On a lifeless morning in January, I stared out my kitchen window, eyes glazed, toward a monstrous house built cheaply on a lot that, according to our deed, could never have been developed. Quietly I stirred coffee (a nineteen-year-old already addicted), having found its power badly needed in the daylight between sleepless nights.
Every noise was shrill: rattling spoons, opening cabinets. Breathing heavily, my exhalations gave no relief. Then I remembered:
As I cleaned brushes the day before, Ron, my boss and family friend, cautiously approached me.
“We’re going into a house where a murder happened.”
I drove into White Cove: a development oddly suited for what “happened.” Rows of prefabricated, two-story homes equidistant, all beige with a two-car garage. Like untested cadets in formation, their surety felt contrived.
Having kept their distance, neighbors would say, “I can’t believe they did this.”
For some events, there is no preparing. I could not fathom what lay beyond their door. But with measured pace, I crossed the yard. My breath clung in pockets to motionless air.
Ron opened the door, his blonde hair, sweat laden and disheveled, contrasting with square, German features.
Inside, each glance brought perceptible tremor. The moment would come, a sight where hope dissolved: evil brandishing itself beyond repulse. Until then all seemed frozen: colder than outside.
The living room and kitchen were adjoined: a dimly lit square encased in brown carpet. Near its center stood four thick-bearded men with tools spread upon a drop cloth. Intensely they regarded me, producing malicious silence.
Ron told me I would “cut around” the hallway, outlining its edges for primer. I left footprints on shampooed carpet, brush and gallon pail in hand, eyes patrolling wall contours. The chill had trammeled my nose, but still I noticed acrid cleanser.
At the end was a master bedroom. Just before, a section covered already in blotches of primer. About to ask if Ron wanted a second coat, I overheard:
“He shot her in the bedroom with a 12 gauge. Close range. In her stomach. Turned it on himself in the hallway.”
I stared at jagged, wet patches, feeling hollow and nauseated.
Through the paint, small black clots of shattered viscera tauntingly peered.
They had attempted to whitewash his brain discharge before scrubbing clustered lumps to even the surface.
In shock my brain ran wild. I could not slow the onslaught:
A woman who closely resembled my mother scrambling into the bedroom.
Rushing after her a man visible only from behind.
Facing him, eyes wide in terror, hands raised protectively; her guttural, animalistic scream reserved for death.
The shotgun driving her backward, stomach ripped open, onto the bed.
Her husband fleeing the room; then, after crushing remembrance, pelting the wall with his brains.
All decoration had been removed: walls, floors and windows empty. There was only the stench of delusive cleaning. A large section of floor had been cut and replaced with cheap, unstained panels. This at least had been efficiently handled.
But something about this absence—caused by the violence surrounding—felt worse than its more direct signs. Left before as stubborn residue, life itself had disappeared.
Their room was a carcass.
Anxiety coiled inside my chest. It trapped my breathing.
When Ron entered, I was pallid and shaking, my brush still un-dipped.
“Why don’t you run and get us some coffee?”
Ron knew my past. He would call when the job ended. Until then I needed repair—to hide my bleeding.
I had not recovered. One never does.
People think we can adjust. They are wrong as usual.
New cuts re-open old wounds. It only gets harder.
We are infected by attempts to heal.