TITLE: Where Wanda Went Wrong
By Sharon Singley
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Where did Wanda go wrong? Was it yesterday morning when she emptied the garbage from the night before? Or was it last night when she fell asleep watching the evening news? Whenever it was, it happened none the less.
That’s the funny thing about this type of thing, it sort of creeps up on you. One minute you are eating your morning toast, and the next BAM. Your life is irrevocably changed. Nothing can be done about it. It just changes. No neon lights, no warning signals.
Wanda shifted quickly through her daily routine. She wasn’t in the mood to put effort into this, but in order to go to the next step she must complete this one. Law of nature, she supposed. One step leads to another.
“Let’s see…dog fed, plants watered, hall closet sorted…I think that’s it for this part of the house.” Wanda was satisfied with the progress. There was no real time limit to this sort of thing, but the sooner it was completed the better. It’s not that she was afraid she would change her mind, no sir. No fear about that. It’s just that once the decision is made, it’s best to carry it out.
She sighed deeply. “Okay, what’s next on today’s agenda?” She asked herself. She supposed that she should tackle the daunting chore of sorting through the bedroom. Nah, that would be the final task. No need to remind herself of the pain. Not yet. She may need that not so gentle reminder later in order to move on.
Instead she decided it was to time take the walk. She would bring the dog with her. Poor thing. He didn’t deserve this. Maybe she did, but he didn’t. He looked at her with huge, chocolate eyes filled with anticipation. The rattling leash gave him cause for excitement.
Wanda and pooch walked out to brave the world. Funny, for some reason she half expected the sky to be gray like her mood. But it wasn’t. The sky was an incredible shade of blue, the birds were in full song and the scent of fresh bread wafted through the air, thanks to the bakery that was below her apartment.
Wanda let out a little laugh. Of course life would continue as always! That’s just the way it goes. One person’s pain doesn’t matter. Never has, never will. That’s okay. It just makes her task a bit easier.
“Okay. Bills are paid, laundry picked up, now what’s on the list”? Wanda was keen on lists. She was a very orderly woman. No matter what, her home would always be found in order. You wouldn’t necessarily know this by her appearance, however. Her once strawberry blonde hair had faded to a pale pink and was cut short. Not a nice, clean ‘style’. Just short. Her housecoat (it wouldn’t even be considered a dress) was old and worn and had been patched more times than she could count. It’s not that she didn’t have anything else to wear, she just didn’t care anymore. Why bother? No matter how hard she had tried, he still hated her. He had for years. She wasn’t sure why he stayed as long as he did.
The next item to be taken care of was the one thing she regretted about the day. It was a short four blocks from her apartment but it seemed to take forever. The bell tinkled as the door swung open. It was a pretty, light sound for such an ugly place.
The woman at the counter seemed nice enough. That was good. Wanda didn’t want to hand her faithful companion over to just anyone. With one swoop she signed over the one living thing that had loved her no matter what. No conditions. She thought one more time about the many nights he would lay his soft, brown nose in her lap as she wept. It was such a shame. He didn’t deserve this.
She handed over the leash, kissed his nose and walked quickly out of the door before she changed her mind. Her resolve had been strong up until that point. At least she knew that this shelter would find a good home for him. She couldn’t possibly have left him there otherwise. No matter what her problems were, she would not make him pay for it.
There. Almost everything was done now. She could go home and finish the final steps. As she made the walk to her apartment, the sky grew dark. She glanced up to see black clouds forming overhead. She felt a tug in her heart as the first drops fell upon her face. If she were an imaginative woman, she might believe that the universe was finally exhibiting the appropriate response to her sorrow. But she was no longer a woman of imagination. Or of faith. Or whatever it was that one might need to survive this unrelenting existence.
She quickly opened her front door, trying to ignore the inviting smell coming from the bakery. This was getting more and more difficult. She needed to firm her resolve. She needed to get inside and get to the business at hand.
She slammed the door, surprising herself with the force she put into it. This would not do. She did not want to feel any of this anymore! That is precisely why she had made the decision to begin with, to escape from this. She leaned on the closed door, shut her eyes, took four deep breaths and pushed, pushed, pushed everything down into her soul. Finally she had regained her footing. She knew that her wall would only hold against the torrent of emotions for so long, so she had better get on with it.
Wanda walked into the kitchen and made herself a cup of coffee. One more for the road, so to speak. She grabbed the cup and went into the bedroom to take on the final task on her list. As she sorted through her closet and boxed up all of his belongings she contemplated just leaving them as is. Why bother with it? It wouldn’t make any difference at this point, not to him at least. But she needed to do this. It was her way of closing the door.
She packed up the last of his things and moved the boxes to the living room. He would be coming to get them tonight, she was sure of that. He wouldn’t dare leave behind any of his possessions! After all, he worked hard for all of his things. He reminded her of that every day of their lives. He took great pains to make sure she realized that his worth far exceeded hers. Day after day after day he reminded her. Of course, he was right. She knew that. That is why it didn’t surprise her when he finally walked out this morning. There was nothing special about her. She wasn’t sure why he had married her to begin with.
