My wife, Shannon, was a wonderful woman; a tall, brunette, almost as tall as I am. We met through a mutual acquaintance in college. It was only after a few dates we knew we were meant to be together and I proposed. After college, she became a sales representative for a fledgling software company and I became an accountant. She picked out our apartment and we moved in together before we were married. It was a small, one bedroom apartment. It was cozy, but was all we could afford at that time and all we needed. The front room had strange old green and white wallpaper. Shannon said she had a strong attraction to the apartment. I liked the place, but it gave me the creeps.
Our wedding was great and went without a hitch. The honeymoon was even better. Our families weren't very well to do, but we managed. Shannon and I always fantasized about getting a house, but over the years, it became more of a running joke than a possibility. We thought we would never leave our apartment. Shannon and I both made good money, so now we were looking for perfection. However, our differing tastes had prevented us from finding our dream house. The house had better be pretty darn good. We planned to stay there for more than thirty years.
The apartment we lived in was not bad, but we hoped it would be only temporary. It was spacious enough and in a good neighborhood. For the most part our neighbors like us. We liked our apartment because it was one of the first things we "bought" together. Besides, we were thinking about children. Our life seemed to be perfect for a short time.
After nearly a year of trying, we were pregnant. I had never seen Shannon so radiant, even on our wedding day. I don't know who was more excited, she or I. We were very careful and fastidious. She ate properly, exercised regularly, and saw the doctor every two weeks. Our families were just as excited. We were inundated with boxes of baby food and bags of diapers.
When Shannon lost the baby at the beginning of the second trimester, she could not stop crying. I did my best to support her through this, or I thought I did. Shannon sank deeper and deeper into depression. She rarely left the apartment. She took a leave of absence from her job and spoke to almost no one except her mother and myself. I also noticed the apartment was becoming noticeably colder and smaller like the walls were creeping in. I started looking for a new place for us to live.
I did anything and everything to cheer her up. I made reservations at her favorite restaurant. I planned to take her dancing. I hated it, but she loved it. I wanted her to feel beautiful again. I took off from work early to help her out. I made up some story about a doctor's appointment and went straight home.
No one answered.
My worst nightmare was realized when I opened the bathroom door. I found Shannon lying naked in the bathtub with her wrists slashed open. The bath water had been contaminated by her loss of blood. A bloody razor blade was lying by the side of the tub. "I LUV YOU," was scrawled in blood on the wall above the tub. Shannon stared wide-eyed and agape into the abyss. Her dead-white face would never smile or blush again. It was then that I lost control. There was a soggy piece of notebook paper by the tub, written in black ink read, "I'm with the baby now."
I sat on the toilet seat and cried into my hands. I kept wondering if there was anything I could have done. Did I ignore her signals? I suggested time and time again that she should see a counselor, but she refused every time. I did everything for her. After work, there was not a minute I didn't spend with her. I made sure the laundry, the dishes, and our apartment was clean, I cooked for her all the things she liked, the best that I could. I never pushed her into lovemaking, which meant it was nonexistent after the miscarriage.
I don't know how long I waited before I called the ambulance. I still couldn't believe it was her they wheeled out in the big black bag never to return. I talked to the police officer. I believe there was little doubt in his mind that I had nothing to do with her death. The policeman patted my back and gave his condolences.
I was mortified at the funeral, just a little more that a breathing statue. Her family, although never showing much care for me, embraced me wholeheartedly. My family wept as much as I had on the previous days. It was after the funeral when I felt the most empty. My family had left. There was only me in the apartment, alone.
The memories of her kept flooding back to me. I remember how the first time I saw her, my heart fell like the Hindenburg. My insides felt warm. I remember the way she smelled. Her scent was so deep and euphoric. Making love to her was the closest I believed I could attain to heaven. It was about that time I noticed that the apartment began to change. The old wallpaper which had once been green when we moved in was now brown and turning yellow before my eyes. I swear I thought I saw the shapes in the wallpaper moving. The corners of the walls began rounding as well.
