Waiting for Gwen

By Hayden Wagner, Class of 2025
Tim Burton-Style Self-Portrait, Color Pencil, Alexis Bellonio, Class of 2025
Tim Burton-Style Self-Portrait, Color Pencil, Alexis Bellonio, Class of 2025

November 3, 1986. I had marked that day on my calendar. It was circled, underlined, and bolded in red to ensure I remembered the date by the time it came around. Lord forbid I forget again and get caught off guard. No, this time I remembered. And here it is: the day I lose the comforting quiet of my house. New roommates. Wonderful. 

Nothing against roommates, of course. I just had bad experiences with a few, that’s all. The first ones had reorganized all my furniture without my permission. The fourth one had taken down a few walls. Then the most recent ones, who I had forgotten were even coming, didn’t last long due to their … disruptive tendencies. Hopefully this time went better. 

They arrived around 10 in the morning. A man with dark, short hair that accented a youthful face. Intense hazel eyes, set charmingly within their sockets, scanned intently over the house, seeming vaguely unimpressed. A woman accompanied him. She was a honey-skinned woman with black eyes and a round face. Her soft brown hair was tied back in a loose braid, causing a few strands to fall out. Though the man appeared arrogant, the woman seemed nice enough, so as far as first impressions go, I was satisfied. I watched them carefully as they unloaded their truck. He was slow about it, constantly making remarks of the state of the house, which pissed me off quite a bit. I’ve lived in this house since it was first built, he had no right to complain about its aged appearance, especially not in my presence! She, however, moved much more efficiently, humming a song or two as she worked. I much preferred her. Even so, I wasn’t about to get hopeful, previous experiences have taught me that much. 

The first few weeks with them proceeded without much activity. The man would work all day at “the office,” as he referred to it, while the woman would tend to the house. No major changes were made, which I appreciated, just dusting and cleaning. She also complained of a terrible smell, but could never find the cause. I personally was never one for house maintenance, it was always Gwen’s forte. 

It was about a month in with them when things began to change. The man grew more unsatisfied with the house, and decided a little renovation was necessary. His mistake, surely. He removed the old silverware in the cabinet; silverware I used in my first few years here. I expressed my dissent to him by destroying his own belongings in the night, but he clearly didn’t get the message, for he continued his crusade. He replaced the rocking chair in the living room, the one my wife had done her sewing in each evening before nodding to to sleep. Gwen had loved that chair, however uncomfortable it grew over the years. When she comes back from her rest, she will need it. 

I tried appealing to the woman, for surely she was kind enough to stop the man. I wrote a message for her, but perhaps she thought my handwriting atrocious, for when she read it her face had paled and she vacated the room, the man later returning in her stead and destroying my note. In my defense, I haven’t had much need of writing as of late, and thus am out of practice. Maybe I should communicate in a different way. I’ve been against face-to-face interactions ever since Gwen left her rocking chair, she was always better at them than I. However, it may be unavoidable this time around. 

October 10, I finally worked up the courage to discuss the issue with my roommates. I searched the house looking for one of them, preferably the woman. I don’t think I could hold my temper with the man. I found the two of them together in the main corridor leading away from the foyer. They were reviewing the paintings that hung along the walls, likely admiring the subjects within. The woman made a few charming comments here and there, like when she saw the family portrait of my children surrounding my wife and I, or the even older pieces of my own parents. I figured I’d leave the two to admire them, they were masterpieces after all. Each one were memories closest to my heart, lest I forget from the great many years since. Finally, they got to the most magnificent of them all: Gwen’s portrait. Her sharp eyes piercing the viewer’s very soul, surely powerful enough to lift you from hell and drag you back to Earth. Her small smile, emanating all good left in the world, would warm the heart of man, no matter how somber or bitter. A true work of art, if only from her presence than the stroke of the brush. 

The man reached out to the painting, hand gripping the frame. I went to warn him of the risk of impairing it. My love would never forgive me if it were damaged. However, I never got the chance to. His grip extended to both hands on the frame, and before I could inquire as to his intentions, he had lifted the frame from the wall. I thought I was surely hallucinating. An outline of a rectangle was imprinted on the wall from accumulated dust. There was no chance he had actually done that. No no, it was all just a simple mistake. I would merely tell him to put it back on the wall. No harm done, and everything would go back to how it was before these two arrived in my home. The man tossed the painting to the side, despite the other’s protests. 

I have always thought my temper to be moderate. Sure, I may not like it when people mess with the house, but I had a fair reason for that. How terrible would it be if Gwen returned and she didn’t recognize the house? No, I couldn’t do that to her. She was frail enough last I saw her. So my actions that followed seeing him act with such carelessness I believe were warranted. The woman didn’t even know what happened until he was splayed out on the floor, long after the last gleam left his youthful eyes. His critical, harsh eyes popped out of their sockets, his dark hair taking on a crimson tint, and his face no longer handsome nor charming. She screamed, but otherwise seemed unable to move. She didn’t even notice me until I moved towards the painting to assess the damage done. All was quiet then, save for the thunder from outside. Ah, I hadn’t noticed I summoned a storm in my anger. She ran off eventually, and the police followed soon after. They searched the house for the perpetrator. No luck, of course. Sure, they found my body eventually, but it was no matter, I didn’t need it anymore anyway. My Gwen would still recognize me without it. The police left as quick as they came, and soon enough I was marking up my calendar once more, waiting for the next roommates I would receive while I waited for my lover’s return.

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