The Six Train To Wisconsin
Like any man, I loved my wife; but these 3 a.m. suicidal thoughts were killing me. Her thoughts seeped into my dreams and tugged me toward consciousness. Without opening my eyes to look at her side of the bed, I knew she was in the kitchen stirring her tea because the image filled my mind. The spoon clanged against the sides of the mug and the steam rose from the cup to tickle my nose.
I wasn’t fully awake when the tsunami of her misery slammed into me. Images flooded my mind. Our lifeless shih-tzu puppy lay limp in the street, her grandmother’s eyes dimmed with death, a six-year-old girl bruised and beaten into silence.
The blood pounded “Your fault, your fault, your fault” against my temple. Sorrow pinched my nostrils and grief crushed my trachea.
I sputtered against the onslaught, blindly lashing out at the darkness coalescing around me. These are not my feelings, these are not my thoughts, this is not my pain, this is not me. The mantra became a way to survive my wife’s inadvertent attacks.
I imagined slabs of granite entombing me. Re-establishing the boundary of me. Creating a psychic shield from my wife. Her emotions had eviscerated my last chance at sleep. I’d be worthless for tomorrow’s presentation. Why? Because my wife was a suicidal telepath.
Lately, it had become my job, nah, my sworn duty, to anchor her sanity.
Wonder if old Mrs. Thompson next door felt it? Last time it got this bad, the entire building fell into a funk for a week. No one realized it was my wife’s feelings broadcast over a special bandwidth that screwed with their heads.
She couldn’t help it. Hell, I didn’t know how she did it. Imagine standing in Times Square 24-7, then multiply the noise by 10,000. People’s thoughts and feelings beat around in her head all day, while she kept hers under wraps. Her emotional attacks were a complicated calculus equation derived from emotional intimacy and physical proximity. Being her husband rendered me ground zero. She probably didn’t even realize her feelings had poured into me and were trickling out to the neighbors. I couldn’t be mad at her. Annoyed, yes, but not mad.
By the time I padded down the hall to the kitchen, she’d already whisked the Jacques Torres Wicked cocoa mix into the warmed milk—the one perk of a telepath. Maybe tonight wouldn’t be so bad. She still heard my thoughts. Shit, not all of them. Please not all of them.
I laughed. She almost distracted me. I pulled out the stool and sat down in front of the kitchen counter. She pushed the warm mug of hot chocolate into my hand and perched on the stool beside me. Her fiery red hair fell over her face as she blew into her teacup.
“The usual.” Her voice lost its warmth.
“Bad day?” Hearing everyone’s thoughts in a half-mile radius had to suck given Manhattan’s population density.
“No.” She refused to admit she couldn’t control her abilities anymore. “Once things calm down, you can do your work in a smaller city or a town.”
“I’m not leaving Manhattan.” It’s where we’d started our adult life together. Leaving meant accepting defeat. Admitting that she wasn’t the same person. Abandoning the children who desperately needed her help.
Sadness clipped my chin. On nights like these, sitting this close, the psychic shield she’d taught me to build was almost useless.
“Sorry,” she mumbled. I reached out and she scooted away from me. “I can’t protect you if you touch me.”
“I can handle the depression.” I dug into my memory of the first time she kissed me. She’d finger-combed my brown hair and her blue eyes had stared into my brown ones. Right up until her lips descended on mine. Her mouth tasted of powdered-sugar munchkins and creamy coffee.
I pulled her into my arms, let her hopelessness fill me, extracted some of her pain.
She tensed, but I didn’t release her.
We’d been through this before.
Minutes ticked by before she relaxed and whispered, “I miss munchkins.”
I pressed my lips against her hair.
I bet Jameson over there in his roomy corner cube never worried about his wife killing herself because of a five-alarm fire on the news. Shaneeka in front of me was good for a crazy story about her boyfriend, but she never had to hold him while he shook for hours after someone died in a 10-block radius.
They say people are only given what they can handle. That pain is a personal and private experience. They’ve never met my wife. She experienced everyone’s emotions as her own. People telegraphed their most painful thoughts. Emotions, the rawest form of thought, lanced through her. Death reverberated inside her head—like a continual scream over the din of ten thousand voices. She couldn’t block it out. Emotional pain wore down her shield, but death shredded it.
What about happy people? They saved up all their joy for themselves. Selfish bastards.
Murray cradled the phone to his ear, apologizing for another late night out with the guys—poker night my ass. We all knew where he went with that wad of dollar bills. But he’d send roses, and she’d forgive him again. Then I’d get to hear about the makeup sex.
Let’s not forget my boss, Mr. Gong, the littlest Napoleon on Wall Street. He didn’t chew his nails raw when there was a sick kid in his building. No, he came out and lectured me on how I had to focus and be more ambitious. If only he had a pint of my ambition.
It was simple. I wanted to make it better for my wife. To take away the telepathy. But I couldn’t. Next best thing? I had a plan. A plan I’d carefully laid out while I sat in my cube, 3.3 miles from our apartment and 4.5 miles from her office. Way outside the perimeter of my wife’s telepathy. The plan necessitated going places I never wanted to return to.
So that new admin needed to stop flirting with me and put her boobs back in her shirt. Hell, buy a shirt. I didn’t have time for distractions. This was my wife’s life we were talking about here. The report due tomorrow, I didn’t start writing it. I worked best under pressure—they’d never know how much.
2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest Reviews
Like the idea, and the writing is good enough that I want to learn more about the characters and certainly more back story.
Engaging, with true emotional depth and development. I wanted to know what was going to happen with them, if their love and commitment would survive all the trauma of her depression and telepathy.
From Publishers Weekly
Oliver and Kai are happily married and share a profound love. Yet, their life together is taxing. Kai is a “suicidal telepath” who hears people’s thoughts and experiences their emotions as her own. And people do not telegraph happy thoughts, but send out their bleakest feelings. For Kai, the “continual din” of voices expressing raw emotion plunges her into depression and lures her toward suicide. The couple lives in Manhattan and the city’s relentless bombardment on Kai’s mind causes her to deteriorate. To save Kai from the cacophony of her telepathy, Oliver brings her to his childhood hometown of Butternut, Wisc., — this escape, however, threatens to uncover a secret past that he’s concealed for the last decade. As this character-driven, evocative, and well-paced manuscript proceeds, truth and love’s authenticity are challenged, while danger and loss lurk in the characters’ honorable intentions. A narrator shift midway through the story seems out-of-place and clunky phraseology — such as “Her voice Linda Blaired on me” — distracts. Otherwise, this manuscript is an emotionally intense, candid exploration of devotion, forgiveness, and acceptance.