Outside it was not too hot, but not too cold. The sun shined indifferently through some tall trees onto an unsuspecting house in a neighborhood in the suburbs. They had spent the better half of their day in bed celebrating their anniversary, and now they found themselves lying there smoking cigarettes. They were talking about the rectangular picture of a half eaten strawberry hanging across the room.
“Why do you think it's only half eaten?” Lisa asked.
“Because if it were completely eaten then there would be nothing to frame,” Said Benjamin with not much inflection in his voice.
“You don't think somebody got hungry?”
“Nobody eats half a strawberry. They would've just eaten the whole thing if that was the case,” Benjamin replied.
“Maybe the photographer wanted us to be bewildered,” she said.
“Yes I guess it's possible,” said Benjamin.
There was silence for a few seconds, and they both smoked their cigarettes in the brief lull.
“Where did you get the picture?” She asked.
“An old girlfriend gave it to me in college,” said Benjamin now becoming increasingly interested in the picture.
“Why would she do that?”
“She thought she was a photographer. She was always taking pictures of strange things,” he said.
“If she took the picture then maybe she took the bite herself,” said Lisa.
There was momentary silence as they both flicked their cigarettes out the open window. A soft breeze blew inward and the light drapes began to breathe.
How was she in bed?” Lisa asked.
Benjamin looked at his wife sharply as she looked back, smirking widely.
“Not as good as you, but then again that's your only redeeming quality,” he said now with a smirk to match Lisa's.
“You pig!” She said, hitting him on the arm.
He turned on his side to face her and once their gaze met there was a temperate and peaceful aura between them.
“I love you,” he said.
“Even though I can't take pretty pictures?” she asked.
He looked at her for a few moments and then kissed her passionately. The sun had gone down. The moon now full.
When Monday morning came, Lisa found herself being awoken from a deep and tranquil sleep by the sound of Benjamin walking down the stairs. She had a smile on her face when she opened her eyes, and the sun came through the window down in rays upon her blonde hair. He was in the kitchen, and that is where she found him. He was pouring a mug of coffee only half-full because he was on his way out to work. He drank it rather quickly because it was not too hot, and then he turned around to be met by his wife standing in the still doorway. Benjamin went walking towards her.
“I have to go love,” he said.
“Did you mean it?” she said.
“Do you really love me?”
He stopped in the doorway, inches away from her warm body, and looked into her eyes for a few severe moments.
“Yes. Of course,” he said.
“I love you too,” said Lisa.
“See you tonight” he said before kissing her on the forehead and briskly walking out the door.
The night before, Benjamin dreamt that he was skating around the rings of Saturn. He skated around them several times before being flown off into the black mass of space. Floating through the thickness, he saw Lisa's smiling face appear on a grey moon. Little did he know that this was the last time that he would see her face with any vibrancy. What he suspected even less was that when he arrived home from work that day, he would not find Lisa at all, but a lifeless corpse.
They had moved into the house one year prior, soon after their wedding. Lisa liked it because of the tall trees in the front. She said that it would keep the sun out. He liked it because it wouldn't take him a lifetime to pay off. Nonetheless they had lived in the house very happily. Years before they were married, Lisa had swallowed the contents of a bottle of painkillers, and consequentially had to be rushed to the hospital to have her stomach pumped. Benjamin remembers finding her in their small apartment bathtub with the bottle spilled over beside her. He remembers how she didn't down every pill. There was one single pill left over and it spilled out of the bottle onto the cold tile floor. He also remembered the look on her face and her limp eyes, his own shocked reflection in the tepid bathwater, and the shrill buzz of the overhead bathroom light. When they were in the hospital, he thought she would die. She didn't. When she was coherent enough to talk, he asked her why she did it. He was in the hospital room watching her barely breathe, noticing the gown that they had put on her. The smell in the hospital made him feel sterile, inhuman, scared. Her eyes opened.
“Lisa! Oh god I didn't think you would wake up,” he said as he quickly stood to make sure what he was seeing was real. She didn't say anything. Her eyes closed again, and Benjamin sat back down in the chair to wait.
“Benjamin,” she said very softly, reaching for his hand.
He took her hand.
“Yes my love?” He asked.
“Get me the fuck out of this hospital,” she said with squinty eyes and a still soft voice.
“No you have to stay here until the doctors say you can go.”
