I’m not sure what month, or day, or time it is, I just know I have been here for quite a while. I feel my back creak from lack of use as I shift my weight back and forth on an old sofa that now has a perfect imprint from so much time spent sitting in one place. This intensely dark room with an old projector casting dull, dancing images onto a blank white wall has become my new home. It is eerily quiet with no sounds except for the whistling of what seems like a never ending film reel churning through old spools.
This prison is where I have been confined, partly by trial and partly on my own accord. A crime I turned myself in for, and a punishment I didn’t fight. My eyes feel dry as they stare intently upon the whirling images, and I’m not sure I have even blinked once, although my memory is bad and under the circumstances fully unreliable. I haven't eaten in god knows how many days, and the hunger infects my senses, deteriorating my sense of time, but somehow leaving in tact my visual and emotional ability to process events.
These images are not random. It is quite the opposite. They are images of my life; more specifically, my relationship with my wife. Some of the footage is old from when we were together, some current depicting our tragic breakup, and some of the future I have inferred, pulled from my brain and cast onto film as if it were real. They all appear before me, jumbled together in a random nonlinear mixture. They hop from years ago, to yesterday, to tomorrow, to five years from now, and back around again, never in the same order, but often times the footage is the same with duplicate images of the same event returning casually as if to pop in to say hello and do their damage accordingly.
I don’t know who filmed this torturous footage, but I know that they did so in such an abundance that I cannot remember when I started watching it. I am aware only of what is happening before me and time no longer exists or even matters. A scene of us meeting in the rain on our old college campus flies by, then footage of us both sitting on opposite couches sobbing as our wedding rings get taken off and thrown onto the coffee table, then the first photo we took together, then my first night in my new apartment, then her smiling and playing coy on a date with a new interest, then a vacation we took to a small cabin in the north, then her half dressed, excitedly pulling a hand into the dark bedroom we used to share towards what I assume is the bed. I feel hot lava creep down through my spine and tension in between both of my eyes like a bullet just hit me.
Varying mundane scenery of us reading silently in bed or driving in my car pop in and out and I feel a pang of longing but it is not as intense as it is when the big events fly by, both real and imagined. Next comes the night I told her I loved her, then her and I making small talk as she picks up our dog from my new apartment, then the dog looking up doe eyed at her new partner, followed by an image of us dancing our first dance at our wedding, then a vivid clip of her getting married again to someone new. The lava comes back hotter and the tension in my brain becomes more crippling.
The images fill my stomach with a deep sickness, like being tossed about on a boat in a hurricane, and I want to vomit but I can’t. I want to shut my eyes, but they stay open. I want to get off of this couch and flea from this room, but I have never been able to see a door, and even if I did I am always too weak to move. Part of my brain purposely will not communicate with my legs. I cannot stop watching this film, and the more disturbing thing is that I will not stop. All the while, the mix of comforting and disturbing images continue their ghostly dance.
I see us having sex, us kissing, then her and a new interest having sex and them kissing. I see us moving into our first apartment together, then I see them moving in to theirs together. Footage of us on vacation comes into focus, then them on vacation. I know the next frame is in the mix but my fears are confirmed as footage of us on our wedding day comes up on the wall. She is gorgeous, the weather is beautiful, and we seem happy. I feel a mixture of pride and sadness, and I wonder for a moment what could have been, but then, as it always happens, the video of our wedding is followed by an even more vivid video of her and a new man on their special day. My gut continuously rises into my throat and then free falls into my bowels like an amusement ride I never wanted to go on. I want to scratch my eyes out but my hands stay trembling in my lap.
The dreaded shot I always hope gets lost in the shuffle pops up. A photo of her holding a baby that has her eyes and her nose. A little blonde recreation of her she swore she never wanted, but she is not distraught, she is happy. A brilliant shine of pride and love radiates from her face as she looks off frame towards what I imagine to be her husband, her house, her pets. I am a ghost, no where to be found, and this whole episode of ours is completely forgotten because it lead her to a new and better life.
I do as I always do when this scene comes on and I scream bloody fucking murder for it to go away. It goes as quickly as it came but I am left quaking, my stomach walls rotting, my tears and my sweat mixing together like salt water in my mouth. Out of sheer desperation I try to catch my fluids gushing down my face into my mouth to drown in but it is not enough to finish the job. Every excruciating moment of this process I wish for death, I downright beg for it, and yet it never comes. No one knows I am here and no one will ever know the torture I am enduring.
My favorite photo of her and I comes, a still frame of the sun shining on her bright locks with a background of sunflowers and we are arm in arm. As the image comes on the screen and I desperately reach towards it as if I could grab it and hold it but it disappears and the emptiness and frantic anguish of wishing for death returns, deteriorating my stability even further.
After some repeat images of no particular significance dance by, a lull of small clips of both nice moments and painful projections of my wife fulling sharing her body and mind with someone new, a new frame pops up, one I have seen before but can never understand. It is me, watching the back of my own head, watching this film reel. I just stand there, no expression on my face, no attempt to end it, and I just watch myself in agony, but I do nothing. At that time, I still apparently have given up the fight of trying to get up from my spot or of fleeing, and in the supposed future I seem to not intervene for some reason.
Time continues to crawl as the footage continues to play and I simply carry on, watching myself fall in love, feel in love, desperately wallow in the loss love, and I watch her do all of the same, over and over again, and I wonder how I ever got to the point of that image me standing again, ignoring the screen all together and simply focusing on myself, because right now that image is the one that seems the most imaginary.