My eyes set upon an ashtray growing its own mountain of cigarette butts, from my horizontal position on the couch I could stick out my tongue and lick one of the butts if I was so inclined. Why I would be inclined to lick said butts is a thought to mull over for another day
I turned over on the couch and stuck my nose into the dusty seat cushions to try and avoid the shining sun. The silly, stupid shining sun, as if there was something to shine about. Interesting fact: the scent of dusty seat cushion is infinitely better than that of cigarette butts and a wasted life.
I tossed and turned in the dust for another few hours, but the sun was shooting its rays directly at the back of my head and the heat was seeping through my cranium out of my forehead and making the couch cushion awfully hot. I suppose the sun had made its mind up to destroy my plans to marinate in cool, dark, depressing peace. Damn you sun, damn you I say.
I heard a sound; my stomach churned. He was in the bathroom, surprisingly up early for someone who had spent the better part of the night fashioning a can-crack pipe, smoking crack, losing can crack pipe, searching apartment dumpster for cans to fashion new crack pipe, smoking crack, losing pipe – you get the picture.
I heard the bathroom door open.
“Hey shithead, get up, I need $20.”
My beloved was awake. I tried to ostrich my head into the couch, but what is one to do when the sun and one’s beloved join to suck your soul out of your brain. .
He threw one of the couch cushions at me, then a second, then a third.
“I don’t have any money,” I muttered.
I knew he heard me. God, I want to kill myself sometimes. Or kill him. Just leave me alone, why can I just not be left alone. I rolled off the couch, one of the cushions that had been sitting on my back rolled off of me and into the ashtray, providing us with ashy fireworks.
“Do you want coffee?”
I found avoidance at times is the best route, if I pretended everything was normal we could ignore the stupidity of the situation.
OK? Oh my helluva saints what the heck.
I saved the old coffee grinds to use as a scrub for my dry skin and got a new pot of coffee a-brewing.
A buzz flick said the TV was on and the booming voice of a man feeling really excited about some other man having thrown a ball really far entered the apartment.
“Hey, what’s for breakfast,” he yelled from the living room.
I leapt to where he was and said I would whip up some lovely eggs and toast, he gave me a thumbs up. We only had three slices of bread left – two whole ones and the loaf butt, but it would do. I kind of like the end of the loaf anyways – when toasted they morph themselves into the perfect balance of crunchy outside and chewy inside.
I buttered the slices of bread and placed them in the toaster oven. Toast smells delicious, like home. The bell pepper, tomato, onion oblate turned out beautifully. I carefully divided the omelets into two and plated them onto two plates along with tomatoes, potatoes and toast. This wasn’t going to be a bad day after all.
“Hurry there’s a good movie about to start,” he shouted.
The table had been cleared off although little ash particles managed to cling to the edges, I set down our plates and went to grab the coffee. Half of a cup ended up on my arm and floor as I tripped over a slipper left in the hallway. I set his cup on the side table beside the couch.
“Go sit over there,” he told me.
I kind of wanted to say fuck off. I also kind of wanted to have one normal people’s Saturday morning, so I picked up the chair and moved it to the other side of the couch. About halfway through he said it sure would be good if we could get some real coffee and some sweet baked goods. I thought about it, maybe if I made this gesture and he saw how great life could be without the drugs then he would understand he doesn’t need them.
So I told him that I just remembered that in fact I did have some cash. He smiled and got up quickly and said he’d go to the little cafe around the corner and grab us our brunch dessert. One hour later he was still AWOL so I called him.
“Where are you?”
“I’ll be there in 20 minutes.”
I hung up the phone. It was 3 o’clock, the movie had finished and no him. Maybe he went to that cute coffee shop we had been to a few years ago. It had been a sunny day and he had borrowed his mom’s car. The top came down. I had curled my hair, pinned it to the sides and slid on a red pout. He picked me up and we rode gloriously along the lake until we got to that quaint little coffee shop that overlooked the water.
“This is going to be really good, it is going to be amazing actually, you are going to love it,” he said with a smile as he set down a big frothy cup of coffee in front of me.
And it indeed was a memorable cup as though a night under the stars in the Sahara Desert on Velvet cushions and magic had been stirred right into it. It was a deep, rich flavor, kind of like our love. He leaned over and wiped the corner of my mouth, I knew there wasn’t anything there but I said thank you anyway. It was one of his little cute things.
Today had been a good day and so maybe he wanted to be nice and maybe he would go there and buy us that coffee and we would sit together and it would be like old times and we would figure it out. I would help him get better, we would never have to talk about the past while and we could be happy.
I decided to get a head start on dinner. I checked out the fridge and cupboards and decided to prepare the dough for egg noodle pasta. There is something about cooking that makes me feel everything is going to be alright, I don’t know what it is, but I like it. I cracked the eggs into a bowl, slowly added the flower and then kneaded the dough. I would let it sit as I got the pesto ready. Basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, salt, and black pepper went into the food processor, it smelled wonderful.
