She was sitting in the bathtub. The blue curtain was half drawn so all he could see were her bare feet sticking out and the bottom of her robe pooling around her calves. The hairs on her legs looked wiry. He sat down on the toilet and rested his forearms on his thighs. The light over the sink was on but it was dark in behind the curtain. She wasn’t moving, and he wondered if she was asleep. But the tinkling of ice told him that she wasn’t.
“Let’s go for a walk, baby,” he said.
“No. No, thanks.”
“You should get out of the house.” She was silent. “You haven’t even put clothes on today.”
“I had no place to go.”
“You know that isn’t right.” He lowered his head to his hands. “Will you at least get out of the tub?”
“I don’t think so.” The ice clinked again.
“Can I get you something to eat?”
“I’m fine.” Her feet disappeared as she pulled her knees to her chest.
“Did you eat today?” Her robe rustled as she readjusted herself. “You should eat something.” He wondered what they had in the refrigerator. “Your mama called,” he said.
“What did you say?” she asked.
“Your mama called. Four different times.” The blue curtain was bunched together at one end and the shadows fell in black stripes.
“Why don’t you call her back?”
She coughed. “I can’t.”
“What do you mean you can’t? Just pick up the phone.” He imagined her shaking her head. “You’ve got to,” he said.
“I don’t think so.”
“You’ve been here for days. She’s worried.”
She swallowed. “I can’t.”
“She just wants to talk to you. You’re all holed up in yourself and that woman is suffering too.”
“I can’t cry.”
The curtain absorbed the words. “What was that?” he asked.
“I can’t cry.”
“That’s OK. You know, people say that it’s OK not to cry. It’s normal to be mad.”
“No they don’t. You’re supposed to cry,” she said.
“What can I do?”
“Mama can cry. She thinks I should too.”
“She’s worried about you. Hell, I’m worried.” Her silence was heavy. He felt it pressing on his temples. “Can I at least get you something to eat?”
“I’m going to sit here until I cry.”
“You’ll get tired of sitting.”
“I tried all day and nothing.”
“You should get out of the tub.”
“You know something funny? I can’t stop hearing his laugh. I can’t see his face anymore but his laugh is all around me.” She stretched her legs back out.
“What do you mean?”
“That sounds crazy doesn’t it? Maybe I’m crazy.”
“You’re not crazy. You just need some fresh air is all,” he said.
“Why the laugh?” He shrugged shaking his head. “I heard somewhere that when you get a leg cut off, sometimes you still feel it. It itches but you can’t scratch it. Isn’t that strange?”
“Just please get out of the tub,” he whispered.
“You have to.”
“This thing in my chest…it’s crushing me. I keep trying to get up but it’s pushing me right back down.”
He lowered his face into his hands again. “Maybe you should put that drink down.”
“Maybe I should put the drink down? Maybe I should eat something. Maybe I should get out of the tub. Maybe I should fucking cry.”
He stood up. “Jesus. Will you look at me?” She flung back the blue curtain and leaned back against the edge of the tub. The curtain gathered in the middle of the rod, splitting her body in half. The tumbler rested on her chest. She turned her head toward him and caught his bloodshot eyes.
“You’ve got to stop this.”
“I’m not doing anything.”
“I’m terrible. I can’t even cry.”
He knelt by the tub and put his hand on her hair. “It’s OK, baby. You’re mad. It’s OK to be mad.”
“If I could just stop hearing him laugh. If I could see his face, then I would cry. I might be able to.” She looked at the glass in her hand. “When we were kids he used to tell the most awful jokes. I can’t remember any of them. Just him laughing,” she said. “I remember him being happy but he wasn’t happy. He couldn’t have been happy.”
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
She reached forward and turned on the showerhead. Water drowned her bourbon, the glass filling and overflowing. The sudden stream splattered her robe with fat, wet droplets. Her face was damp. “I’m fine.”