He was drunker than usual. Ordinarily, she would feel relief when he collapsed onto the couch by the TV. That meant he was too drunk to yell and fight. Tonight, she felt no relief. All she could do was watch him from the doorway, hoping he would drink the poisoned whiskey she had just poured him.
A lump sat in her throat as she watched his fat belly rise and fall with his labored breath. In his hand, he held the last drink she would ever pour for him. He sat there for a few minutes in silence without even looking at the glass of whiskey he clutched in his fat fingers. Then, without warning, he downed the entire glass in one movement.
He let the glass hit the ground and sighed. He would go to sleep soon. It wouldn’t be painful. Nowhere near as painful as the last twenty-three years had been for her. She wanted him to leave the world peacefully. She still loved him, after all. Still, she felt he deserved an explanation. At the very least, he deserved a good-bye.
She walked around to the front of the couch. He rolled his half-opened eyes in her direction and the two stared at each other in silence.
“There was more than whiskey in your drink,” she said, her voice shaking. “I’m sorry.”
“Your black eye is healing,” he said quietly. “You know I’m sorry about hurting you. Don’t you?”
“You were very beautiful once. I can still see it sometimes. When you smile. You don’t smile much these days. But when you do, your eyes flash like they did when we were teenagers. It reminds me of how young and beautiful we were. Young, beautiful, and carefree.”
“Your drink,” she said with tears forming in her eyes. “You’re dying. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
“I know,” he whispered and slowly nodded. “I saw you pour it.”
She put her hands over her mouth and tried not to cry.
“Do you remember that field trip we took during our second year of high school?” he asked.
She shook her head.
“We spent the whole day together,” he said as his voice became fainter. “It was the first time I really met you. There were fifty or sixty of us there but I only cared about you. On the bus ride home, we sat next to each other. Do you remember now?”
“Everybody on the bus slept. They were so tired. But not us. We couldn’t stop talking to each other. We had so much to say back then. When you started to drift off to sleep, I was sad. But then you said something to me. Do you remember what it was?”
“I-” she paused to steady her voice. “I’m going to lean on you, ok?”
“Yeah,” he said as a smile slowly spread across his face. “And you fell asleep on my shoulder. I couldn’t sleep the whole bus ride because I was so happy that we were having that moment. And I know you didn’t sleep either. The bus bounced too much. And back then my arms were muscular. You just wanted to be close to me. I’m sorry I was such a lousy pillow. And I’m sorry I was an even lousier husband.”
She wanted to say something but could not.
His voice slowed even further. He spoke as if he was in a dream. “I still love you as much as I did on that bus ride. I just got worse at showing it. I’m sorry.”
She did not reply. She just stood and tried to compose herself. After a moment, she walked over and sat next to him on the couch.
“I’m going to lean on you, ok?” she whispered.
“Ok,” he replied as she rested her head against his arm.
The two sat in silence until his breathing stopped at last.