Marian sat alone in the den with just the blue haze of the television glowing in the darkness. Alone. She never thought she would ever be alone like this. But here she was, sitting with a cushion propped under her chin, watching herself and her husband dance across the television screen. It was a video of their wedding day; he looked shamelessly in love with her. Tears soaked her cheeks and settled on her lips. She could taste the salt, but she was too tired and too engrossed in watching Ben dance to get up and get a Kleenex. The tears found a home on the cushion.
They’d been married less than five years. Now he was gone. His death was such a shock to Marian. Her parents tried everything to keep her moving, coaxing and pleading with her to at least leave the house now and then. But she was stuck, it seemed. Stuck in a celluloid world, alone with her Ben, whom she missed so very much.
“Why? Why did this happen??” she screamed into the air. She didn’t receive any answers. Just then, the phone rang. “Oh, what now?” She angrily picked it up. “Hello? Yes.”
“We just wanted to let you know a representative will be in your —” The guy never had a chance. Marian smashed the receiver down onto the cradle.
Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” was playing on the stereo. She had turned the sound off on the television so she could just watch Ben, watch him laugh and dance and hug her and their friends. She watched as he danced with his parents, her parents, with her nieces and nephews. She cried. Grief overtook her. Like a shroud, it covered her in black. In darkness.
There was a knock at the door. Marian got up slowly and walked over.
“Who is it?”
“It’s me, Mar. Let me in, I need to see you. I want to make sure you’re ok.”
Marian didn’t have it in her to see her friend. Not now.
“Gail, go home, I’m fine.”
“Marian, your parents and Ben’s parents are extremely worried about you. You’ve been locked away in this house for over two months. You have to get out. Are you eating?” Gail’s voice was heavy with concern.
Marian opened the door and let her friend in.
“Oh, thanks sweetie. What are you doing in here, day after day?”
“Watching movies,” Marian replied quietly.
“Movies? What do you mean, what kind of movies?”
“Movies of me and Ben. I feel him with me when I watch them. Like he isn’t dead. I feel like I could reach out and touch him.” Marian started to cry.
Tears spilled down Gail’s cheeks as they hugged each other. She asked Marian if she’d eaten today.
“No, I don’t know, maybe I did. Each day seems to flow into the next, like I’m here but not really here. I can’t do anything, Gail. It seems like I’m just stuck in this position. And I don’t ever want to turn the TV off because if I do, Ben will be gone for good. Forever.”
Gail motioned toward the kitchen. “Come with me, you need to eat.”
“No, I can’t, I can’t leave Ben.” Marian’s eyes were filled with sadness and fear.
“Ok, turn the stereo off and turn the volume up. I was at this wedding too, I wouldn’t mind reminiscing with you. We can listen from the kitchen, would that be okay?”
“I guess so,” Marian answered reluctantly.
Gail took Marian’s hand and led her into the kitchen and over to the small table by the window. Marian sat down and looked out at the garden while Gail prepared something for them to eat. They could hear the sounds of laughter and music coming from the den.
“I don’t think I can go on, Gail. Without Ben. Look at the garden out there. That was his place. Everything I look at reminds me of him. The pain is just too much.” Marian looked down at her hands, fixating on her wedding rings.
“You will go on, it will just take some time. You know time heals all wounds. And Ben would want you to continue on, Mar.”
Marian sighed. “I feel so lost.”
After dinner, the two of them went back to the den and sat side by side. The home movie was still playing, and they watched as Marian and Ben were preparing to leave the reception as newlyweds, both of them laughing and embracing friends and family. Gail and Marian held each other, crying.
Gail gently pulled away. “I’m going to have to go now, I have an early morning meeting. I want you to go to bed, okay? Promise me you’ll turn the TV off and go to bed and try to sleep. Do you want a sleeping pill? I brought some just in case.”
“No, I’m fine, you go. You’re right, I should go to bed. I’m exhausted. Thanks for coming over, and please don’t worry about me.” Marian continued to stare at the screen.
“Mar, stop,” Gail demanded. “Go to bed.”
“Okay, okay, I’ll walk you out.”
Marian closed the front door after they said their goodbyes and walked back into the den. She sat and watched the TV screen, mesmerized as it burned with love and loss. She watched the movie over and over, watching her dead husband, almost willing his celluloid self to come to her. She felt as though she, too, was being driven by some force toward her husband on the screen.
Several days later, Gail checked on Marian again. When Marian didn’t answer the door, she panicked and ran around the back. On instinct, she threw a rock at the French doors, flipped the lock and ran toward the den. She could hear the party; the music playing. She recognized Ben and Marian’s wedding song. When she got to the den she stood, stunned, frozen in time and space. Marian was on the television screen, waving. Is she waving at me? Gail wondered. She searched the house from top to bottom. Marian was nowhere to be found.
“Yes, I’d…I’d like to report a missing person,” Gail stammered into the phone. She was standing by the television when she heard what sounded like Marian’s voice, saying “Don’t bother looking, Gail.” Gail stared at the screen, at the two young newlyweds, happy and content, with a whole lifetime ahead of them. In a celluloid world.
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