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Afraid Of Virginia Woolf

by Chris Sorrenti

Out of habit, doorbell rings through an empty house. A spare given loved one enters keyhole. Half expecting to see a son who never again will be home. Mother pauses..."If only things had been different."

No more dirty dishes by the sink. A bus pass, days expired in garbage pail. Rooms neat and tidy as if expecting company, but no meal sits cooking on this stove.

Telephone display showing unanswered calls from friends and the family who've just entered. "Where do we begin?" asks a sister tearfully, both breaking down over a face never to be questioned.

Upstairs, two beds sit made up with clean sheets, one in a son's bedroom never to visit again. On his bed, newspaper clippings. Something about a fishing accident earlier this year. Mother and daughter look at each other in simultaneous acknowledgement; a question now half answered.

In the master bedroom there are no dirty clothes, just an empty pack of cigarettes in wastebasket. Model airplanes never started, sit stacked in the closet, above shirts, pressed and ready for Salvation Army. Binders of poems, never published, sit below them.

On the night-table under lamp, something catches their eye. Moving closer, a book, titled, Mrs. Dalloway. Opening to a page marked inside at back, an inscription in familiar handwriting:

"If things were different, and I was a different man, this is the way it might have been."

© 1992

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Author's Note: Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), British author, suffered from severe bouts of mental illness throughout her life, now believed to have been Bipolar, committed suicide by drowning. For more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_Woolf

Posted on 08/21/2016
Copyright © 2024 Chris Sorrenti

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Kristina Woodhill on 08/23/16 at 03:36 AM

I have not read Mrs. Dalloway so this has a very open ended ending for me, which I like. This is haunting and revealing and starkly personal. Thanks!

Posted by Ken Harnisch on 08/23/16 at 08:16 PM

Astonishing vignette Chris...Astonishing.

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