Washing the Guilt Away


by Emily Stewart



My aunt is an intrusive and meddling woman.


“Darryl?” she calls.  I quietly back into a corner, hoping she doesn’t notice me.


“Darryl?  Where are you?” she repeats, clomping around in the next room.  I relent.


“Yes aunty?”


“Darryl,” she begins sweetly.   “Darryl honey, come here and tell me all about it.  Are you going to see her again?  Did you get her pregnant?  Come come, have a strudel.”


“I hate strudel.”


She bustles about in the kitchen, rattling the kettle, perpetually cheerful.  “When are you going to see her again, dear?”  I am beginning to boil.


“I did not get her pregnant.  We went to the library to research human psychological problems.”


Aunty is expectant.  “And?” she presses, her eyes brightening.


I give her no response.  I glare.


Undeterred, she pats her lap, “Darryl.”


Staring at her defiantly, I wonder in disgust.  Arms crossed, I observe the tacky, frilly apron tied awkwardly around my aunt’s soft middle.  This is the woman with the nerve to stick her sun burnt, peeling nose into my life.  God.


She holds her arms out, eyes tired, yet pleading, “Darryl.”  How pathetic.


I run upstairs and shut the door just loud enough to make her curious.  I know her; she’ll come up.  She always does.


Five hours pass.  Uninterested, I listen to a loud blend of hatred-promoting rock and punk music, as I wonder dully why aunty hasn’t come up to apologize.  I don’t even want her to come up.  So interfering.


“Aunty?”  My voice startles me; the house is unusually quiet.  “Aunty, where are you?”  Why am I even doing this?  I don’t want to see her.  I have my own problems to mull over.  Why should I worry if she’s gone and cried herself to sleep? 


God, it’s not my fault her husband died along with my parents in that boating accident.  Her loneliness doesn’t give her right to butt into my life.


Suddenly, I realize my feet are cold.  “Aunty!  Turn on the heater!  I’m freezing!”  No response.  I look down.  Water has covered the floor completely.  That explains my cold feet.


I wander slowly into the laundry room.  Aunty is there, hunched over the washing machine, my enormous bag of laundry at her feet.


“What’s the matter now?”


Aunty doesn’t move.  A cold feeling dread quickly enshrouds me like a wet towel. 


“Are you ok?  Need some water?”  I touch her arm lightly.  It is as cold as ice.  Then I see her face, hanging limply, half-submersed in the soapy water.  A wave of panic grips me suddenly.  Memories of her numerous cardiologist appointments flash through my mind like a hummingbird’s wings.


“Aunty, Aunty, please… please stand up.”  I know she isn’t going to.  Maybe she killed herself; in the library I read about depressed people doing that.  I read about all sorts of psychological disorders.  I’m quite knowledgeable in that area, as a matter of fact.  Oh, why am I doing this?  Distracting myself with irrelevant thoughts in a crisis!


With shame scribbled clearly all over my face in indelible ink, I glance at her ashen skin as I pace the cramped, cluttered room.  She was doing my laundry.  I’ve never thanked her.  The thought has never occurred to me before now.


I begin to sob, against my will. “Aunty.  Oh, I’m so, so… sorry.”  My mind is a blank.  I can’t remember anything, I can’t see anything.  There’s a loud, rushing roar filling my ears.  I don’t know anything.  What have I done?  What have I done?  Could there be a psychological disorder that makes you hateful and spiteful?


Much later, I’m sitting, half-hidden in the shadows, and the paramedic approaches me.


He sighs like the doctors on TV and offers a lame excuse, “You see, she was old and…”


I am no longer listening.  Well-meaning neighbors shake their heads and cluck sympathetically as I dash into the damp laundry room.  I hate them.  Go away.


Why did she have to always be there for me?  Why did she have to love me?  WHY?


I hate this guilt, I hate this… 


“I hate you, Aunty.”

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