Knife gripped tightly in her hand, Dorothy McKenna stood next to her matrimonial bed and looked down at her sleeping, soon-to-be-dead husband, Nigel. So many thoughts and memories ran through her mind; some of them collided into each other leaving her consumed with sickening emotions. Wave after wave of these emotions, these hurts that she had kept at bay for so long, swept torrentially to the surface and demanded to be acknowledged. Loneliness . . . hate . . . betrayal . . . anger . . . pain . . . insignificance – it was as though her mind was a labyrinth that had captured her sanity within its walls. Each turn her sanity took was met by one identical path after another and no sign of the way out. Her face was flushed, her hair damp from anxious perspiration and her hazel-green eyes – crazed. The knife in her hand felt heavy, but not as heavy as her broken heart; she had seen years of physical, emotional and verbal abuse at the hands of Nigel.“You’re not good enough, you’re not pretty enough, you’re not sexy enough. You’re so stupid, Dorothy, you make the dodos sad they’re extinct! A baby dodo would look at you and think –‘Why us and not her?’ and ‘Man is she dumb!’ Of all the women in the world, I had to go and marry a dumb-ass.” A kick, a punch or the occasional slap would often accompany his cruel words. As Nigel’s wife, the years had not been kind to Dorothy; indeed they had brought her to this very day and this very moment.
It was nearly 3 o’clock in the morning and the room, though mostly dark, was slightly illuminated by shafts of moonlight that peered between the partially opened louvers of the plastic blind in front of the window. Feeling suddenly exposed, Dorothy moved to the other side of the bed that was hidden in darkness and stood there with her hand raised and knife poised, ready to plunge into her husband’s chest. She had been a nurse for over fifteen years and risen to the position of sister in charge at California’s prestigious St. Matthew’s Hospital. She knew exactly where the human heart was located in the chest and that it comprised of the left and right atria and left and right ventricles. Using the knife, she pointed at the vena cava, aorta and pulmonary artery then the right atrium, right ventricle, left atrium and left ventricle. As she pointed she named, and as she named she visualized. She knew just how many inches she needed to push the knife down to cause irreparable damage and maximum pain. She had even added a few more inches because she was sure that his heart was now so hard and cold that it would require a little more force to destroy it. The extra pounds he had gained over the years also played a factor.
Dorothy looked at her husband’s face and wondered, as she had done over the last few months, how things had come to this. After so many years of marriage was this how things would end? She would kill him and feel no remorse. Her lawyer would defend her in court by saying that Nigel had abused her and beaten her and debased her for years, and that she had had a moment of madness where she simply snapped. There was more than enough evidence locked up in a filing cabinet at the local police station to substantiate that this was all true, but deep within her heart, she knew the real truth: Nigel had killed her. She had made him her life and he had taken her life and thrown it in the gutter. She gave him love and he abused it. She gave him money and he misused it – mostly on other women. She paid all the utility bills and even bought the gas in his expensive car, the car she was still paying for – a direct debit of $199 each month.
She did everything she thought a good wife was supposed to do to make her husband love her, but in Nigel’s eyes, it was never enough. Had there been children, she might have been able to continue with the charade of their marriage, but they didn’t have any children because Nigel had said that he didn’t want to share her with children. He even said he loved her too much to share his affection and his time with anyone else. He lied to get what he wanted and when he got it he abused her until he needed something else – then he lied again.
“Are you going to stand there all night, woman, or are you going to kill me?” Nigel asked.
Shocked by his words, Dorothy froze momentarily; her heart literally stopped beating for a few seconds.
“Well, are you going to kill me or are you going to get into bed? Why does everything with you have to be over-emphasized and damn melodramatic? Either you’re going to kill me, woman, or put that damn knife away, get into this damn bed and get some damn sleep. I need you to be alert when you go to the bank tomorrow to get the loan for me. You hear me, woman, alert! This is California, not that hill-billy town in Arizona that you come from.”
Dorothy looked at Nigel; he appeared to be sleeping. She looked around the room. If he was sleeping, who had just spoken to her? Had he finally succeeded in driving her mad? Was this the moment of madness her lawyer would use in court to defend her?
“Nigel,” she whispered as she lowered the knife and leaned towards him. She could hear him snoring and saw the even rise and fall of his chest, which indicated he was still fast asleep. “Nigel,” she whispered again. He didn’t move.
“You see, this is what happens when a man like me marries a woman like you. I could have had any woman I wanted but I had to go and marry a stupid dumb-ass woman like you. Stop wasting my time, woman, kill me or go to sleep.”
