Short Story: Through the Lens

Short Story: Through the Lens

It stares at me, unblinking. I stare back, back down the barrel of the gun pointed between my eyes, not wanting to look but unable to look anywhere else. The gun twitches and, for a second, I think that this is it; but then it steadies, stills and stares. If I look closely, narrow my eyes a little, I can pretend that the deep black hole is a camera lens, and through it, I can see every moment that I had ever lived. 

I can see my brother when he was ten and I eight, playing football in the back garden. I’m standing in front of the goal post, he’s in front of me and then with all his might, he kicks the ball. It hits me first, like a cold, wet slap, hurling my body back against the goal post. Then, the ball rolls into the net. My brother cheers. I can see myself sitting on the peeling leather couch in the living room whilst I open an acceptance email from my dream university. My mum and dad speak for the first time in four years. They take us out to dinner to celebrate. I can see my husband when I met him for the first time in the school library. He tells me to be quiet or get out. Two weeks after that, we have our first date. I can see my wedding, my mum and dad walking me down the aisle and my husband crying when he sees me, his face pink and in awe. This is my second happiest day. I can see my daughter, a little smudge on a screen. My husband kisses my forehead and puts a hand on my stomach. This is my happiest day. I can see my daughter again, this time at the bottom of a toilet. My worst day. 

There is not enough time for my life to flash before my eyes, the sound of shouting pulls me back, the camera disappears and there is a gun at my forehead again. I close my eyes. My knees tremble, almost numb from being pressed into the splintering wood of our bedroom floor. He asks me to look at him, gruff and breaking. I don’t. Then he tells me to look at him, a booming bellow. His spit sprays onto my cheek. I open my eyes. He’s crouched down close to me now; the gun still cocked at my head. There are little bubbles of saliva foaming at the corners of his mouth like a pot of water boiling over. His lips are dry, almost grey, and patches of skin are curled into themselves, revealing a faded pink layer of skin. Dots of blood have formed between the cracks, congealed like fat in a frying pan, like fear in a child. He grabs my hair and yanks my head up.

‘I don’t want to do this,’ my husband says.

I want to say I know, that I can see it in the dried tears that mark his face or the redness in his eyes that seem like they’ll never go away or in the tremble in his throat every time he speaks- I can see that he thinks that he has no choice but to put a bullet in my skull. Instead, I say nothing. He watches me, expectant, his eyes shooting back and forth as he focuses on my right eye and then left and then my right and then my left and then he lets out a loud yell. He rips his hand from the grip he had on my hair and pushes me back. I stumble and fall backwards.

‘Where is your loverboy now?’ He asks, ‘He can’t save you now.’ He laughs, and at first, it sounds bitter and sarcastic but then his voice breaks and dissolves into a whimper.

I push myself back up onto my knees and pick the small splinters of wood out of my arms where they have buried themselves.

‘He already saved me,’ I say. I tell him about the day I miscarried, the day I lost my daughter. I tell him how the pain that ripped through my abdomen was nothing compared to the agony of losing my baby. I cried through the night and slept through the day, watching the world through the clouded windows of our bedroom, waiting for my husband to come home. And when he finally did, he embraced me and told me it was going to be okay because we’ll try again. And we did. And we did. And we did.

‘Do you know what happened after that?’ He doesn’t say anything for a while, he just looks at me and then says: It was a boy.

‘No,’ I say. ‘She was a girl.’

‘How would you know?’

‘A mother knows.’

He’s silent again. ‘Since you won’t answer me, I’ll tell you,’ I say. ‘You started working later. And later. And then you stopped coming home. I was alone, wishing every day that I wouldn’t wake up.’ I pause. ‘He saved me. He took me out of that hole.’

‘A delivery man, huh.’ He spits.

I close my eyes. I take a deep breath and try to take myself back, back to when I was happy.

‘Did you love him?’

But I can’t. There is no back; just ahead. So, I think about my daughter, what she would’ve been: Dark haired like me, straight and long. Perhaps a single dimple on her left cheek like mine that appeared every time she smiled, which would have been often. A laugh that would sound like a song. I want to hear that laugh.

Louder, angrier, ‘Did you love him?’

She would have been bad at maths like me, scrunching her button nose and furrowing her thick, black eyebrows every time she came across an equation. She would have had brown eyes, almost black but with specks of gold in her irises that looked like lightning. I want to see those eyes.

So, I open my eyes and I look at them. The gun clicks. Her father looks back at me, with those lightning eyes and his face wet and pink. I hear the sound of my death.

*Another version of this story was previously published on Thawra Magazine.

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