By Sylvia Schwartz

Gloria dipped her brush into a gallon of white paint and instead of guiding its bristles along the blue wall, she snapped her wrist, flinging splatters against the surface like a blank canvas she had yet to make peace with. “Take that.”

Lines ran down the wall, drawing a demarcation between past and present—obscuring ghostly spaces where photos once hung, sconces once glowed, and their loveseat once resided. Flecks marred ordinary smudges accumulated over a couple’s lifetime, now reduced to one. 

She and her husband had both suffered an attack upon the heart. 

Though only his kind was fatal. 

Gloria had considered moving, but only hired men to haul away the sad living room furniture and bought herself a gallon of Benjamin Moore’s New Century White. Wherever her husband, who still felt like her husband, was, despite him not being there, she soulfully wondered, can he see me? She smoothed blotches, creating long arching swaths, like a multitude of new crescent moons lost in the universe. 

With her hands covered in paint, she set down the brush and placed her palms on the wall. They squished as they left their lonely small mark. Her husband’s hands were as big as his promises, all of which he’d eventually kept, except the last one—to always be at her side. 

She pounded on the wall to drown out the voice in her head—I called 911! I did CPR! I should have been able to save him!—while paint spat back at her face as if saying, no you couldn’t; it was already too late.

Exhausted, she squatted on the floor and whimpered, “I can’t do this alone,” and cried until no more tears would come. Then wiped them away, streaking her cheeks like war paint. 

A shadow crossed in front of her, and she turned toward the large living room windows that faced the wall. The sun was slanting in, filling the room with light. When she looked back at the wall through blurred eyes, the semi-gloss whiteness glimmered, transforming random blotches and smears and shapes into recognizable moments. 

She saw their first snowstorm together, laughing as they broke off icicles that stuck to their tongues; their first camping trip, cozying up under that cloudy night sky lit up by fireflies incessantly signaling; and their first argument where he’d whitewashed the truth of where he’d been one night and then kept his promise never to stray again. 

A complicated, yet satisfying, life was what she witnessed as she released a deep sigh. She looked down at her capable hands and picked away the paint lodged under each nail before beginning again. 

                                                                      *   *   *

Sylvia Schwartz studied literary fiction at The Writers Studio and One Story in New York. Her stories have appeared in the Ariel Chart International Literary Journal; the Potato Soup Journal; Savant-Garde; The Write Launch; Bold + Italic Magazine; Bull & Cross; Edify Fiction; The Airgonaut; The Vignette Review; and The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society. She is an assistant editor at Narrative Magazine and can be reached at or @aivlys99.

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