The Easier Thing by Brianne M. Kohl
Jonah lay dead on the black and white checkerboard tile of the bathroom. The wound in his stomach had only taken moments to bleed out, to stain through the blue towel tied around his waist. His blood began to pool and work its way through the grout lines between the porcelain tile. Margaret had laid the tile herself, a year earlier when she’d still been hopeful the apartment would sell for close to what they’d paid for it.
How many times had Margaret heard the realtor say, “Relax. Be patient. It’s a buyer’s market.” Only just last week over breakfast, Margaret had said to Jonah, “If that bitch says it one more time, I’m going to blow my brains out.”
“Yeah,” Jonah had grunted, scraping his spoon against the side of his cereal bowl. “She’s crazy.”
He never once looked up to meet Margaret’s eyes. His statement was just something to fill the empty air between them. Margaret knew his thoughts were miles away, lost in the choreography of Don Quixote, tilting at windmills.
“If this place doesn’t sell, Jonah…” she’d said. But he had already risen from the table. He bumped into the green Formica tabletop with his hip, knocking over the salt shaker.
“I have class in twenty, Mags. But, we’ll talk about it later, okay?” He set his cereal bowl in the sink and smiled down at her. “I’m going to be late.” He grabbed his duffel bag and walked out the door before she could finish sweeping the tiny granules of salt into her hand.
Now, as Margaret sat on the unmade bed and faced the bathroom, she thought of how happy they’d been when they moved into their little studio apartment on the Upper West Side. Despite the staggering cost. Despite it only being 525 square feet of livable space. Those things hadn’t mattered.
Or, maybe it was the suggestion, that sense of possibility for a happier time that she remembered. Not the selling of her grandmother’s antique brass bed that would never fit. Not that horrible phone call she’d had to make to her parents, begging for help with the down payment. And, really, she could barely remember the fight they’d gotten into because he’d been too tired to help move their boxes up six flights of stairs.
It was the easier things she recalled. All the little signs that told her to overlook the bloated cost, to seize that possibility that things would be better. The apartment was within walking distance of Lincoln Center where Jonah’s dance troupe performed its Spring program.
The living area had eleven foot ceilings, a decorative marble fireplace, and resplendent pre-war details. But the bathroom had been the clincher: white painted brick walls, a 13 foot ceiling with exposed beams and an extra-long claw foot tub. On the far wall, just past the pedestal sink, three raw wooden steps led up to a terrace overlooking the garden.
Margaret eased the bathroom door open, mindful of the splinters from the gaping maw in the wood. She swept Jonah’s shoulder and right arm behind it and peered inside the bathroom. Jonah’s blood was splattered, a thick claret against the white brick. The bathroom was small enough that all four walls had taken some of the spray when the bullet had erupted from the chamber, through the bathroom door and cleaved into Jonah’s gut. In his left hand, Jonah still held his electric razor. It whined against the tiled floor, a sort of sorrowful white vibration like the steady rumble of the car engines just outside. Margaret reached down, her shaking fingers barely touching Jonah’s still-warm ones. She flipped the switch. So easy, she thought. One moment, it was on. The next, it was off. On.Off. Jonah’s switch had been thrown.
She set the .44 Magnum revolver down and it clattered into the sink with Jonah’s toothpaste still mired around the drain. His toe shoes were lined up against the old radiator next to the bed to dry – the troupe gave him an allowance of 10 pairs a week and he had coated the inside with glue to stiffen them. He went
through at least a pair a day. He had danced for nine hours every single day. The air in the apartment smelled like a mixture of iron or copper and polyurethane so Margaret turned the exhaust fan on. Jonah should have turned it on before his shower.
Brianne M. Kohl is a graduate of Kent State University with a B.A. in Anthropology and a Creative Writing minor. So, naturally, she became a technical writer who dreams of slipping haiku between lines of code in syntax diagrams. She has been published in ‘In the Hardship and the Hoping: Poems of Northeast Ohio’ by JB Solomon Editions. She currently resides in Pittsboro, North Carolina and can be found at: www.briannekohl.wordpress.com