He tossed his keys and smirked when he heard them clink. They had landed straight into the bowl on the foyer table. He never missed. The house was dark, but he did not turn on any lights. He knew his way around. He had been doing this for almost six months now. The only light he turned on was the one in the bathroom. The rest of the house suffered perpetual darkness. He did turn on the TV almost every day and had to see some of the living room in its flickering light. Even that, was too painful. His routine was to wake up when dark, come back when dark and go on long drives on the weekend.
It was Friday evening and he did not go downtown like he did every week. Kevin was out of town and he was very awkward if he was alone in public. So he came home. He didn’t know what to do. The house felt claustrophobic. He loosened his tie, rolled up his sleeves and grabbed a pack of cigarettes. He had quit two years ago but had relapsed in the last few months. As he opened the patio door the cow bells jingled. They had bought them in Austria. Allie had thought of hanging them on the door knob right after she saw them. “That way, I can hear you everytime you go out for a smoke, give you the gum and pull you back inside!”, she had said. He gave the bells a jiggle, sighed as he went out to sit on the deck. He took a puff and pulled out his cell phone. There were a lot of emails he needed to respond to. Work was what had kept him busy all this time and he was very thankful.
A while later he heard the wind chimes and looked up. Allie had made him climb the fig tree to hang them. The clouds had uncovered the full moon that shone on a worn out garden. She loved this garden and had carefully planned every inch of it. It used to be one of his favorite places. Now, he couldn’t care less. He had been like this garden before he met her. Destroyed and dead. He had told her that in those many words. But he was a garden nonetheless. And she had seen that. “I promise to keep your garden bursting with life”, she had said in her vows. The vines she had planted all along the fence were gone. The chimes tinkled once again and he decided it was time to go in.
Dinner was a chore. It was usually a salad or soup from the deli around the corner. After dinner, he turned on the TV and aimlessly flipped through the channels. He settled on PBS. That was his favorite channel growing up. It had kept him going inspite of his father’s indifference and mother’s addiction. A documentary about evolution was playing. He pulled out his phone once again and started working on his emails. As he watched the documentary intermittently, he remembered a conversation he had with Allie about God. “I am not ignorant enough to be a believer or arrogant enough to be an atheist. So, I am an agnostic.”, she had said. She was always walking the line, like a true Libran. He smiled as he remembered the rest of the conversation. “But yes, for all practical purposes, I am an atheist. I am on your side. But you should have known that. I am always on your side baby.”, and she had kissed him. He placed his fingers on his lips, then shook his head and changed the channel.
It was probably that big Egyptian chest they talked about on the History Channel that reminded him of their box. They had a small box that looked quite like a miniature chest. Allie had bought it at the flea market and kept it on the side table. It’s cover could change colors. “We will leave notes for each other in this box. Leave the note and change the color to green.”, she had said. “What kind of notes ?”, he had asked. “Well, could be a confession, a suggestion, a compliment or anything really.” He had found this to be quite odd. But Allie was odd, quirky. She was full of surprises. That is what he loved about her. So he had agreed. And over years, he had found wonderful lines inside that box. Lines that loved, encouraged, understood, even fought, but most of all, repaired. Lines that fixed all his problems. No questions asked, yet he found all the answers.
Now, as he thought of the box, he realized that he hadn’t looked at it at all. The last six months had been a haze. He remembered the Sunday Allie’s sister had come over for brunch. Allie had the seizure as she was arranging the flowers. He was in a state of complete shock. She looked wiped out and had gone blind after the seizure. But she was very calm and composed. He could hear her voice asking her sister to fetch her that box. Why had she done that ? Just as they were about to rush her to the hospital, had she left him a note ? He rushed to the side table. The cover of the box was green. She had left him a note. Right before her brain surgery. Right before she was gone. Forever. She had left a note.
He opened it. Sure enough, there was a note inside. He felt as though he had got back a part of her. Yet he was too scared to read the note. What would it say ? Did she know about her condition ? Was it a goodbye note ? Finally, he opened it and read it in the dim light of the TV. “There is nothing that a glass of wine can not fix. I’d go for the 2000 Pinot Noir if I were you…”, it said. It was her sister’s handwriting, but the words surely came from her. He sat still staring at the note for a while. He thought of how they had met at a California resort. She had said the exact same thing to him as they both sat at the bar. Later, they had joked about it being her very first step to fix him. And it had worked. He looked at the note again. She knew. Somehow she knew she was not coming back. This was her last fix. He needed to make this work too.
He slept well that night and woke up only after sunrise. It was very painful to see the house in broad daylight, but he didn’t care. He fetched the shovel and went to the garden. It was time to repair the damage.