Nicole Lynn Cohen studied English and Film at Tufts University. She currently works at SpectreVision, an independent production company in Hollywood. When she is not reading scripts and stories, she is working on her own.
YOU SHOULD TALK TO SOMEONE
You’re mid-lesson when the classroom phone rings. You answer and are surprised to hear your neighbor Mrs. Pearsall on the other end. You’d better come quick.
You find a sub before you go. Can’t be in two places at once.
The PE teacher arrives in a dull peach tracksuit. She raises her over-plucked eyebrows. Do you at least have something planned for them?
You’ve dragged out the TV stand from the back of the classroom. The mirror-black screen reflects your warped faces.
In the community garden at the end of your street, your wife Eleanor is in the throes of a nervous breakdown. She is stomping all over Mrs. Pearsall’s tomatoes in her nightgown, the one she refuses to take off. The fabric is stained with vegetation. You can’t remember the last time she took a shower.
Mrs. Pearsall puts her hand on your arm. Thank goodness you’re here. A dizzying pattern of gray-pink roses decorates her gardening gloves.
You loosen your tie. Nellie, what’s the matter.
Three months ago and the two of you are still unpacking. Opened and unopened boxes litter the hardwood floor. When her back aches, you take her for a walk, and that’s when you first see the garden. Maybe she could start a plot, meet some of the neighborhood mothers.
“I kill everything I touch,” she says. “You know that.”
She falls down in the wet sludge. You see the crushed tomatoes at her feet and splattered across her bare legs.
She needs your help, but by now you are so lost in the memory that He must fill in.
He kneels beside her and returns the frayed strap of her nightgown to her shoulder, which covers her exposed and lonely breast. He helps her to her feet.
Calmly, He thanks Mrs. Pearsall for the call, whose son is in your class. In another year, you will have her daughter. Those beautiful children. Often, Eleanor watches them play in their yard through the spotted window above the kitchen sink.
He guides her to the end of the street.
You stay behind, transfixed by the ruined plot.
He takes her through the front door of your house, the one with all those extra rooms.
You are grateful for Him.
He calls the school office. Asks for the principal. When they are unable to reach her, He leaves a message for you and tells them that you will not be coming back for the day.
He brings Eleanor to the bathroom. Sits her on the cold tile. Runs her a bath while she babbles to someone who isn’t there. Washes her. Wraps her in terrycloth, then puts her to bed.
She still bleeds a little. The doctor said it should stop soon, but that was weeks ago.
Night comes. He lies in bed beside her.
You are not there. You are in the empty room, wondering if she knows that you can get hysterical, too. You can stomp your feet and bury your face in your hands. You can get down into the juice and seeds of those small red clusters. You can talk to somebody who isn’t there.
You wrench Him out of bed while Eleanor murmurs to herself in a dream.
He follows you, acquiescent as ever, down the long, dark hallway. Then you’re both in the room. You face Him, no longer able to hide your anguish. We didn’t even know what color to paint it yet.
His composed expression cracks. He looks around the room as if He’s seeing it for the first time. The inescapable walls face Him, ghostly white.
Eleanor hovers in the doorway astonished. Mother of God. She looks at the crumbling plaster and the large, gaping holes and your bruised and bloody hands, and she tells you,