Everyone has a secret they are desperate to hide from the world. Some may seem trivial, unnecessary even. There are countless tales of childhood embarrassments long forgotten by all but one.
Some secrets are life shattering, capable of destroying the possessor’s marriage, livelihood, reputation, or life. To me, these are the treasures. Gems to be remembered, savoured, poured over. Counted endlessly, jealously guarded and hoarded, like a pirate with his strongbox.
Regardless of the secret, carrying it alone can become burdensome, overwhelming, isolating, maybe even soul destroying. The idea of finding someone to whom they can divulge this horrible, black pearl eventually becomes appealing. If only they could find a kindred spirit.
If you know how to ask the right person the appropriate questions in the correct way, they may even beg to share. After all, a burden shared is a burden halved. Right?
This is my collection. When I began acquiring these tokens, I did not realise where they would lead me. Or that I would eventually feel like a mother labouring with a huge, deformed and misshapen child. My own black pearl. It’s ripping me apart, I simply must share. Please, you must let me tell you what I know.
A bus could be a gold mine for people carrying secrets. The little old lady who hobbles on with her shopping trolley. She conceals her 20 years gone cat in a cardboard shoebox at the bottom of that trolley. She killed it so it would stop running away and leaving her all alone. She reverently lifts the cat from the box and strokes it while sitting in her armchair by the fire every evening. Sometimes, you can’t even tell that she’s the one purring.
The middle aged suit who offers up his seat to the cat killer, even he has a secret. His love for cats is a different thing. As a teenager, he experimented in the realms of beastiality with the neighbour’s cat. Until he was caught.
His best friend walked in on him, unexpected. What else could he have done? As soon as the boy started laughing at him, he’d raised the baseball bat and brought it crashing down on his friend’s skull.
Then there’s that one guy who is on the bus every day. He sits in the same seat, with the spring that prods his lower back – he’s written letters of complaint, to no avail.
As the bus follows it’s tediously circuitous route, filled with boisterous youths, bored business men, harassed single mothers with several toddlers in tow, and little old ladies with God knows what in their trollies, he thinks of his wife.
Sometimes he would remember the day they married. She wore a simple cream dress. She had her hair pinned up, so that auburn ringlets poured down over her porcelain brow and rosy cheeks. She had been a true English rose.
As his mind wanders, taking fares and making change or waiting at red lights, he remembers what she looked like when he last kissed her and said “See you tonight, love.”
The years had not been kind to her. As his mother-in-law’s health decreased, so did his beloved’s appetite increase. He would dutifully bring her the objects of her cravings, no matter that it was the middle of the night and he had an early morning for work. If they didn’t have what she desired, he would go out and get it. You see, the first moment when she tasted the food, she almost smiled. He missed her old smile so much, he would do or give anything to coax it to her lips. It didn’t matter that her triple chin hid her dimple. Following the inevitable funeral, she had begun having problems climbing the stairs. Eventually, after spending the daytime trapped on the toilet until he arrived to heave her back to the bed, she stopped getting out of bed altogether.
He knew he couldn’t afford to keep her anymore.
He would work as many extra hours as he could, but eventually he would have to go home.
His mind, overloaded by terror at what his life had become, began to consider death. Not his, no. Hers.
He could be free, if only she were gone.
Maybe if she… fell. But he hadn’t been able to lift her out of bed for some time. He didn’t even think she would fit through the bedroom door.
Poison would be too obvious, surely. Besides, it was on nearly every other episode of that crime show.
Suffocation wouldn’t work, because he couldn’t even hold her chin in his two hands the way he used to when he wanted to kiss her quiet.
Fire might work, but not petrol. They test for that. As she could no longer keep his OCD in check, the hallways and rooms had become a warren of newspaper tunnels.
He remembers the last time he cleaned up her shit. It had been dreadful. As embarrassing to her as him, it was a requirement of her size.
She spends the day on a tarp, rigged with ropes and fastened to heavy duty hooks in each corner of the ceiling. It shouldn’t take her weight, was only meant to hold her waste until he could come home and clean her.
He stretches on latex gloves finger by finger, like a doctor. Next, he puts on a pair of yellow kitchen gloves. A black, rubber welder’s apron and high wader boots follow.
He thinks back over all his options, as he climbs the stairs once more. He heaves a sigh and turns the doorknob. He once again wishes he had chosen something else, all those months ago. It takes such a long time for a body to decompose, much longer than it took to starve her, and he still has to carry her out, one putrid bucket at a time.
He closes the door, and locks it again; not for the last time.