I mixed it all and got the dough ready for the pasta, rolled it out and then I heard the jingling of the keys. A few hours late, but he was back. He walked toward the kitchen past it and into the bathroom. Then I heard the sound I have come to dread. The door shut, then he pulled it open slightly, then he shut it again and opened it again, open, shut, open, shut, open. Shut, open, shut.
I am losing my mind.
This opening and shutting of doors meant he had smoked some crack before coming home. I stuck my head out of the kitchen door and saw one of his eyes and a part of his head sticking out of the bathroom door, he ducked his head back into the bathroom, shut the door, pulled it open slightly, then shut it again, opened it again, shut it again.
Ping, that was the top of a pop can. He was making a crack pipe. No pasta tonight, no coffee either. I sat down on the couch, flicked on the television and stared through it. The tunnel of thought started to vortex. I am here. I am going to be ok. Everything is going to be ok. I want to kill him. I want to slap him. I want to hurt him. I want to punch someone. I want to make someone bleed.
Just stop it.
You’re ok; you’re going to be fine. It’s ok to feel something. You’re human. It’s allowed. You’re ok. Oh God, make this stop, I’m going to throw up, I hate this life. I heard a bang against the wall, turned to the right, he was just standing there, staring at me. Please, please, please no, make it go away, I turned back to the television.
“Give me your credit card,” he said.
“I lost it.”
“Don’t lie, just give it to me, you know I’m not going to leave you alone until you do.”
I knew he wouldn’t stop it, but I also knew I couldn’t give it to him. It was my last little bit of money before the next paycheck. I would have to fight this one out. And so it began as it does. Battle sequence start.
I got up moved to my little corner near the window. Sometimes I wish someone from the apartments across would look out their window in the evening and look through my window, it is just a fantasy, but perhaps they would be compelled to help me. They would be the answer and everything would be better. If only someone would see what he does to me every night and get me out of it. Someone needs to get me out of it because I just don’t know how.
I feel crazy, but unfortunately not crazy enough to do something to change this situation that I find myself in. If I was truly crazy I would find a gun and blow his brains out or maybe my own or both of ours. We are both wastes of space and contribute nothing to the world, well nothing positive anyways. We definitely contribute in keeping our neighbors awake with our fights – there is no way they can’t hear us yelling and slamming into walls at all hours of the night. “You stupid, ugly bitch, come here,” he yelled.
I ran to the bedroom and slammed the door and tried to lock it, but he pushed. Pushed and pushed and pushed. I just couldn’t hold it back any longer. It came crashing open, I jumped back. He stood there and stared at me with his lips curly-cued into a smirk. “You’re a real dumb bitch, aren’t you’ a real fucking dumb bitch?”
“Fuck you,” I whispered.
“What, what’d you say?”
As it’s happening, I feel it happening. He throws both of his hands on my chest and pushed me onto the bed. Those hands move up and he has my neck, his hands are all the way around. Oh, god. I can’t breathe. I’m trying to kick upward with my legs. But, oh he is pushing down so hard, now it’s only tiny, tiny little bits of air. I try one more time and kick up. This time I hit him somewhere because he let’s go for a second. His face, his eyes. He is so mad. I see his hand coming at me.
And little spiders run across my cheek up into my skull, the left side of my face feels numb. Slap, sting, tear, tear, slap, sting, pause. With one hand resting on my neck, he pulled back. A rush of cool air landed on my temples, I wiped the back of my left hand across my eyes so I could see through them again. The watery blur was gone and in its place a clear view of a finger coming at me. His index finger poked me in the forehead.
“Where is it bitch?”
He poked again, again, again, again. To my neck went hands, Fingers tightening around my neck like he was trying to screw me shut. Just do it already. Poke, poke, poke.
“Huh, huh, huh.”
“Hey, look at me, look at me, oh poor baby, oooh poor baby, you gonna cry, you gonna cry again, poor baby,
I dragged myself into work the next morning. It is getting harder by the day to put on that smiling face.
“Good Morning,” welcomed our receptionist, Linda.
“Good Morning,” I replied as chipper as a chipmunk (what exactly does it mean to be chipper like a chipmunk – gawsh stupid thoughts stuck in head).
“It is so beautiful outside, I say we all ditch work and head to the beach,” she said.
We fictitiously agreed to this idea and fictitiously decided maybe we’d try it tomorrow.
Coffee now. I went into the kitchen poured myself a cup full of hot wakefulness.
It was Tom.
“Hey, good morning,” I replied.
“Once you settle in can you let me know, I want to go over a possible project with you.”
