by Joyce Carol Oates
Perhaps I shouldn’t be reading this book now, not at this particular time when I’m far away from my husband, when I am in fact feeling guilty for being here in the sunshine enjoying myself while he works diligently at home in the bitter cold of this everlasting winter.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be reading this book now, where pain and loss are etched into every word like deep scratches on glass, where The Widow’s torment is so palpable it turns my saliva to salt.
You know you can end this at any time. Your ridiculous trash-soul. Why should you outlive your husband? If you love him as you claim? Don’t you think that everyone is waiting for you to die, to end this folly? Outliving your husband is a low vile vulgar thing and you do not deserve to live an hour longer, you are the very trash you need to haul away.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be reading this book now, when I have been for the last months, feeling- dare I say it? – itchy around the edges of my married life, having to suppress an occasional desire to peer around the outside of this 35 year old curtain pulled so tightly around my life.
The Widow has entered the stage of primitive thinking in which she imagines that some small, trivial gesture of hers might have meaning in relationship to her husband’s death. As if being “good” – “responsible” – she might undo her personal catastrophe. She will come slowly to realize that there is nothing to be done now. Her husband has died, he has gone and is not coming back.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be reading this book now.
Then again, perhaps I should.