“I don't want to be here. I didn't want to be here,” she said more to herself than to her husband.
Suddenly an anger overcame him that was actually fear, and he walked briskly into the hallway where he would pace for several minutes. Eventually he would feel tears well up in his eyes, but would hold them back. Lisa, in her bed, gazed out the window into the vacant parking lot. It was the early morning, around four. The tall lights were shining over the empty parking spots.
“What a waste of space,” she muttered to herself, and she turned back to the ceiling. Benjamin walked in.
“He sat down and looked at her fiercely.
“Why would you do that to me?”
“I didn't do anything to you,” she said now much more lively.
“Do you know how it felt to find you like that? Do you know how scared I was?”
“Scared? Scared of what?” she asked.
“Scared of losing you,” he said.
She was silent.
“I just don't know. I thought you were happy. Aren't you happy?” Benjamin asked.
“Yes I suppose so,” Lisa responded after thinking about the question for a few seconds.
“Don't you know how I depend on you Lisa?”
“Yes. I know because that is all there is,” she said.
The tears in Benjamin's eyes would not relent this time, and he cried. Lisa turned back to look out the window, the warm smoggy horizon now aglow. The light there just coming up. Later Benjamin would take her home and tend to her at bedside. For three weeks, she stayed mostly in bed, and Benjamin slept on the couch, afraid that she would reveal something to him that would break his heart. On one bright morning, Lisa awoke with a thin smile on her face. The sun was in shards around her. She walked downstairs to find her husband still sleeping. She kissed him on the forehead and he awoke.
“Do you love me?” she asked. He sat up.
“Of course” he said after a moment of confusion.
She slowly dropped her gown before lying her warm body over him. They made love that morning, and Benjamin imagined that the wound was mended.
When Benjamin closed the door, Lisa scurried over to the window to watch his car pull out. She watched him zoom down the street, and she went upstairs to take a shower. On her way out of the bedroom, she noticed the picture of the half-eaten strawberry. She went into the kitchen to make a fresh pot of coffee. She turned on the small radio sitting on the windowsill above the sink. There was jazz buzzing out of the radio. There was just enough static in the melody so that it became endearing. Lisa smiled. She sat on the counter and wiggled her toes, pulling out a nail file from a cabinet drawer beneath her, and filing her nails while she waited for the coffee to brew. She tried to hum the melody that she recognized as Moanin' by Art Blakely. In college she dreamt that she would marry a musician. She looked out her window at the tall fern tree, and thought that maybe this was better, but maybe not. The coffee beeped. steam came from the top of the machine. She jumped down and filled a mug, took a sip, and then went off into the dining room. The hard pull of the snare surrounded her as she tiptoed in her bare feet. She was looking for, and eventually found, the cabinet full of whiskey and gin. She drank her coffee down some and then poured the whiskey in. She went back into the kitchen. The saxophone now coming alive through the static. She turned it up, and reached in the drawer below her and pulled out a pen and notepad. She scurried a little note and then drank the rest of her coffee mixture. She placed the coffee mug on top of the note for a few seconds before realizing the careless drip on the bottom. She placed the mug in the sink, and went out the front door. The snare still alive. A small half-lip of coffee stained on the note on the counter.
She was looking at the nicer cameras. They were at the half rotunda towards the middle of the large electronics store. An associate asked her what kind of camera she was looking for, and all she said was that she wanted the best money could buy. He explained what she was really asking for and described the elements of the different cameras to her, and asked if she would like any other lenses. All she wanted was for it to take a picture of pristine clarity. When the associate asked her how she would be paying, she pulled out a credit card with the name Benjamin Tyler on it. She walked out of the store with a few bags in her hands, and went to the grocery store to pick out the ripest kinds of fruit.
Benjamin Tyler had by now arrived at work, and he was wondering why every tragic or momentous event in he and his wife's life was surrounded by the words 'I love you.' He then realized that this was only the case when she was the one saying it. His cubicle was flat and droll. The air blew steadily from the vents overhead. A picture of Lisa lay on his desk next to his computer. She had given it to him the year before when she went on vacation with her sister to the beach. He looked at it for a few moments, and then picked it up. He took it out of the frame, and admired it for a few moments. She was very pretty, and even more than that she made him feel whole. He felt that he needed her or he might die. He turned the note over and it read “So you don't forget.” She had always been eccentric. He put the note back in the frame perfectly, and placed the picture back down. His head began to hurt.
