creativeboner fiction

Personal Favor (second draft)

6:06:00 PMPaul

It’s been exactly three months since the new staff first inhabited the quarters. I find the meals no longer want for flavor and fixtures in the halls and guest rooms no longer pale with dust. The whole estate now bustles with renewed vitality, bristling at all hours with the suggestion of anonymous youth. Yet while observant and polite and superior in every aspect, attending to all affairs both expected and spontaneous with less disruption, in less anticipation, and for lesser salaries, no one here remembers who you were. The gardener now only scowls peevishly when I send a tempest of gravel onto the uniformly manicured lawn, pastel and pristinely preened. I’m still unused to my pointed sighs sinking weightlessly under the undisturbed clutter of efficiency. How often I forget myself and lingering, wait on the maid’s piteously cocked glances to connect with my listless moistened eyelids that once elicited conditioned consolation. Although you never had in seven years of visitation and eventual residence the opportunity to memorize their names, I often found myself nodding automatically at Parkis the butler’s hand on my shoulder accompanying unsolicited assurances such as “We miss her dearly, sir.” I’d catch myself following the melodically intoned invocations of the maid Ms. Miles, whose face you once said aroused in you a deep discomfort, “No doubt she rests upon the right hand…” They only knew you left on unsuspicious holiday—not your first without me—to perish unexpectedly, your lithe limbs already spent and limp while being carried off the Cessna and once more tightly writhing within the second night of arrival, whipping little bits of essential sweat with every twist upon a daybed in the final minutes.

I don’t pretend that I remember who you were. Who I knew had left before your body departed the continent or your spirit relieved itself of its material. My beloved lies buried in the undisclosed circumstances of your last excursion, a secret only known to me since their infancy, including your companion, the trip’s initial impetus and requestor, who was to be my replacement. Attending beds with you in secret addresses, he intended to be so before we even wed and had convinced you to continue with the natural matrimony as to contribute comfort to the conditions. A pianist! When only news awoke us a day before your proposed homecoming, I felt instantaneous but fleeting relief. My desire for details became my new obsession, replacing and outweighing my jealous burden. At that time, I wanted to hear you scream as you tried, in a perverted reenactment of your stray straining, to resist the inevitable outcome of your escapade and force open your eyes in accusation and regret as he averted your thinning form, held so close in various escapist charades. I wanted to see your unenviable bones collapsing and scraping the inside of your skin in independent spasms, new contortions unattempted in previous recreation. Long after the waltz written employing anagrams of your name had waned in popularity and fallen out of common repertoires, I revisited my favorite phrases of yours, fine tuning them to divine which ones were your stock, which you had heard first on his lips and which were lies composed before we’d even met.

Until the very day their resignations were enforced, they misunderstood the source of my unebbing grief, assessing the root of my disbelief to be in the triumph of fatal determination and not your ill-conceived decision. They stressed that I must press on, that my indignation was misdirected expenditure, mistaking its aim for the otherworldly instead of the incomprehensible fact that a repugnant composer of stagnant, artificial overtures could overtake my passion for you. I never corrected them. I never so much as implied what I knew about the increasingly coincidental vacancies of our chamber and the music shop or the fat, flaccid fingers leading your hand to the ends of the earth as I had so often promised. They praised your singing and voracity. “Insatiable,” they’d say without a trace of irony or mockery. Your favorite meals were eventually brought to me despite foresight of a lost appetite. The broken dishes were swept away with patience and set jingling in gentle encouragement. Their sympathetic din grew louder and more harmonious against my discordant truth, asserting that your suffering was short until I’d abruptly quit the hall. The tantrums that such remarks engendered were attributed to a maladjusted mind—and correctly so—and they’d let me go, unaware the malady stemmed from all my discarded devotion, requited only for convenience. The unfairness that all but me may recall you flawlessly, ideal, supreme.

For months, I reluctantly approached father, imploring in superficial implications that the mourning chorus must go. “The tapestries spit dust when one walks by. Please say something…The flowers in the foyer have been two days wilting. Please do something,” but nothing was said and nothing done, owing to years of dedicated service and reciprocal respect. I received repeated prayers with feigned restraint until I broke under your tarnished memory. I accepted as penance the duty of silence. I suspended my frustrations. The vivid approximations of your meetings and torrid fits, the first and subsequent, and the misplaced carnal snarls that ensnared your once eloquent wit became flat fact to me, not tortuous vision. One day last summer, inside the study, father volunteered the mystifying sentiment, “As all relationships begin auspiciously, they never quite seem to reach that level of indefinite splendor we prepare for, isn’t that right…”

Today, I sifted through the newly organized cabinets, searching for a napkin you clumsily marked with lipstick on your last night here—from nervousness or blissful distraction I’m still unsure—that remained a year unwashed out of reverence—for me or for the ideal you, I’m still uncertain. It now rests, indistinguishable in the sweet smelling load of light linen which I rejected in entirety into an insolent pile on the floor. I passed the piano which now appears as if frequently played and turn up the freshly polished lid. I faintly ran the length of the keyboard and wondered which note begins your sonata. I tried reciting Ms. Miles’ prayers with the intention of including him had I been able to recall his name or the prayer itself. I’m now prepared for platitudes and presumptions, for adoptions of martyrdom, to abandon one unfounded insistence for another, but comical imitations replace the sympathetic murmurs audible outside the servants’ quarters. I find narrow empty eyes focused only on completing daily routines and vacating the corridors without encountering me. I watch two motes of dead cell dust collide and drift onto the floor, loitering until tomorrow to be dutifully disposed for offences that comprise their basic nature.

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