The Bottom

By Dan Cardoza

So much can be measured by the metrics of a ruler, a measuring cup, even time. Yet some calibrations are useless in terms of understanding the depth of pathos. Capturing the emotional essence of grief is uniquely unfathomable.


Cassie met Dev at Cal. He made her skin crawl, but in a good way. Bachelor's degrees in hand they transferred to UCLA. There, they graduated honors, Devin, a degree in the linguistics of architecture, Cassie the structured language.


Soon they married, took jobs in the City of Angels.  By their fifth year of bliss, you could say they were nesting, conjuring a house into a home in suburbia. 


Devin had their kitchen table custom made, see-thru beryl tinted glass. He designed it elegant and expansive to accommodate a life of togetherness, of love, full of children, strong enough to accommodate those “thick and thins,” he’d say. Of course there would be the weight of prosaic sorrows, but the table was strong, supported by, “promises and new beginnings.”


That morning at breakfast, Devin pointed his index finger. “Cassie?”


Recently, he’d devolved, began using primitive grunts and hand gestures, this time jelly.


Cassie stretched toward him, “Here’s your jam.”


“Thanks, its jelly,” Devin grumbled.      


Not letting go, Cassie asserted, “Its labeled raspberry jam!”


“Jam has seeds,” Devin snarled, gripping the jar from her hand. 


“You’re correct; I’m not paying attention again.” Defeated she looked down through the table glass, the only thing left in the house that was transparent.  Her flat ankle boot was untied.  


“I pick up my car from the detailer around three today. I can use Uber, or you can pick me up Cassie?”      


“Sorry I can’t Devin.”


Until recently, Cassie rarely addressed him as Devin.  Devin’s is the one dimensional guy on his driver’s license. To Cassie, he’d always been “Dev.” She disappeared into ‘Dev’ while making love.  Now, “Devin” was the last name she thought of, and sex was desperation, more to do with survival.


Devin began taking work home. He complained about the incidental chatter at the office, his poor concentration. Cassie worked evenings a lot. This meant they’d spend more daytime together, confined in the house, neither having felt so alone.


On occasion, they’d find themselves trapped in the wide hallway, their backs to the wall just to fit through. Before, they’d lusted in the spacious tunnel. It was a collision of two meteors, with Cassie screaming bloody murder.  Exhausted and wet, they’d sink into the carpet and pleasantly drown in the plush aquamarine until dawn.


For an early super, Devin had the urge to barbeque in the middle of a storm. On the patio, he reminisced how he missed all the levity of family and friends, the swimming, a child’s giggle, the endless summers.


In the building rain, Devin quickly entered the kitchen through the sliding door. He was holding his grilled salmon, garnished in a blue oval dish. With his hands full, he had to pivot around, shut the slider with his toes, like an experienced circus juggler. Before placing the dish on the table, he paused and squinted back through the rainy glass.  He couldn’t remember when he’d seen the pool this choppy.  The surface appeared shattered, defiant.


Hypnotized, he gazed out at the Wrought Iron fence strangling all the chaos, the frayed yellow nylon rope, a loose imposter standing in for a custom gate lock.  Stuck like a thorn in the throat of his voicemail, Home Depot Jeff’s message loops, “It’s still on backorder. We can cancel?”


Obsessing the message, the house turns in to a chapel once again. It’s too late to cancel.


Cassie joined Devin for a quick dinner.


“Here you go, Cassie,” Devin’s dead voice crackled like a branch too full of squeaky hinged crows. 


Cassie looked up, her damp eyes pleading for a sign, direction, for help. She’d been crying again. Before Devin loaded his plate, he poured their green tea. They sat a separate ends of their long family table. For what seemed like seasons, they stared at the salmon as if it were preparing its journey upstream to spawn. Little was eaten that night.


How’s the car? , asked Cassie.




“Good,” Cassie replied. She knew how he worshiped details, things done right. How he hated lose ends. Feeling particularly guilty this evening, she admonished herself. She recalled how Devin once referred to her as “Hopelessly distracted, absent minded.” Somehow this evening, she kept from balling, and falling through the crust of the earth, but barely.


After a short while, Cassie stood, looked down at her meal. Then in resolve, she gathered her plate and silverware, placing them on the frigid black granite near the sink.


“Done already?”


“Yes, Devin, I have to be at school early this evening, they’ll be waiting.


Four weeks passed.  Devin never reported her missing. He didn’t know where she was, nor did he care. This particular evening Devin seemed bored.  His TV had grown fat on sitcoms, funny commercials, and HBO comedy specials.


Devin opened his Orbitz travel log and reviewed his hotel stays. He’d presumed his was an unshared account. Booked was a past travel date he hadn’t scheduled. He was certain this was just a mistake. Or that he was tired, and just didn’t want to think, or know for sure. After all, it was late, and he was more than exhausted. 


Weeks earlier, inside ESL, the students spoke excitedly, in broken English, about their grades.


Outside the passenger window, only the heavy sky and Cassie knew where the aircraft was headed. She knew there would be no grades. 


At altitude, the ocean shellacked as smooth as teal glass. Cassie swore, she could almost see to the bottom. It looked empty now, except for all the iridescent orange starfish the color of water-wings.


Cassie knew little about nautical miles, but was certain there would never be enough. Distance, in terms of water had become an enigma, and so very complicated.


The End