I shouldn’t have told anyone about the dead man in my car. It was a preposterous shortfall on my part; I needed to learn to keep my mouth firmly shut. Honest to a fault, me. I don’t know how it’s got to me sleeping with the microwave either, but still. Steve’s livid that he had to sleep on the sofa. He keeps doing that “And another thing” trick when he comes past the bedroom. I close my eyes and try to pretend I’m dozing off with the Toshiba.
“Don’t pretend you’re asleep, Claire.” For Christ’s sake, I wish he wouldn’t keep coming back in to add more to his argument with his silly know-it-all face. He’s got no idea that there’s a snail trail of shaving foam on his top lip. Blood-stained scraps of tissue make an ‘X marks the spot’ treasure map out of this morning’s shaving disasters. Forty-four and the man can’t manage to depilate without hacking up his own face. Shame, that.
He saunters back in again to add more facts to his increasingly strong case. The man can’t help himself.
“Claire, can you imagine how I felt coming home to find you in bed with a god damn it microwave? On my side of the bed as well. Your dead ex’s microwave, no less.”
“I’m not answering somebody that says ‘No less.'”
“You just did.” Smart-arse.
“Get some bloody help for god’s sake. Greg’s dead. You saw him lying there in a coffin with your own eyes. Gone. Kaput.” He did a forefinger line across his neck to symbolise ‘the chop.’ He knows I hate it when people do that.
“I couldn’t just let it go to the tip.” The plug stabs my hand as I pull the quilt higher to cover my neck.
I thought he’d finished, but he’s on a rolling rant. “What’s up, the microwave give you a hicky? It’s broken. You can’t reheat food in it anymore. It needs to go to the tip. End of.”
“I won’t let it go to the tip.”
“Claire, I knew it’d take you a few years to get over Greg, but you’ve had months of counselling. You still set a bleeding place at the kitchen table on his birthday every year. At our kitchen table, for god’s sake! You’ve yelled out ‘Greg, Greg, Greg’ at the point of climax whilst riding on my dick. It freaks me out. I’m surprised you don’t have me high-fiving Greg’s invisible hand on my way in and out. Why don’t we hand feed him his favourite chicken wings warmed up in his microwave? Oh – hang on – the microwave’s broken. Shall we get a new one and take it to the tip? Nah, don’t bother, Claire’s too busy shagging it on her husband’s side of the bed.” As he spoke, the tissue under his nostrils flickered as rampantly as the British flag. He looked like a tosser.
I lobbed a black kitten heel at his head. He was too quick. The oak door slammed, my shoe hitting it with a clang. An unfortunate miss. It would’ve given him a decent flow of blood to mop up with his precisely placed pieces of disseminated tissue.
The door flew open again. “You’ve demonstrated my point exactly. You’re being explosive, violent even. I’m not sure who you are anymore.”
“So you keep saying. I wanted to fill your nagging mouth with a fast-flying shoe, so what? Why is it, Steve, that you don’t ring the police or a social worker then? You’ve presented a compelling case for my insanity this morning. I am – in fact – in bed with a microwave. Give the police a call. You could have me sectioned by this afternoon. I’m sure they section women for throwing shoes and fucking microwaves. Now why don’t you stop being an amateur psychiatrist and stuff your razor up your…”
The door closed. “Dick!” I heard the extractor fan go on in the bathroom. Now he was off for a mid-row crap whilst he thought up a suitable retort.
What had he been trying to say anyway? I know. That old insane chestnut. It’s only a basic Toshiba brand with a timer knob and a temperature gauge. Nothing special, cheap as chips I imagine, but it’s in a striking dark green colour, quite unusual for a kitchen appliance because it’s exactly the same shade as forest ferns. But it’s not what it looks like. It’s when I open the door and put my head inside. I can smell Greg. Only the briefest whiff of him but it’s Greg all the same. His skin used to smell of warm milk and stones, of Imperial Leather soap and just the right strength of Paco Rabanne aftershave. I’ve been offering to make food for Steve straight after dinner for ages, just so I can stick my head in it and breathe him in. I suppose Steve’s been quite good about it really. It pissed him off when I asked him to stop heating curry up in it, but it totally masks Greg’s smell. He called me a weirdo then. That’s all I hear now. Weirdo. Mentalist. Men-in-white-coat jokes are my speciality.
Sugar-coated advice about bereavement comes thick and fast at first. Then nothing. If you don’t fit neatly into the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle, they’ll try to cart you off for frontal lobe electrical rewiring. I’ve got a set of Greg’s clothes in the boot of my car as well. Underpants. Cufflinks. The lot. And shoes. I can’t stand the thought of him not having any pants to wear when he gets out of his coffin. It was a daft thing to tell Steve, really. It just feels like he’s with me when I’m stuck in traffic jams and going on long journeys. Sometimes I hear him say “Get your toe down” when I’m in a thirty mph zone. Grief takes time, or so the mantra goes. Nobody tells you the facts, though; if it takes too much time, the listening ears start bleeding. Nobody tells you that you’ll risk losing all your friends, be deemed a mentalist and your husband will turn into a flaming bottle of bleach. I could take a fucking flame to the poisonous irritant. He’s clueless. Steve’s absolutely right about one thing though. If he hadn’t threatened to put the microwave in the skip, he’d have kept his bastard side of the bed.
Rachael Smart is a social worker from Nottingham with a thing about words. Her work has appeared in LITRO and is upcoming in Et Cetera. She is hopelessly addicted to the writer’s website ABCTales.com.