She had to stab her shaking thumb three times at the “end call” button before she successfully hit it, then almost dropped the phone trying to set it on the coffee table. She couldn’t stop shaking. I can’t believe I hung up on him, she thought, what will he do? She felt like she was drowning and wanted to claw at her throat. She closed her eyes and took some deep breaths, focusing on the out-breath while she clenched and unclenched her hands. He won’t go too far, she told herself, he might make threats, but he wouldn’t go too far. yet lately he’d gone much further than ever before.
An image wriggled in her brain like a worm. It was from a dream she’d had a few weeks back. A red apple, polished to a mirror sheen and placed on a dark altar. Associations branched through her mind like a fine web of cracks in glass, and she pressed her fingertips hard against her temples in an attempt to fend off a creeping headache.
She turned to the bookcase behind her and scanned the shelves. Her eyes moved past Herodotus, past Sartre, past even the Bard, until they found their mark. She let out her breath. Emily Dickinson. She reverently slid the book from the shelf, admiring the weight and the clean, hard cover. “The Complete Works,” she muttered. She read the words again quietly, like a prayer.
She lifted the book close to her face and fluttered the yellowing pages, inhaling the warm, musty scent of aging paper. She then lowered the book, slowly, carefully, and held it out in front of her solemnly. She paused, took a deep breath, and on the exhale she let the book fall open in her hands. When the pages settled she looked down, letting her eyes land where they would.
“This is the Hour of Lead–” she read aloud. Her voice thickened and her stomach tightened. “Remembered, if outlived…” She sunk to the floor and read the whole poem from the beginning. “After great pain, a formal feeling comes–” She read the poem over and over again, until the rhythm and the meaning and the sounds of the words came together and washed over her like waves, pulling her into resignation, and a focused silence.