over
the deceased. “A nice Irish wake is the way to go,” she had said. “Drink some Guinness,
play some Flogging Molly and talk about all of the ridiculous things we used to do.”
I decided to take the subway to O’Malley’s. Too many things could go wrong with a
car. Once I arrived on the subway platform, I noticed how many people foolishly stood
near the edge. I wanted to scream at them, “Don’t you know how easy it is to push
someone in front of an oncoming train?” but I didn’t. Rapid visions flickered through
my mind’s eye of a body squishing like rotten tomato upon impact.
The train was late. I thought to myself, “I would be at home right now, but I’m waiting
for this train that isn’t here because Lydia’s dead”. I opened my book and tried
to look like a normal person reading, pretending not to notice the man with the wispy
hair and glasses who had been staring at me. Even when I saw him approaching me out
of the corner of my eye, I pretended not to notice.
“That’s a great book,” he said.
I looked up, feigning surprise. “Excuse me?”
“That’s a great book,” he repeated, pointing. “I’m a big DeLillo fan.”
“Oh, yeah,” I said, remembering that I held a Don DeLillo novel in my hands.
“He’s, um… very good.”
“It’s an interesting theme, facing the fear of death and death lurking in the ‘white
noise’ of our modern world”. He held out his hand. “Sorry, my name’s Max”.
I looked down at his hand and heard the train approach. “I… I’m sorry. I have to
go. That’s my train,” I said, scurrying away.
Inside the train, everyone was suspect, just like Max. I briefly wondered if he wasn’t
flirting with me, but I decided that it was better not to take risks. Trusting people
will only diminish my safety.
Standing outside O’Malley’s Pub, I hovered over a trashcan, debating whether or not
to toss my book in it. This damned DeLillo novel that Lydia gave me. Ha ha, good
one Lydia. That’s what I would have said if Lydia wasn’t dead.
I wouldn’t be standing in front of this pub in the cold, gawking at a trashcan if
Lydia wasn’t dead. I dropped the book inside.
The pain in my gut was overwhelming. Could it be an ulcer? It was probably an ulcer.
Or worse, stomach cancer. Maybe stomach cancer.
I don’t know how long I stood on the street before Lydia’s brother Peter came outside
and found me standing there. I looked up at him, the dark circles under his eyes
identical to the ones I’d been seeing in my own mirror for the past few days. I looked
down into the trashcan, the book lying among the food wrappers and wax-covered paper
cups. I reached in and grabbed the book, dropping it back into my bag.
Peter scrunched his nose and asked what in the hell I was doing, ferreting around
“What? Normal people play around in the garbage all the time,” I said.
He shook his head and put his arm around my shoulders, leading me inside. “Yeah…
you’re a big weirdo,” he said. “Just like Lydia.”
• • •
Rasmenia Massoud is an American writer living somewhere in France. She is the author
of the short story collection, "Human Detritus" and some of her other work has appeared
in places like The Foundling Review, The Lowestoft Chronicle, Full of Crow and Underground
Voices. You can visit her at: http://www.rasmenia.com/
*This piece previously appeared at Metazen, May, 2011