“Sure, just give me a few minutes to go through my emails and I’ll get right back to you,” I said.
Every weekday morning I feel like I leave a cave cage and step into a clean, new world at work. It’s like my shiny happy place. I wonder what they would think if they knew what actually happens when I leave this world for my other world every night. I wonder if they would like me as much or if they would think I was more stupid, less smart.
Later Tom came and went. A blip.
I wonder what it meant when he said “I’ll be waiting for you.” I wonder if it was meant to be sinister. Had he sat there by himself and thought about how he could take a screwdriver to my skull in the middle of the day and then thought the perfect way would be to give me a mind blister. Perhaps that was his plan, to play inside of my mind all day. The pass code to get into my brain was pretty easy evidently, just seven words. Success to you, you stupid fuckernut, yes you are in my brain.
At least I know this, this is the first step. I know he is in my mind and I am going to drive him out. I am going to find a screwdriver and just plunge it into his neck when I get home. If he is sitting in that seat by the window when I get home I will pretend like I am going to the bathroom and then I will walk toward the bathroom and close the door loudly so that he thinks I am inside the bathroom. I will actually be outside of the bathroom but if he thinks that I am in it than he will be off guard and if he is off guard then I can use the screwdriver.
I wonder where the screwdriver is. I think the last time I used the screwdriver was to open a wine bottle. But where did I put it? Maybe in the cutlery drawer or maybe in the toolbox or maybe it could be on the TV stand. Well, maybe I could buy one on the way home since I couldn’t just go wandering around looking for a screwdriver if I was going to secretly jam it into the side of his head.
So, ok, yes I will buy a screwdriver on the way home and tuck it into my pants before going inside the house. Yes, and then when he thinks I’m in the bathroom I will quietly come up behind him. But, he would see my reflection in the window. Maybe I’ll just have to wait until he goes to sleep. Yes, that is probably the simplest way. And probably the screwdriver isn’t the most efficient way to do it. I should just use some sort of chemical in his dish and it will be a whole lot cleaner. I wonder if there is some sort of chemical that wouldn’t be detected by doctors when the autopsy is done. Maybe it should be some sort of common household chemical so they will think he ingested it by mistake or that he tried to commit suicide. Yes, that would be better.
Ok. Work. I grabbed my coffee cup – which was frigid and went to the coffee machine for a refill.
“Heey, how are you, I feel like we haven’t seen each other in forever,” said Genie, the perpetually perky international salesgirl.
“Hiiii, oh wow, yes it has been quite long,” I said while thinking I was pretty sure I had seen her only a few days ago.
“We need to get together, oh have you heard I AM engaged,” she said with a whoop that seemed a little loud for the morning, but the girl was excited and when one is excited whooping can happen.
“Yes, it was so exciting, and so romantic, just such a surprise, we were in France and he told me he would send a car to pick me up for dinner since he was attending to work all day.
“Thank goodness I decided to put on my most expensive dress. When I stepped out of the car in front of the restaurant a band began to play and then people started singing, I was so confused.
“I just about died,” she completed.
I was going to die if I didn’t pour that one little cup of coffee, my head was pounding.
“Oh that sounds amazing, wow, I am really happy for you,” I said.
I pressed the button on the coffee machine and a loud whirring began which I hoped meant an end to the conversation and so we gave each other cute little goodbye waves.
“Line 5 Meles, line 5 Meles.”
I ran back to my office and picked up the telephone. It was a client. Thank God.
As one by one each person left the office by heart sunk further. It may have been in China by the time I finally convinced myself to get up and go. I wonder what it is like to have a home to go to. A place where it’s all your own and you know you are going to have peace. There would be no one else there, just you and your thoughts and your happiness and your freedom. I will have this. I will have this. I will have this.
I trudged to the bus stop and contemplated taking a bus to the airport or to my parent’s home. Bus 26B rolled in and I got on. To the present place called home it was going to be because I wasn’t crazy enough to get out.
In my mind played the image of a knife stabbing a couch cushion and as the knife slid down to create a larger slit, blood began to seep up from under the cotton into the cushion. Dragging the knife down the bottom of the cushion felt infinitely better than dragging it down the body of a person. Jabbing the knife into a body would be fine but then pulling the knife down to make a slit would likely be unsatisfying because of the body’s softness and the jiggle of the innards.
A woman sat down beside me. Of all the empty seats in the bus she was somehow pulled into sitting beside me. She smelled like wet dog.
“The weather is just terrible, just terrible, you don’t know if it’s going to be hot or cold and that is never good,” she said. A talker of the obvious, great.
“Yes, the weather is just unpredictable this time of year, you have to be prepared for anything,” I said because I had to.
“In fact every day I carry an extra pair of socks, an umbrella, snow shoes, a sun hat, sunscreen and wet wipes to make sure I am prepared for any and every sort of weather situation,” I added to make the conversation more fun.
