Faking It

by Sara Denne-Bolton

It all started with the not finishing. He would get up in the morning to find the kettle boiled but not poured over the coffee, the wet clothes from yesterday’s wash in the dryer, which wasn’t turned on, the toast half buttered and left on the plate, the toothpaste on the unused brush.

Yet she still walked to work every day. Her office building was at the end of two blocks and across the street; it must have been ingrained in her mind. Sometimes she seemed so normal, but he really didn’t understand why no one at work had said anything about the changes in her. Was it due to politeness or obliviousness? Could they really not have noticed anything? Was it possible that she could be only half present and still be taken seriously at meetings? It must be because of her profession, he decided. Academia tolerated all manner of eccentricities. Absent-mindedness spoke of a great brain occupied with loftier things than the mundane day to day of keys and toothbrush, spectacles, and toast.

The day came, however, when she left for work and came back ten minutes later, a look of bafflement on her face. At first, she didn’t say anything and acted as though she had meant to come back for something, but, when he pressed her, she wailed, “I can’t find my office! I don’t know where to go to work!” And then he knew, beyond doubt, that her illness was not simply a charming character quirk but something deeper and more sinister.

They limped along for a little while after that during which time he would walk her to work, meet her at lunchtime to take her out to lunch, and return at the end of the day to walk her home from the office. He made sure she had her name on her office door and desk so she knew where to go and where to sit. But eventually, he knew the charade could not continue and began the process of seeking out a diagnosis and prognosis and solutions temporary and permanent. He coaxed her to the doctors on the pretext of a check-up and sat with her as the verdict fell on her uncomprehending ears.

As soon as the bed in the home was ready for her, she was gone. It happened so quickly.

In the quiet, lonely years that followed, between sad visits to sit with her in her confused absence and long uninterrupted nights at home, he missed her. He had plenty of time now to wonder what she had done in the office those days when they pretended everything was normal. Of course, no one had been fooled by their hoax, he realized. It had only served to expose her, the brilliant academic, once commanding admiration and respect, as a woman losing her wits. But she was beyond caring about such matters, he knew now, on the rare days she let him hold her hand. Embarrassment was for him alone.

""Sara Denne-Bolton comes from Ireland and read anything she could get her hands on since she was three. A dizzying life of travel and wildly varied work experience ranging from janitor to diplomat have given her ample material for writing. Her husband is an artist and they live in Vermont.

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