Bloody Valentine’s Day Contest Winner

 

Sunflowers by Sarah Silvey

 

Driving down the road, desperately scanning the shoulders and surrounding traffic for my sweetheart’s car. I’d let him pick the dark green paint, even though it depressed me. It was his car, after all, and it made him so happy. 

That color is a curse now. Dusk is quickly falling, and the neutral shade makes a frustrating camouflage. How am I supposed to find him? He isn’t at work, he won’t answer his phone. He might be buried in the woods. He might be dead.

No. I can’t think that. He isn’t dead. I can’t bear a house without him. I need him just to get through my day. He is always there for me. A spot of brightness and beauty in this dark world. 

Life sometimes gets overwhelmingly ugly, hateful, horrible. At times like these, I have to shut myself in my room, with its perfect wallpaper and perfect closed drapes, where I can be safe, where I am in control, where I can quietly wish myself dead. Sometimes I’m in there for days. He always leans against the wood, talking reason through the door, trying to coax me out. I am ashamed to say, I have yelled back before. Hurtful things, which he doesn’t deserve.

If I can get him back, I’ll never yell at him again.

Eventually I would stabilize. Finding the courage to leave the room, I would crack the door, afraid to face him. The first thing I’d see through the crack was the kitchen table, and upon that, without fail, a brilliant bouquet of flowers, an explosion of color and life. Profusions of brilliant orange sunflowers. Sprays of vivid carnations. Grasses three feet tall, with soft fluffy heads. A reminder from him that there are beautiful things to see in this world, if I only focus in the right direction.

The sunflowers are my favorite. They always look toward the light.

I make a turn onto the next highway. God, I hope this is the exact route he takes. It’s getting darker. He always enjoys driving, so he doesn’t mind this long commute to and from work. I hate driving. I hate the distance. The remorseless gray highway speckled with gruesome splattered animals and shattered car parts. The ever-encroaching sense of distance. Instead of looking ahead, I prefer watching him drive, admiring his perfect profile, his soft yellow curls. He just laughs. He’s easygoing like that. If the scrutiny gets to be too much for him, he’ll free a hand from the wheel so I can entwine my fingers with his. Then I’ll focus on his hand, drawing imaginary constellations on his faded freckles.

I dodge another bloody smear on the highway and try not to gag. I brave this for him. 

There it is. His green car. Angled into the woods, buried in the grass. If I hadn’t been looking for it, I wouldn’t have seen it. The headlights are on, but dim, as if they’d been on too long already. 

I pull over and half-run, half-tumble down the steep embankment toward his car. It tells a brutal story. It has collided with a tree, crumpled into it. Maybe he was getting a CD out at the time, or sending a text. He always veers dangerously close to the edge of the road doing those things. Usually I’ll scream, he’ll laugh and correct himself. But I wasn’t there this time. The front window is busted out. A trail of glass and blood lead into the woods. I follow the trail. 

I find him.

The first thing I see is a profusion of intestines, sprays of blood. He must have been under a lot of pressure when his gut burst. His once-perfect face has become a disjointed collage of exposed bone and raw skin, his nose crooked, bleeding. His soft hair matted with black mud. His leg grotesquely out of place.

Only his eyes remain true. Gentle brown. They plead his pain. I can’t look at those eyes. 

I turn away from him and swallow my purge. With one shaking hand, I pull out my phone and start to dial for help. They can fix him. He’s hung on this long, his heart and lungs might be intact. He’ll be fixed up, and I’ll take him home again, and we’ll live together just like before. People lose intestines all the time, and they survive. They can put his guts back together. He’ll just need a special diet, antibiotics to keep from going septic. 

I pause my dialing. 

Post-surgery, he’ll have drainage tubes. Smelly fluids. Pus. The angry red stitches and scars. All that can be covered up with nice clothes. 

He’s going to need skin grafts on his face. Screws going into his legs and ribs. Help going to the bathroom. I won’t ever be able to avoid it. Years of reconstructive surgery to get him human again. I’ll have to look at him, every day. Dole out his meds, drive him to the hospital for checkups. Kiss his puffy, grafted lips. 

My legs give out.

Every time we make love, that belly scar will be pressed up against me.

I vomit. I sob, vomit, sob, until I can’t breathe anymore.

Black static overtakes my vision. 

The crisis passes. I catch my breath in hitches. The fading daylight returns to me.

Pocketing my phone, I go to his car, reach in through the broken glass, turn off his headlights, and start walking back up the hill toward the setting sun. I hear something that sounds painfully like my name being whispered, but it might have been my imagination.

Nobody will see him from the road. It’s too cold out here for him to last the night. 

The grasses on this hill are tall. Tall and fluffy. I wasn’t looking this way, before. 

 


Sarah has a BA in Creative Writing. Her Missouri home is infested with black cats. She currently maintains a writing blog at freshhell.me.

 

Published 2/14/20