Shrapnel

by Rashmi Vaish

She tried to tell herself that it was the currents of arctic air sweeping in from the north that twisted in her chest, but it was the fragments of the day he said goodbye that were still embedded in her, the day she had wanted to scream but only heard the roar of silence. “I’m prickly, babe, always restless and besides, we’re just fooling ourselves here,” he’d said, a sharp edge of steel lining his voice as he pulled away from her. She had wanted to ask him of his promise to her that he would be with her at the frayed ends of her days, she had wanted to ask him why, why now, but the lattice of words, the only thing that held them together for 25 years, had crumbled away and her question remained suspended in the sudden vacuum between them. It had been a decade since she had heard his footfall fading away for the last time, but that day was like an old wound – you think it had healed years ago but it suddenly makes itself felt again with aging ferocity right smack in the center of your bones. A thin wind rustled the pile of his letters in her lap, letters of love, reproach and that last hurried note a year before the end. The pale, late afternoon sun glinted through the bare poplars leading up to the river as she reached out to the empty chair next to her and whispered his name.

6S

Rashmi Vaish lives in northern New York State and occasionally writes in her blog.