She heard the words; they were his mean words spoken in his mean voice, but she could see that he had not spoken them. His lips had not moved and he was still asleep. She panicked. She put the knife down on the bedside table, ran her hands through her hair, banged her hands against her head intermittently and rocked backwards and forwards. She was scared. She wasn’t sure if she was dreaming or if she had already killed him and his spirit was talking. Suddenly a sickening feeling washed over her as she thought that maybe she was dead, maybe he had seen the knife in her hand and they had fought viciously – smashing and breaking things, he had overpowered her, grabbed the knife and stabbed her. Frantically, she checked herself for stab wounds – nothing. She looked around the room: nothing had been disturbed and nothing was broken; confused, she started to cry. Tears coursed down her face as her whole body trembled and she sobbed. After a few moments, her nursing instincts kicked in as she realized she was going into shock. She sat on the floor, put her head in-between her legs and breathed deeply. As she breathed, she reasoned with herself, “I can’t be dead; dead people don’t go into shock. Come on, Dorothy, take control of this . . . take control of this,” she whispered to herself.
“Take control Dorothy, take control Dorothy, take control Dorothy,” Nigel mimicked. “You don’t have control – I will always control you,” he said and laughed evilly.
Scared, she looked up, “What did I do wrong? Why do you hate me so much, Nigel?”
“Who said I hate you? I may not love you, woman, but like any good pet, you have your uses.”
“You hit me, you abuse me, and you cheat on me-”
“Why do you always have to be so moralistic? Look, my dad’s dad probably cheated on his wife. I sure know my dad cheated on my mom and I cheat on you, Dorothy, why can’t you just accept it? All men cheat-”
“That’s not true!”
“Yes it is – all men cheat,” he insisted.
“No, all men don’t cheat! Decent men don’t cheat! Only weak pathetic men like you cheat. Men who have no morals, no family values, no backbone or standards; men who do not see beyond their selfish needs to the damage they inflict on other-” she stopped and looked at Nigel. He was still sleeping.
“Why can’t you just accept the truth – you were too frigid for me and there was no chemistry between us? You couldn’t satisfy me. The truth is it takes a real woman to satisfy me, Dorothy.”
Like the pain of a fresh paper cut, his words stung for a moment then she shrugged their familiar discomfort off and braced herself. “You came to bed with bad breath expecting me to kiss you. You came to bed smelling of sex and cheap perfume expecting me to sleep with you. The truth is, Nigel, you repulsed me.”
Liberated, she stood up. She had never told him this before because, ironically, she had not wanted to hurt his feelings. She would make the odd comment now and then to him about brushing his teeth before he went to bed to keep them healthy or about having a shower when he got back in the evening. He never listened to her, and for years she had to endure his disgusting smells. “Sex with you, Nigel, was pathetic. There was no intimacy, no affection from you, and no lovemaking. It was less than two minutes of ‘stop-start-stop-start’ torture and you know what I did during those less than two-minute sessions? I would pray that you didn’t infect me with a sexually transmitted disease again! You talk about truth; can you handle the truth? You have called me frigid so many times; well most normal women would be frigid if their husbands smelled of old sex, broke wind like a pig in bed, snored like a dog and dribbled like a baby when they slept. You think that those drunks, those drugged-up, desperate women you’ve been sleeping with are normal?”
He didn’t respond
“Oh you have nothing to say now, do you?”
“No, no you listen; you have cheated on me with five women that I know about. You think I didn’t know that two of those women have had children for you? ‘I don’t want to share you with children, Dorothy’, you said to me time and time again. You didn’t allow me to have children! You lied to me! You took my money and spent it on other women. You made me work two jobs while you did one part-time job. You took everything from me, Nigel, including my self-respect! No more, you hear me? I will not live like this anymore – I have had enough!” She screamed.
At the onset of an act of madness, some scientists say that there is a moment of lucidity, almost like a way out of committing the act. This bizarre moment, however, can be lost in a blink of an eye. Is science really exact? Did this moment really exist? Dorothy McKenna was sweating, shaking and had just had a conversation with a man who was asleep. Her symptoms depicted that she was having a mental breakdown and was on the verge of committing an act of madness. She picked up the knife from the bedside table and looked at it for a few seconds, and then she took a deep, exhilarating breath and plunged the knife down with all her might. She let go of the knife, exhaled and smiled her first ‘happy’ smile in years.
Calmingly, Dorothy arranged some things around the room, collected a few personal belongings then walked out of her bedroom for the very last time.