The Promise


"Do you know what my biggest fear is, Lily?"
"No, Daniel. What?"
"Being buried alive."
I flipped on the bathroom light. A cockroach dragged her sac across our toilet tank and rested at the base of our daughter's Colgate pump. I shielded the fecund scavenger with a home-made jewelry box. The popsicle sticks were blue and red and green. I turned to my husband. "I won't let that happen, Daniel."
My husband nodded. His grave eyes were a liquid yellow. I suppressed an urge for a sunny-side up egg and reached for his chin. He brushed my hand away.
"Lily," my husband said. "Do you know what my second biggest fear is?"
I shoved my hand into my pocket and raised my eyes to the ceiling. The bulb flickered. I pretended to be blind. Then dumb. Then deaf.
Daniel lowered his voice. "Do you know what my second biggest fear is, Lily?"
The light burned my eyes. I turned to the father of my only child. "No, Daniel. What?"
"Being buried dead."
"I love you, Daniel."
"I know, babe."
I climbed on top of the toilet seat. Daniel passed me a sixty watt bulb. He pointed to the light fixture.
"Are you ready, Lily?"
"I think so."
My husband switched the light off. He disappeared in the dark.
"Clockwise or counter-clockwise, Daniel?"
"Feel your way through it, Lily."
"But, Daniel ..."
"Don't panic, Lily. Just stay focused."
"But I'm afraid! What if . . ."
"You can do it, babe. I'm right here."
"Where, Daniel, where?"
"Right here."
"Promise me. DANIEL, PROMISE ME!"
"Cross my heart and hope to ..."
"NO! NO! NO!"
I woke up with a start. With a rocking motion, I cleared my empty marriage bed. Feeling my way in the dark, I hurried to the toilet. I flipped the bathroom light on and lowered my cheeks. The hard seat was cold. I sat on my hands and emptied my bladder. When the urgent stream dribbled to a halt, I bore down. I strained and strained and strained until a stitch in my side doubled me over. My hair brushed the floor. My daughterÕs lost Oral B was found. Finally, I straightened my spine. I rose to my feet, turned around and bent over the tank. I examined the sluggish pool.
The toilet water was liquid yellow: a tub of Mazola, chicken feathers, a ripe banana, lemon peels. Suddenly, I had the urge for a sunny-side up egg. Perhaps in the morning. Yes, everything seemed better in the morning.
I returned to my bedroom. I was less afraid.

. . . . . . . . . . .

(On the fifth anniversary of my husband's death.--Bara Swain)

--Bara Swain (2000)