My wife killed herself on Christmas Eve. My daughter died a few weeks before that.
A year later, I'm cowering against the back of the closet in the master bedroom. I can't remember the last time I slept in our bed. I didn't even try it after my wife died. Even being in this room, where we stayed up late, sticky with sweat, my fingers wrapping the length of her hair in an easy fist; well, it makes me sick to look at the bed.
My daughter's room casts an equal feeling of terror and panic over my heart. She was four. The nurse on the phone said we didn't need to bring her into the emergency room if she wasn't wheezing or gasping for breath. We should give her Tylenol for her sore throat and fever. She advised us not to use one of the vaporizers that emit hot steam. They were too dangerous.
The cool mist humidifier is still sitting next to her bed. The sheets, sour with the scent of fever, are still fastened to the mattress.
My wife finished shopping early last year. It was the first time Christmas would really mean something to our daughter, she said. It was the first year she'd be too excited to sleep. Neatly wrapped presents are piled in our closet with the summer clothes covering them. All of the name tags say "Callie." My wife even disguised her handwriting and adopted a more solid penmanship, worthy of the man himself.
"Love, Santa," they all say.
I'm looking at them, but I can't bring myself to touch them.
My sister suggested I give them away to needy kids. I should drop them off at the homeless shelter. There's no use in spending my life holding on to something like that. I don't know what's in most of them. I've never liked shopping, especially not around the holidays.
They whisper to me in little crinkling voices. I want to open them and press myself against their blinking lights and plastic eyes. I want to eat them, to take them inside of me and digest them, feel them against the roof of my mouth. They hold ghosts and I want to be one, too.
I didn't believe in guns, before. Once my girls were gone, I bought one and started shooting things. I have a brother who hunts. He offered to go shooting with me, for fun. I didn't shoot my gun for fun, though. I've bitten down on the tip of the barrel so many times. It makes me sick that he shoots animals, anyway.
I'm going to kill myself here in the light of a bare bulb surrounded by hundreds of darling little bows and the name "Callie" in a hand I recognize as being the last evidence of happiness in the world. The only thing my wife wrote after these tags was her suicide letter. It was addressed to me.
"I hate everything," it said in her own handwriting. "I hate God and I hate you for being alive when she's not. I hate God."
That was it. Only, at the the bottom of the page she scribbled, "I love you."
It's Christmas Eve again. I've bitten down on the barrel.
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Chaos Mandy challenged me with "Silent Night, Undead Night" and I challenged femmefauxpas with "There is a stain on the carpet. It's really hard to see."