She looked at him smiled, hmmm’d and turned her face from me to face forward. I wondered what she didn’t like about that comment. Anyways now I could go back inside my head and figure out a way to kill him or alternatively to improve my life, change my life somehow so that murder was not so necessary.
The sun was just going down behind the school in my neighborhood and created a lovely pink glow that seemed to descend the area into cotton candy heaven. From heaven to hell, I walked up the steps to my door.
You can always kill him, no matter what he does now, you have a plan, you can eliminate him, maybe even slit his body right down the middle so that the two halves land at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock in front of you. Yeah, they would land symmetrically opposite each other and it could even make for a lovely picture.
I looked through my bag for the keys, set the bag down in front of the apartment door. I knew they were there but for some reason finding my keys was always a task. I stuck the key into the lock, opened the door. All of the curtains were closed. A chair scraped against the floor. Here we go.
The zipper of my left boot wouldn’t unzip. It seems to know to get stuck when I am having a difficult time.
A hand landed on my boot.
I tipped backwards. The falling happened, my right hand met the ground first, and then my body hammered down on it.
“Whoa, are you alright.”
Through the throbbing, I tried to get the scene right.
He bent down on his knees and grabbed the hand I had pressed to my chest.
“Does it hurt?”
“I’m ok,” I replied
He picked me up and brought me over to the sofa.
“I’ll go grab some ice,” he said as he attempted to gently place me on the couch.
The he brought back the ice along with a glass of water and some pain medication.
“Here take these, they’ll help.”
“What happened, how’d you fall over like that?”
“I wasn’t expecting you, that’s all, so when you popped up it threw me off balance,” I explained.
“I live here.”
“I know, Why did you call me at work, was there something you wanted?”
He sat down on the edge of the couch and stared at me and moved a few strands of hair off my forehead.
“I don’t know what is happening, I have been out of control and I don’t want it to be like this,” he said.
“I know there is a problem and I know I can fix it, trust me, I can fix it, I just have to start to focus and that is what I’m going to do now, I’m going to fix this.”
I realize pain relievers can make things fuzzy and remove the pain but I certainly didn’t expect them to remove all of the pain I had been feeling for the past two years.
I looked at him, he is handsome, it is no reason to fall in love with someone but pleasant things to look at can become a habit. His jaw is chiseled into elegance and his eyes are moon drops. Everything about him can become ugly but those eyes always stay childlike and it is those eyes you want to save. Those eyes were looking at me now and I wondered how to cut the gaze so as to not fall for it.
“How can you say that after everything that just happened yesterday, if you truly felt that way you would never say those things, do those things, treat me like I am, I don’t know,” I explained to him.
I sort of wanted him to explain it to me, make me see why it all made sense, make me understand him.
“I know you think that I am a bad person, but that is not important, there is no one in this world that will ever love you as much as I love you, it is impossible. We fight, I know, and we are both to blame sometimes and I am to blame allot of the time, but I think it’s only because our feelings are so passionate. You can drive me crazy like no one else, you make me angry like no one else, and I love you like no one else.
“You are the best thing in my life, you are the best thing in this world, and I know we can make it. We can do this together, we are a team, a life force, there is no one better than you and me, there is no one that can tear us apart and bring us down, I love you baby, I love us, you are my everything.”
He leaned over and hugged me, it felt like the scent of a newborn baby.
It could be so perfect, us that is. He is rough but not bad, he is tough because his life has been tough. I probably would be worse than I am if I had grown up with a mother that locked me in the basement and beat me with chains. Once, a long time ago, he talked about the long, jagged cut on his back. He said he had been playing with his little brother in their room, they were jumping back and forth between their twin beds and his little brother fell down, a likely scenario when a 5-year old and a 4-year old are jumping on beds.
He ran to help his brother and a few minutes later something smashed against his skull. When he woke up he saw he was chained to the pipes in the furnace room in the basement. The second thing he saw was his mother.
“So your lazy ass is finally awake, I have been waiting here for at least 30 minutes, get up, it is almost dinner time.”
He said that was when he noticed a cord that came in from outside of the furnace room and ran up to his mother’s foot. This cord was attached to an iron. She told him to turn over and then she ironed his back. When he told that story he was slightly drunk and looked a little teary-eyed, by the end of it he was sitting straight up, blinking only every few seconds and then he got up and left for half an hour.
I hugged the grooves of him through his t-shirt. He needed me, he needed someone to make life better, he needed someone to show him that life meant color, happiness and love and it was I chosen for him. His head leaned against my shoulder and then I felt the shift of his body weight, I moved over a little so he could lie down next to me. He placed his head on my chest.
There was no life without him.
Part 2 will be published on Tuesday, January 19, 2021.