Kind, understanding eyes are unbearable when you don’t want to be understood. Or do you?
Bad things happen to good people, but there’s no point in talking when there’s no point in being.
There’s been no you left—not for years.
And yet you tell. You step back into that sweltering Saturday morning that killed you by leaving you alive.
You remember your dark blue shirt, disguising your pit stains to look polished on video conference. Your home office, the hottest room in the house—serves you right. The wife bugging you about your honey-do list, longer by the day, neglected calls to the A/C repairman, the over-priced plumber, that company hotline about the damn motor on that piece-of-crap pool cleaner.
As man of the house, you should handle these things yourself. You know you won’t and you know you can’t, but pride feedeth procrastination.
Thank God she’s picked up the groceries, though it was your turn, or you’d have nothing for the kids. She drives off in a huff to brunch with her girlfriends, refusing to take another item off your list. You understand: her list is always longer, always ticked, always updated—the wife never needs to be nagged. She deserves a break from the twins, and from you.
You leave your boys playing with Legos on the floor just outside your wide-open office door, a bowl of neatly dissected grapes on a tray on the floor beside them. You wonder what asshole decided good parents needed to cut up grapes. No one ever cut your grapes when you were a kid. Aren’t grapes already nature’s perfectly sized, ready-to-eat snacks?
You’ve cut them up anyway.
You’re pretty sure you’ll endure the agonizing pain of stepping barefoot onto a stray Lego at some point, but whatever keeps them busy.
You’ll take them to the park later: they love the park, and you love being seen by the mothers there. The amazing dad, out with the kiddos like that. You’re certain no one coos such compliments at your wife, so you never tell her that part.
You work and you sweat and you multi-task like a pro. No one sees you sweat.
How long your ears have been registering what your gooseflesh is telling you, you have no idea. The sound. Everything sounds all wrong.
The house is too silent. It’s never silent. But the yard—the churning alien sound pulsates from the backyard.
Have you left the back door open?
You run, you fly, you crash through the half-open kitchen door, right heel tracking faintly bloody prints from stomping through an abandoned Lego kingdom.
Everything sounds wrong, and now you understand.
There’s nothing of you left.
J.E. Seuk is a writer, freelance editor, and former high school English teacher who studied English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. She is a Korean-American newly settled in Brighton, England, where she’s a member of the West Hill Writers Group and at work on her first full-length manuscript. @SeukWrites | instagram.com/seukwrites