Chapter Four : Veronica
Once Veronica Clay was certain her husband Felix was at work, she set about her business in a very deliberate way. First she fluffed the cantaloupe and kiwi colored throw pillows on the couch, a grey futon folded against the wall on a tatami mat. She dusted the slate floor, straightened the pen and ink drawing of a shawled girl crossing an empty road, hung about two metres above this couch, on a wall painted to look like the mouth of a weathered nautilus. There were two tea mugs and two plates in the porcelain sink, a fork, two margarine covered knives and a spoon with a coffee drop drying in its dipper. These she washed and placed in the ceramic drainer.
Satisfied at the job she had done in the living room she descended the composite steps into the bathroom-sleeping area. In the bedroom she smoothed down the white cotton sheets and matched up the corner of her book, Sydney’s Old Arcadia, with the rounded edge of the smoked glass end table. Felix’s boxer shorts and tank top lay unfolded on the clothes bar. She folded them and left them on top of his pillow. The house was clean. She had done her work for the day.
Next Veronica went upstairs and poured a double shot of Old Yeller’s Real Kentucky Bourbon into a squat juice glass. She would need it to wash down a couple of tranquilizers. She wanted to remain focused and relaxed. Clarity and calm had descended on her of late but she knew it wouldn’t last, it never did. If she could just keep it together long enough, she’d be able to get everything done.
Downstairs again she swallowed the pills. They were dry and the bourbon was hot but they went down. Two and two, she always liked to say. Enough to feel good, not enough to puke or pass out.
Across the short, narrow hall was the bathroom. It was almost as big as the bedroom. She turned on the spigots of a large, white tub with gold claw feet. It took a few seconds to get the temperature to just right. She sat on the toilet, running her fingers under the water, feeling the pills slowly take affect. Things faded just a little, she lost track of what she was doing.
As the tub filled she got out all her prescription bottles. Some were rolled up in her socks, there was one in her hiking boots, a few in a box of emerald silk folded in tissue paper on the top shelf of the closet. The most recently prescribed were lined up in order of consumption in the medicine cabinet. She took them all and laid them out on the bed so she could see the labels, sort of review her recent history by its artifacts.
Veronica went back upstairs because she had forgotten a glass of water and the chef’s knife, a big, ten-inch wedge of carbon steel, with a very sharp edge.
She wanted to die the way most people wanted to live, down to the last drop of sweat, the blind wordless greed to be. What she sought was total extirpation, non-existence, extinction of mind and body. Had she been able to she would have exterminated every memory of her that had ever been, as if her name had never been spoken on earth.
She sat on the edge of the bed, slowly unbuttoning her loose white shirt, staring at her elephantine feet. They looked squat and grey. There were the extra two toes, stubs with distorted nails, barely emerging alongside the small toe of her left foot. Her belly hung out and her breasts dropped down. Every part of her felt bloated with some hideous, mean spirited gas she could not expel. It seemed to move around the joints, making her fingers or her ankles or her chin fat. Her nails were chewed down to the pads. She couldn’t remember what it was like to be strong. She couldn’t remember what anything was like at all.
One by one she opened the bottles and swallowed the pills. Barbiturates, hypnotics, muscle relaxants, analgesics, Euphorics, narcotics. Drugs for nausea, for overeating, for starvation. For diarrhea, constipation. Mood elevators. Temporary Induced Coma. That was fun. The little amber bottles lay scattered at her feet. She burped bourbon, grabbed the knife and swaggered, naked, into the bathroom.
Veronica Clay was forty years old, tall, intelligent, beautiful. She had an advanced degree in English literature, was once operational sales manager at Intellatrawl, and could run twenty k a day when healthy. She had climbed mountains in Alaska. She had driven a car from Thunder Bay to Vancouver. She loved her husband and he loved her. Veronica had black hair that hung in gentle curls against her shoulder. Her face was long, with high cheekbones and full lips. Her nose was strong and straight. She had a high forehead and skin the color of dark honey. Out of her face shined a pair of greenish blue eyes that had the power to stop speech and breath.
Holding the knife in one hand, she turned the water off and dizzily lowered herself in. Water sloshed out onto the floor. She stretched up out of the tub and pulled a towel down off the rack and clumsily mopped the water up. It was exhausting work. She fell back against the tub and lay there with her eyes closed a minute, water lapping her chin.
She watched her body bloom and wobble, brown, disconnected beneath the blue, white and yellow reflections, limb not aligning with limb. Then she took the knife and dragged it across her wrist. But her hand and eyes were weak. The knife took a long, curved bite out of her arm. The skin split apart and blood ran out over her hand. It dripped onto the white tile. Her thoughts began to blur.
With a surge of focused energy she lifted the knife again and took careful aim. The inside of her bloody arm swam in and out of view. Finding the veins at last, she drew the knife across them. It did absolutely nothing. She had used the blunt side. Now Veronica was mad. But frustration only served to weaken her further. She felt muted horror as the aperture seemed to narrow. With short, desperate strokes she began to hack away at her arm. The knife cut the flesh, tore at it and blood began to turn the water red. Finally, sort of hitting at the air, her wrist and arm aching and growing cold, the dizziness, the black swirling took hold and she dropped the knife in the water and fell back. She lay there a while, half passed out, bleeding. Suddenly, her body seized and her eyes snapped open, involuntarily. She sat upright, vomited spasmodically and passed out, smacking her head on the wall, cutting it open. Her body sank slowly forward, into the crimson water, smearing the tile with blood. The skin flap on the back of her head caught onto the edge of the tub, halting her slide. It was, depending on one’s point of view, either her lucky or her unlucky, day.