An Empty Chair by Sally Houtman

You can keep your bread and crackers. I don’t need them. I will keep my whiskey. I will drink it in the study,TV on, volume down. In this house there are no voices, only echoes. There is only the sound of growing old.

Days splinter. There are casseroles and strangers. Arrangements made with scoured phrases. There are dotted lines and perforations. Sign here. Initial there. Between, there is an elemental stillness. A wedding. band. A broken wristwatch. A floor worn bare from pacing. A TV that. broadcasts to an empty chair.

I keep a stack of photo albums on the shelf, catalogued and labelled volumes 1-9. I lift them down, run the pages through my fingers. I find her there in profile, arms folded, one hip jutting, right where I’d first placed her, midway through volume 3.

I rise early, drink coffee by the window, gaze at nothing, lost in used-to-be. All this, and yet there are things I still believe in. I still believe in autumn gardens, jazz playing in the background, hair twisting round a finger, lips pursing, saying, Yes.

I need time. That’ s what they tell me. Yes, time is what I need. I need to hold time between my fingers, let it settle in the creases ofmy hand. I need to grasp it, squeeze it tightly, and when I feel it slipping, when I grow weary of its passing, I need to stop it, hit rewind.


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