As he lifted the lid of the waste management can, he absentmindedly tossed in a bag of trash. It seemed to fall for several seconds, ending with a cacophonous thud in the bottom of the plastic receptacle.
He looked down the street, noticing which houses were alit with the signs of life, which houses had cars parked in their patient driveways, and which seemed absent any movement. The deepening twilight resonated with an eerie sheen across vaguely reflective surfaces.
He noted the absence of filtered whimpers and screams. The quiet was disconcerting and unnatural. It occurred to him that so many things seemed to be more fully defined by noticing what seemed to be missing.
So many nights he had passively noted the shouts, the cries, and the fractured silences. Sealing his doors and windows only diminished their volume, yet somehow amplified their significance. Quiet now seemed like a musical cadence missing a beat of syncopation. It made him uneasy, like when he entered a dark unfamiliar room, his hand vainly seeking the contour of a wall switch. He was unsure as to the velocity with which slumber might greet him in these circumstances.
After a few moments, he heard a door open. As he turned to the right, he saw a narrow beam of light cast its gaze upon the suburban sidewalk leading to the neighbor’s front door. A second later, a subdued housewife ambled out, shutting the door behind her. An ember signifying a lit cigarette danced lazily in the air as she moved. She walked across the expanse of her driveway, lifting the lid of her trash receptacle. As she lifted the black bag to drop it inside, a pale arm fell across the outer rim, fingers pointed toward the ground in mock accusation.
She casually lifted the arm, dropping it without much consideration back into the trash, placing her new bag on top of whatever the lifeless arm might be attached to.
The man smiled toward her in the dark, knowing the housewife did the same, a shared secret of two hours ago.
After so many nights of questioning, endless tears and abrasions, they both had reached the same mortal conclusion, one punctuated by a single shot reverberating inside a cramped living room.
As the abuser fell to the floor, eyes wide in dead surprise, both participants locked eyes. They silently and mutually agreed that the abuser’s fate was predestined and unworthy of comment.
They attentively listened with heads tilted for a minute, and then without conversation lifted the dead husband and carried him outside, unceremoniously tossing him inside the trash container. Just as no one had come to help during the preceding weeks of fists and screams, no one had come to investigate the exclamatory ring of a solitary gunshot.
Now, two hours later, the ticks and clicks of a typical night were all that greeted them as they both went back inside their respective houses.
Sleep would come easily to them both.
All in the world was as it should be.
(For the picture, I used a character I created for something else. If you zoom in, you’ll see he’s just a silhouette with light orbs instead of eyes. In the background above him, another light, seemingly tracking his movement. Perhaps too subtle is the foggy translucent of the driveway flowing away from him.)