She has milky white skin and long black hair that wraps itself around her waist, moving with the water as it ripples gently. She leans back, one languid finger skimming the marble tile, the rest of her body immersed within the translucent water of the porcelain bathtub. She looks like an angel resting. But she is dead. And what is more, she has been violated, raped, and only afterwards was she carefully cleaned and placed within this tub, where she now lies. She has been arranged like a portrait, a painting.
This is not a story about rape. This is a story about the aftermath of rape. This is the story of how I, as a husband, am to understand my life now that she is not in it. Now that she is the subject of a painting which is epic, dazzling in its horror and its beauty. The policemen were astonished by her beauty. She looked as though she were still alive, if not for the bruises on her throat, which are currently purpling, turning a blackish-blue. The red marks on her wrists, where she was either tied or forcibly held down.
The bathwater is still warm. The window is open. The breeze moves the shade and it is that motion which I see as laughing, mocking. He is gone, gone through the window, and the water is still warm.
I sink to the floor and put my head in my hands. The world is spinning.
Who is this man who creates art out of dead bodies? How is it that she seems to have so much grace even in this death? I picture him as an artist, this man, an artist whose medium is death. And violence. But I am trying to block the violence from my mind. I do not want to remember her that way. I do not want to think of the suffering she underwent. I wonder if perhaps this makes me a coward. Perhaps it is disrespectful to her if I do not acknowledge the agony and the fact that I was not here when it happened.
There is so much noise around me. The policemen are busy talking. They are evaluating the crime scene. One asks me whether I feel unwell. I shake my head. The world is spinning, but I am perfectly fine. It is the window that I cannot stand. I put my head down so as to avoid the window. That bright curtain shifting in the wind. It is like a calling card. It calls for my attention.
It laughs at me.
I want to shut the window.
They probably want to dust for prints, though. I see that on television. That’s usually how it goes. But they don’t describe, on television, the way that the shifting curtain will mock me, the way it will call my name and laugh at me, demonic laughter that rings in my ears. I feel that she has accused me; I feel her voice crying out to me. She is a portrait now, my modern-day Ophelia. She has been transformed.
And I? I have been violated. I feel my manhood slipping off of me. There, it sits on the floor. None of the policemen have noticed. I am alienated from this piece of me. This organ is a weapon and I refuse to have anything to do with it. It is not of me and it will not be again. I see it there, on the floor. It lies limp. But the window curtain still waves.
I lean my head forward and vomit, ruining the prettiness of the picture. I hear the policemen clucking in disgust. I am messing up their crime scene. But I am also saving her. Saving her from becoming his, his portrait, his artistic meaning. She will not belong to him in that way. Yellow spew from my mouth assures her of that. I have assured her of her dignity.
My penis is swimming in the yellow vomit. I feel that this is a just punishment.
The policeman leans forward to examine my eyes. I find it odd that he is not examining my penis, lying there in a pool of vomit. I see it there clearly.
“Are you all right?” he asks me.
Certainly I am. Certainly. Now the picture is gone and she no longer belongs to him.
Only him is me. The other side of me. The side I am willfully struggling not to remember. The pain in my head, the flashes, though; it all means something.
I know it with a certainty that terrifies me. I raped my wife. I laid her carefully in the bath. She is my Ophelia. She is my high art.
But the window. The window is my hope. He left through the window. Perhaps it was not me.
“Can we shut the window?” I ask, my voice unusually high.
“But sir,” the policeman looks at me, entirely confused. He kneels, a show of compassion, and looks at me tenderly, compassionately. Surely I have been shaken by the shock. “The window is not open.”
With thanks to/ credited to: The Phantom of the Opera, Lucky by Alice Sebold, the photograph "Ophelia" by Gregory Crewdson which hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago, "Black Swan" and "Private Practice"