At the grocery, she found herself humming a tune that made her happy. It was not boisterous and nobody else could hear her. She was walking slowly with a buggy in front of her, and the wheels moved smoothly over the linoleum as she browsed the selection of fruits. She picked an assortment from the slanted baskets. First she grabbed a peach, then an apple, and then a few pears because she always had enjoyed pears. She then moved to the more succulent fruits and she chose a kiwi, an apricot, and finally a box of strawberries. She then went to stroll the aisles until she found the aisle with the bleach. She grabbed the largest bottle. She went to the check-out line and when the cashier asked her how she was, she said that she was very well.
On her way home she saw the most beautiful patch of clouds in the sky, the still heart of the sun nestled behind them, shining outward in daggers. She rolled the window down and when the breeze hit her hand, she felt goosebumps rise on each pore of her body. Her legs began to tremble slightly, and a not so somber smile came across her face. She made it to the house, and drove into the garage. The euphoria subsided.
The fruits were submerged in the bleach for about an hour in a tall and wide bowl. After she removed the fruit, she placed a bone white sheet of paper underneath each of them so that the bleach might not seep the hardwood kitchen floor entirely. Laid out first was the apple and then the pear, followed by the apricot and finally the kiwi and strawberry. She was in the kitchen. The radio was still on and now playing Vivaldi. She took the camera out of the box and momentarily placed the camera on the kitchen counter while she broke down the box and placed it into the recycling bin. She went to the camera presets and found the setting that would make her pictures frame-worthy. She sat down on the floor and slowly she took a long bite from the hard apple, her teeth making a perfect indentation. She swallowed the morsel with much joy, and then took a perfect picture of the fruit. She became aroused, and the euphoria she felt in the car was back. The frantic violin and organ pulsated. The pear was soggy, and as she took her bite, some bleach dripped down her chin. She wiped it away with the back of her hand. She sat back down and when she felt the shutter of the camera click, the hair on her neck and arms stood up. The apricot was firm, and after this bite her esophagus burned, and she relished in it before snapping the picture. She never liked Kiwi, but this one she enjoyed so much that it was all she could do not to eat the whole thing. The shutter clicked. Vivaldi was playing high in the air. Finally was the strawberry. In this one she took a long and slow bite, swallowed, and with her tongue she felt a few small and robust seeds still in her mouth. She slowly worked her tongue around her teeth and mouth until she was able to swallow all of them. She put it down on the paper and took a moment to play with the green top, turning the fruit in several directions until she was satisfied with the way it looked. She then picked the strawberry up, plucked the green top and ate the fruit whole. She took a picture of the green bit left over after placing it perfectly onto the piece of white paper. She sat back against the cabinet beneath the kitchen sink and looked at her pictures. She was immensely satisfied. Slowly her insides burned, and she felt an uncharacteristic and distinct terror inside of her that she had never felt. She at last grabbed the bottle of bleach from under the sink and began to chug. After a while she felt a sharp pain in her stomach and esophagus, and she tried to stand but could not. She crawled to the bathroom and made it there in time to vomit. She died there slowly.
When Benjamin Tyler walked in the front door, he saw several fruits lying on the kitchen floor, but that was not before he saw his spouse in the hall bathroom sitting propped against the sink. He rushed to her, and when he touched her shoulder, the lifeless body slumped further. It was then that he knew that he no longer had a wife, and he at once felt that perhaps he also did not have the will to live. He began to weep for a few moments. He slunk down next to her, and kissed her forehead, and somewhere inside of him there was a voice that told him to not be sad. He slowly went into the kitchen and looked at the scene. He picked the camera up off the floor and looked through the pictures of a few beautiful pieces of fruit and one picture of a green strawberry top. On the counter there was a note. It read “Don't forget me.” On that day, the paramedics took a very long time to arrive, and the police questioned him only briefly.
6 months later, Benjamin Tyler was in love again. She was beautiful, and had long red hair. Around his house, he had pictures of assorted fruits with perfect bites taken out of the side. One night he was lying with his girlfriend in bed smoking cigarettes, when she noticed a rectangular picture of a green strawberry top hanging across the room.
“Where is the rest of it?” she asked, gesturing to the fruit.“I've been asking myself the same thing,” he replied.