I started smoking again. I hadn't touched a smoke since I was sixteen when my dad proceeded to beat the shit out of me for stealing his cigarettes. Within a week's time, I was up to three packs and a bottle of gin a day. It was not the booze or lack of sleep that was killing me, it was the photo album. Inside the photo album, there were the wedding pictures, pictures of Shannon and me mugging for the camera with friends before we were married. There were the pictures we had taken during each month of her pregnancy, measuring her progress. The ultra-sound picture was next to month number four. It was a girl. Her name would have been Karen. I noticed the apartment kept getting colder.
I even worked up the nerve to watch the movie we made together before we were married. It was the kind of movie we didn't keep out in our video collection for guests to watch, and unfortunately, it wasn't one of our better performances. Although, in my tear soaked eyes, it was perfect. I turned off the tape and went to bed early. I locked the bedroom door and hid under the covers like a scared eight-year-old.
I took a leave of absence from work. My co-workers were very sympathetic and noticed I was in desperate need of private convalescence and perhaps some intensive counseling. Most of my co-workers, including my immediate manager at the accounting firm, attended both the wedding and funeral. I was told I could return when my personal affairs were in order.
Perhaps if there were more people I could talk to things would be much better. I rarely left my apartment unless needed. I began to understand what Shannon was going through on during her last few days. I began to see the wallpaper yellowing and believed the walls were starting to close in and started to believe the walls were going to swallow me. The living room in my apartment has become my entire world. I sat in the middle of the room in a ball for days. The TV was the only noise that emanated from my apartment. I was afraid I was losing my mind. Please God, save me, I begged.
One day I heard a baby crying in the bedroom. I tried to ignore it, but the crying got louder and so intolerable I just wanted it to stop. I got up to find a baby lying on the middle of the bed on top of a pink blanket. It was a girl who cried herself red.
I did not know what to do. I stepped inside the bedroom and walked toward the bed very slowly and suspiciously. It was madness. It had to be madness. When I reached for the baby it was gone, and a full bottle of pills was there in its place. The pills were real. I held the bottle as securely as I would have held the baby. I needed to make sure the bottle would not disappear. I brought back the bottle to the living room. I sat it down in front of me and stared at it for the longest time. The pills were tempting me. The more I stared at it, the more I began to believe the pills were trying to communicate with me and wanted to be a part of me. The pills wanted to jump out of the bottle and into my stomach. I knew if I let all them in, I would go to sleep and wake up next to Shannon and our baby. We could be a family again.
The phone rang. I wanted to let the machine get it, but I got up anyway.
"John," the voice said. It was Shannon. Momentarily, I forgot she was gone. I assumed she was still at work.
"John, I don't have much time to talk, but you have to get out of there. I'm sorry I ruined dinner last night. We should have gone out like you said."
"It's no problem. We can go out tonight."
"Great, honey. I'll be waiting for you. I love you, John."
"I love you too." As soon as I said that, I glanced over at the TV and saw our video. Then I remembered she was dead.
"Shannon?" The phone went to a dial tone. No one was there. Apparently, no one had been there. It was her voice on the other end of that phone. I know it was her voice. I hit the re-dial button, hoping to have the operator connect me to Heaven or wherever my wife was, but the line went to my mom whom I talked to the day before.
In a moment of clarity the world made sense again. It was the apartment. It wanted to get me the same way it got Shannon and our unborn child. I could not believe what it almost made me do. This horrible little apartment, with its creeping, yellowing wallpaper wanted blood, my blood. I can only imagine how many times its insatiable appetite has done this before.
I packed my things in haste and got the hell out of there. I took only the bare necessities and spent a week at the nearest Holiday Inn. I dumped the pills in the toilet. I went back to work the following Monday. Life eventually got better. I started dating again. This new woman bears more than a passing resemblance to Shannon. Eventually, I returned for the rest of my things, but not alone. I did not want to be in the apartment alone again.
I drove past the old apartment complex sometime after I had remarried. I saw a young couple moving in. They looked so happy. I was never a very religious man, but I wished to God that they would be safe, that the desolation of the apartment would not get to them.