Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 23.1 (2002) 154-162
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Outside the Window
It's not as if I don't care or anything, he says, and he thinks he has me then.
I'm worried about you, he continues, and I tell myself, Who wouldn't be? Who wouldn't be worried about his wife who left a melodramatic note about her dying mother, disappeared for two weeks, and was found by a maid in a hotel room in some far away city, lying dead drunk in her own vomit, a bottle of pills not having finished the job?
Oh, I'm home now, or as close to home as I'll be getting for a while, and I reach forward and pull a cigarette from his pack on the table between us, smiling sadly as if he weren't talking about me, as if we were discussing some mutual friend who had gone overboard, frightened and lost in the cold cold sea.
But it is me he's talking about. I know that. A me of the past, who had ceased to exist by the time I opened my eyes in the emergency room with all those intent faces above me, brows knitted, creased with the effort of trying to save my life. And for what? I wanted to tell them not to waste their time, not to bother, a tube shoved down my throat like some colicky horse who got into the grain on purpose.
My robe falls open and I don't try to close it; it's hot in here anyway. My husband averts his eyes; they let me wear one of my own nightgowns today. I'm a lace princess, a buxom boudoir mama in a chair outside her private room. The walls are painted bright green with big shiny stick-on flowers.
He asked me why, but what can I tell him? What does he know about it? What does he know about anything? Because when I opened my eyes and saw all those people working over me, I knew I'd just do it all over again, it was only a matter of time. Where, when, and how was the problem. How to do it and not get caught.
Rebecca, he says, and I hate the sound of my name in his voice, I hate my name in any voice because it sounds so phony, my name sounds like such deceit. Rebecca, he says again, you know I love you. [End Page 154]
And I smile again that same saddened smile because he really thinks he does, he really thinks he feels something, he probably does really feel something, and smiling is the only way I can fool him. So they'll let me out.
He lights my cigarette, and I notice his hands are shaking. Poor, poor Robert. Why does he bother? Why care about me when I don't care about myself? I've no idea what he sees in me, so I wonder about him, how smart he really can be. Doesn't my name in his voice sound strange to him? Does he really see a person when he says it—Rebecca. Who is Rebecca?
Bob, who's Rebecca? I ask him, and then I've got him, there; he has no answer. He blinks a few times, his eyes unfocusing, something running click, click, click through all the terminals in his brain, click, click, click, synapsing, his mouth half-opening, closing then, and suddenly his eyes focus, find me again, he's got an answer, and he says, Why you're Rebecca, as if that were any kind of answer at all.
I'm Rebecca. And I know he'll tell the doctor about it, my asking. I've slipped. Because I really don't even want to know anymore. I really don't care. I don't want to be Rebecca anymore, whoever she is; I don't want to be anything but part of the blackness that I know is out there, that I have...