He opened the cupboard door and sighed at the barren landscape that confronted him. His hand pawed inside the emptiness, searching. The man strained with the effort, stood on his toes as he stretched up into the overhead cupboard and tried to grasp what he was looking for.
Finally, he gave up and pulled his hand out. Cemented on his leathery old hand was a fine layer of dust, which he shook off with a frown of absent irritation. He knelt down in the kitchen and opened another cupboard, this one below the worktop. He nodded to himself now.
“It’s got to be here.” He said aloud. He felt anger rise in him as he rifled through the barren cupboards, eager to find it.
His reflection caught in the dusty glass of the oven. For a moment, the man saw himself as he was – an old, tired face with lines of stress and age creasing his features.
Then, he saw himself as he had been. A young man, with a perpetual smile. He saw his wife and him in the kitchen he was in now, but the cupboards had been full. The oven had been gleaming. He saw her cooking noodles on the hob, his body wrapped around her from behind. How she’d laughed softly and fended him off with a wooden spoon as the smell of the chicken noodles had wafted through their new home.
With the weight of memory hanging heavy on him, he paused his search. The man’s shoulders slumped and he looked around the dusty, disused remnants of his kitchen. Of their kitchen. He looked up at the counter-tops and the kettle. He remembered the terrible agony on their faces as they’d poured steaming mugs of tea for one another the night she had miscarried. The steaming hot drink had done little to stir the coldness that had settled in both of them that day.
The man laid his hand on a circular object in the cupboard and he drew it out quickly, as though relieved to have found it. Then his face crumpled in disappointment. It was a bottle of Mexican spices. He didn’t remember her ever cooking with those. He threw the bottle away and resumed his search, more slowly now. The weight of time was upon him and it was like an anchor dragging him down.
After they’d drank tea that night, they’d lived like robots. They’d stopped laughing so often. Stopped holding one another. She still cooked for him, but the distance between them had grown into something physical. Like it could be touched, if only he reached out to grab it. But he didn’t. Neither of them did.
And now, here they were. He almost laughed at the bitterness of it. Forty years of unhappiness together, where they should have separated but couldn’t. And now she was gone, asleep in some mortuary a few streets away. Eternally at peace, perhaps with their infant son from all those years ago.
The old man’s search ended. He found the circular grip of the revolver in the back of yet another cupboard. With tears of remembrance, he closed his eyes and thought of her at the hob, cooking noodles for them in their brand new home, with the swell of their child on her belly. The promise of their future.
The old man pulled the trigger.