A Private Death

Alicia Jamtaas


   Say you live alone. You return home from a round of golf with your best girlfriend; we’ll call her Darcy. The day was rainy and, in spite of the multitude of products you put on your hair following your morning shower, the strands went all fuzzy by noon. 

   No! Let’s say the afternoon was sunny and especially hot for a day in the Pacific Northwest. You wore Capri pants. White or blue. Either color will do because you like them both. Everything in your closet is blue or white except the black pants you favor in winter. But it’s not winter. It’s the end of July. Your shirt, white with blue stripes, is sleeveless.

   Let’s say it’s five o’clock and, instead of golf; you just returned from a date with a man — let’s name him Bill — you’ve known since you moved north from California. He also lives alone, in a house much smaller than yours. The two of you go out when it suits. Your relationship isn’t serious. Both of you have done serious with others and agree that high emotion is for the young. In your seventies now, you and Bill are all about having fun.

   Bill took you hiking. (Strike that, you hate hiking.) He booked a wine cruise on Bellingham Bay; that’s what Bill did. And you definitely wore the blue Capri pants in case the boat rocked—or you rocked—and spilled red wine, you don’t drink white, on your clothes. You drank and ate until you were both silly. (The second best thing about the wine cruise is the cracked crab and coleslaw included in the price of the ticket.) Laughter was in the mix, you always laugh with Bill, and your hair is a mess from the wind. Still, you felt lovely when the night ended with a kiss. 

   Let’s finally decide that you spent the day golfing, and it’s seven o’clock. Although you’re hungry there’s no time for a pleasant dinner with your best girlfriend; Darcy needs to go directly home to take care of her black lab. He’s only three she explains. He needs a lot of supervision.

   You don’t like dogs, but you do like Darcy so you acquiesce and stop at the corner market to pick up something to fill in the empty spots until you can eat a more substantial meal—probably tomorrow. You gravitate toward a small veggie plate consisting of carrots, celery, and broccoli. In the center of the cellophane covered tray a spoonful of too-sweet dip clings like wallpaper paste to the sides of a divot made specifically for too-sweet dip. You almost put it down, but after a day golfing in the sun the vegetables look better than the deep fried chicken under heat lamps at the counter.

   Home is two minutes away. Your cat meets you at the door, loud and anxious from spending the day alone. You love the little guy like the dickens. This black and white fuzz ball, his name truly is Dickens, has been your steadfast companion for fourteen years. You give him a quarter of a can of fish-flavored canned food and eat your quick-fix dinner with a glass of red wine to make the veggies seem more elegant. You drop the leftovers, plastic tray and all, in the kitchen sink to be dealt with in the morning. You need to catch up on one of the many community projects in which you are involved.

    Let’s say Dickens follows you upstairs and mewls about his day as you plow through your overstuffed chest of drawers for the pajamas you purchased in India last year where the weather was so hot you thought you’d rather be in hell. Then you remember those blue-flowered silkies are in the laundry, have been for a month. Washing clothes hasn’t been a high priority lately. You dig deep beneath your bras and find the silk pajamas you bought on your China trip and put them on instead.

   Dickens continues to tell you he thought you’d been gone far too long as you slip between the sheets on your double bed. You sleep on the right side, never in the middle, a result of sleeping with the man you loved best, he won’t be given a name, who died a week before you were scheduled to move to this house as a couple. His side of the bed was on the left. You will always leave it open.

   Say for a moment, a blink, you are lonely and don’t know why. You have no children and have never missed them. You do have a brother you haven’t spoken to for nine years or is it fifteen?  You shrug. Doesn’t matter, the two of you have never been close. Is the feeling due to the fading light? The silence inside the tick and snap of the house cooling down? 

   Dickens nudges your hand, demanding a pet, perhaps reminding you that you have more friends than you can count on your fingers and toes combined—plus a really cool cat. Probably not. Dickens is just a cat after all.

   You take a sip of water from the water bottle beside your bed, adjust your glasses and get to work. Dickens snugs against your feet, the laptop hums on your knees; worn out from golfing. Yes, that is definitely how you spent your day—Bill was out of town. And your chest hurts, a little. Maybe you swung the nine iron too hard. Maybe the skin is sunburned. Sunburn can make your chest hurt.

   You pop a couple of Tylenol. Thank goodness they’re on the nightstand next to your water bottle, and you don’t need to get up. You close the laptop and wedge it between the bed and the nightstand. You’ll get up early and begin your work again.

   The pillow nestles up and around your ears when you rest your head against it. Dickens settles on your left side, quiet now. Sleep envelopes you. You begin to dream a sweet dream. You must be given a sweet dream. You must. For this is the last dream you will ever have.



Alicia Jamtaas is currently editing a manuscript that she hopes will take the world by storm - or at the very least, the Pacific Northwest - in a sunny room three stories up in the trees. As an active member of the writing community in Bellingham, Washington she derives inspiration from an outstanding group of poets, memoir writers, and novelists. During writing breaks, she occasionally drives deer out of her garden by frantically yelling, "Go away!" while brandishing a Cheez-It box.

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