“There is a sickness that I feel every time I look into the bathtub,” Roberto says while folding plain white t-shirts on the bed beside the largest window in the house.
“Will you stop with the sickness?” Maria says, putting her book down to look at the expression on Roberto’s face. “It never ends. Every day you feel sick about something.”
“That isn’t true,” Roberto frowns and turns to Maria with an unfolded t-shirt in his hands. “And even if it were, aren’t I entitled to feel a little sickness now and again?”
“Now and again, of course; everyone feels a little sickness about things now and again. The problem is that it isn’t every now and again. It’s every stinking day, Roberto. Every stupid, pointless, feels-like-it-will-never-end day that you feel sick about something.”
Roberto considers this for several minutes, staring at the crack forming on the wall just above Maria’s head. He finally shakes his head, clicks his tongue, and goes back to folding his plain white shirts.
Maria lights her cigarette using the apple-cinnamon scented candle that sits on the dining room table. She takes a long drag and blows the smoke at the refrigerator door. Roberto stumbles into the kitchen with a knife in his chest. Maria turns to him and watches him as he tries to keep his footing on the linoleum floor.
“What’s wrong?” she says.
“I fell onto my knife again,” Roberto says.
“Why do you keep that knife lying around so that you can fall on it so easily?”
“It wasn’t lying around. I was using it to cut up the couch cushions. I set it down for a second and then forgot about it.”
“You are so forgetful. You have to be careful with knives lying around.”
“I know,” Roberto says, clutching the knife and trying with what little strength he has left to pull it out of his ever-weakening body.
Maria watches closely, still enjoying the first cigarette she has smoked in a week. She can see that Roberto is struggling with the knife. Getting stabbed really takes it out of a person.
“Would you like some help?” Maria finally asks.
Roberto sighs and looks up at her.
“No,” he says, “I have it.”
“Are you sure?”
“I am sure.”
And Roberto struggles with the knife for another three or four minutes. Maria can see that he is fading fast, the strength draining from his body with every gush of blood spilling from his wound.
“Roberto,” she says, “will you just ask me to help you get the knife out of your chest? I don’t mind, you know? You just have to ask.”
“Maria,” Roberto starts through gasping breaths, “I…am…per…fect…ly…cap…able….”
“Why are you so stubborn?”
Roberto opens his mouth to answer, but no words come out. Maria rolls her eyes and takes one last drag off of her cigarette. She puts it out in the sink and walks to where Roberto has finally fallen in the middle of the just cleaned kitchen floor. She looks down at him.
“Listen, Roberto,” she says, “I am going to help you, whether you want me to or not. Okay? I am going to lean over, pull the knife out of your chest, and then bandage you up. Okay? I know that later on tonight you will be mad at me and say, ‘why didn’t you let me do it? you never let me do anything myself?’ etc. etc. I am sorry my dear Roberto, but you need my help right now and I am going to give it. You are just going to have to accept the fact that sometimes you need help in this life. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone needs help at one time or another.”
Roberto says nothing. Maria nods, leans over, grabs hold of the knife in Roberto’s chest, and pulls it out in one swift motion. Roberto immediately breathes a sigh of relief. Maria tosses the bloodied knife into the sink and looks down at Roberto.
“Are you feeling better?” she says.
“Good,” she says. “Now let’s get you on your feet and clean you up. I am not cleaning this floor again. You are going to clean it this time.”
Before night could fall, Maria plops down on the couch and lets herself be enveloped by its comfort and warmth. Roberto lies on the floor with potato skins covering his chest wound. Maria closes her eyes and feels relaxed for the first time all day. She is happy to have another day behind her; ready to spend the night thinking of and doing nothing at all. Roberto stares up at the slowing caving ceiling and wonders whether he should do anything about the ants crawling on his leg.
“Maria?” Roberto finally says, breaking the beautiful silence.
“What is it, Roberto?” Maria says, really only half interested.
“Wasn’t there something that we were supposed to do today?”
“What do you mean?”
“Wasn’t there something that we were supposed to do today? I feel like we had something that needed to be done.”
“I don’t know,” Maria says, not really thinking about, “but I don’t think so.”
“Hmm,” Roberto says suspiciously.
“Don’t make me think about anything right now, Roberto. I just want to sit here on this nice, warm and comfy couch and just drift into oblivion for a few hours. That’s all I ask.”
“I just have this sneaking suspicion that there was something important that we were supposed to do today that we forgot about.”
“Did you finish digging the graves in the backyard?” Maria asks.
“What?” Roberto says.
“Did you finish digging the graves in the backyard?”
Roberto is silent. He slowly sits up and kills the ants crawling up his leg.
“I didn’t,” Roberto finally says. “I totally forgot. I knew I forgot something, Maria! I knew it!”
“No matter,” she says. “You can always do it tomorrow.”
Roberto nods and then lies back down on the floor.
“You are right,” he says. “I will finish digging the graves tomorrow.”
Joshua Martin is a Philadelphia based writer and filmmaker, who currently works in the library at Saint Joseph’s University. He obtained his B.A. in History from the University of South Florida in 2007. He has had two pieces previously published in Paragraph Line. His films have screened at various film festivals including The Pineapple Underground Film Festival, New Filmmakers, Film Al Fresco, Views from the Underground, and The Shooting Wall Film Festival.