the empty armchair

Matisse1My story, “The Empty Armchair,” which is loosely based on my first novel, The Painting Story, appears in the fall issue of Contrary Magazine. Here’s the beginning:

Being sick has taken away the busy surface of my life.  Gone are the errands and the superficial, the insubstantial, the time-wasting.  Being still is forcing me to reflect on what remains.

Boil a life down to its essence.  Freeze it, and see what rises.

Tucked into bed, my body is at rest, but my eyes search the room, settling on the blue armchair.  Exhausted for weeks, I had been leaving my clothes on this chair instead of hanging them in the closet.  The night before the surgery, seeking order and control as I contemplated having neither, I sorted through the layers of discarded clothing—returning shirts and jeans to the closet, socks to the hamper.  Now as I look at the space instead of the pile, I remember keeping the chair clear because Mark liked to sit there.  With sudden clarity I see myself as Matisse’s Invalid, without a face and with only heavy, somber colors to define my existence, lying in a room where an empty armchair reminds me of the choices I’ve made.

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