Wanda knew her place in life. She was one of the grains of sand on the beach, and that was all. She would come and go and the world would not be the better or worse for it. When he left to be with that other woman, Wanda couldn’t even say that she blamed him. But that didn’t make the pain any easier to bear.
Her coffee had grown cold. She sighed deeply as she went to the kitchen to warm it up in the microwave. It was time to sit down and begin writing the letter and she wanted a hot cup of coffee while composing.
She pulled a chair up to the table, sat her cup down on a coaster and picked up the pen. There before her sat a blank piece of paper. How does one begin such a letter? She supposed she should make sure to let her sister know that she loved her. She had been the one and only person in her life that had shown compassion to Wanda. Last week she had come by to visit while he was at work and she conveyed her concern for Wanda and her growing ‘depression’. Wanda knew it wasn’t depression. It was acceptance.
But her sister didn’t understand this. She kept trying to tell Wanda about the love of God and so on. Whatever her sister’s intentions were, they didn’t have the desired effect. Wanda told her to please stop trying to fill her head with such nonsense. Didn’t she know that there was no one out there? And if there were some sort of being that created everything, He certainly didn’t have the time or desire to love little specks on a rock floating in space.
Her sister finally left but not before handing her a little booklet, a ‘trac’ she had called it, with a picture of a bloody hand pierced by a nail on the cover. As soon as her sister had walked out the door, Wanda tossed it into the small waste basket next to her chair in the living room.
What should she write to her sister? Should she tell her that she was sorry for the way she had treated her when she came by? Should she let her know that it wasn’t her fault? And should she say anything to him? Maybe absolve him from guilt, as well? No, even if she didn’t blame him, she wasn’t going to make it that easy on him.
Finally after about an hour trying to figure out what to say, she simply penned the words, ‘The end of the unremarkable.’
After she wrote the last word, she silently cleared her then empty cup from the table, washed it and put it away. No matter what, her house would always be found in order.
She looked at her watch. It was four-thirty in the afternoon. My how the day flew by. She felt a small twinge of panic. This was it. Everything had been done. Her list was complete. He would be by around seven o’clock or so, she was sure. She wanted to have this done before then.
With eyes burning as she fought the uninvited tears, she glanced around one final time at her home. It was an odd feeling, knowing that this was her final look. Knowing that in a very short while all that had been ‘Wanda’ would end. ‘It’s a shame,’ she thought, ‘a real shame. A person’s life ought to mean something. I should be able to look back and say that I was important somehow.’ But try as she might, she couldn’t think of a thing. She never had kids, her parents were gone, she wasn’t creative, she wasn’t pretty or smart. No legacy.
With an overwhelming sense of finality, she took a seat in her chair. On the table next to her sat her husband’s hand gun. She was a little leery about doing it this way (she didn’t want to mess the house). But she wanted to be sure that it was done completely. No chance of failure. At least she could do this right.
Wanda closed her eyes as the pain and fear began rising up. She was so tired! She wanted to rest. Sorrow is a hard existence, it really takes a lot out of you. She thought of her sweet dog. Tears welled and brimmed in her eyes. Her throat grew tight as she fought off the emotions. This shouldn’t be so hard! Just pick up the gun, Wanda. It’s the only way. It’s either this, or live the rest of your life as uneventful and menial as the last thirty three years.
But she was afraid! She was so afraid. She began shivering uncontrollably. She supposed that this was normal in a situation like this. With a shaking hand and her eyes closed, she slowly began to reach toward the table. It was time. It had to be time. Was it time?
In a sudden burst of overwhelming terror, she drew her hand back and cried, “Show me a reason to stop!”
One minute passed. Two minutes. Five minutes. Nothing.
Wanda sadly closed her eyes and reached toward the table. Her hand felt around until she touched the cold steel. Slowly her fingers wrapped themselves around her only savior.
She paused. What was this? Her hand pulled into view some type of little booklet that was sitting on top of the revolver. She was slightly annoyed, but mostly she was curious. She knew every inch of every thing in her home and every thing was in its place. What could this possibly be?
She looked down at the object in her hand to see a bloody hand pierced with a nail. How did this…? But she threw this away last week! This was impossible. Wasn’t it?
She felt something burning inside. A small flicker of something that she had never experienced before. She slowly opened the cover of the tiny little book and there on the first page began the Words of life, the Words of hope. Her vision blurred by tears she read,
“You are fearfully and wonderfully made. From your mother’s womb, I knew you. From the beginning of time, you were loved.
“You are remarkable”.
Yes, one minute you are holding cold steel, getting ready to die, and then BAM! Your life is irrevocably changed, Wanda thought with a smile of gratitude.
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