There was a soft pitter-patter on the duvet cover. The calico cat clawed its way up the bed; waking me.
I glance at her inquisitive eyes, as if felines could posit anything beyond, “I’m hungry” or “Pet me” or “There are no Q-tips left for me to kill.”
I leisurely rise from bed, and meander into the living room, where I noticed a grey drizzle out my window and the laptop remained primed from the night before, screensaver didn’t take and the story stopped mid-sentence. I should stop writing on Xanax. I quit too easily. I pick up my last thought, “Where were you the last time you felt completely safe? I can tell you” …
What? Tell what? I sigh. I pause. I can’t answer that question. Need more caffeine to think clearly. The cat meows. The floorboards moan and bristle with each step. Movement will be tedious today. My loft is telling me so.
There’s a lace top strewn upon my couch. I assume it belongs to Emily, but I can’t be too sure. She left the night before last in a whirr. A hazy whirr, something-something go to hell you lying prickasaurus dick monster something-something slam.
I had been drinking. I haven’t stopped.
I turn on a lamp and it adds a fluorescent hue that turns a grey glow into a shade resembling a MedClinic waiting room, which is where I spent 3 nights ago, concerned I was suffering from some sarcoma of the lung, as the nurses glanced at me and cupped their hands around their mouths to whisper and sigh. Not out of pity but more out of bewilderment.
“He’s young, thin and successful. What could possibly be wrong?” I get that often.
I can’t answer that. That’s why I came to you.
I was discharged. Then discharged again.
I shuffle a stack of papers I haven’t read, and clear off some counterspace where I can pour a big bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and a shot of Gentleman Jack to spike yesterday’s coffee.
I sit down at the screen again. I finally check the time. 12:38.
The cat comes to rest upon my keyboard, and I scuttle her aside. Not today. I need to work.
“Where were you the last time you felt completely safe? I can tell you” … I pause. I read the previous sentence for some context:
“I don’t like risk. It makes me anxious,” Jason said. “And yet, I’m anxious now.”
Fiction writing never feels fictitious. I wonder if Emily found that out when she screamed, “You live in a fantasy world!” Perhaps that fantasy for her was too real. Which is fine. I’ll continue to fantasize. I stare at her lace top and wonder why she left it. I’m wondering if there was a time, recently, where I ripped it off her in such a haste and such little regard for where it might finally rest. I can’t answer that. I doubt it. Our magnetism died in the cauldron of high expectations.
I sip my coffee and wince. I stare at my cat staring back at me. The rain continues to fall.
The F-Train wanders by. People on their way to somewhere. I haven’t ridden the F-Train in days. I imagine it’s exactly the same as always. Perhaps some lucky couple will be blessed with the Mariachi band that pops in from car to car, playing lonesome ballads for young lovers.
I’m not as gifted as I once was. I probably said that to Emily some night recently. I wonder if she’s coming back. I can’t remember if she is away on business or just gone. I should text her.
“You look like how happiness feels.” It’s an inside joke.
I hate counting minutes. Maybe I’ll take the F to the PATH and then run along the streets of Hoboken, tracing our steps on our first date, and maybe I’ll feel something. But it’s raining, still.
“Where were you the last time you felt completely safe? I can tell you” …
“… if you ever felt completely safe, ever, in your entire life, you have stopped living. And that is the most precarious state of all. Nothing to lose means nothing worth keeping.”
No. That’s too existential. I undo the changes and close the laptop without saving. I’d be surprised if there was something in there that wasn’t haphazard horseshit.
I walk outside, but not to smoke. It’s damp. The fire escape is claustrophobic. The fresh air feels stale and thick.
I think about heading back to the MedClinic. I ponder it for several minutes more. I forget if I’m outside. The droplets rolling down my 10’o’Clock Shadow remind me.
I pour myself another shot, taller this time. And another. I pop a Xanax to go back to sleep.
I lay in bed and drift in and out of where I need to be and clutch the lace top and it still smells like Escada which smells like sex and specifically sex with Emily which in our heyday was sublime, and I smile through a hazy sigh.
Goodnight world, I say, at 1:55pm on a Saturday.
I don’t remember waking up to the sound of the rain in Brooklyn. My calico nibbles on the last of her Friskies, then falls asleep on my laptop. The story remains unfinished. The F-Train rambles on. Emily returns, puts on her Escada, caresses my face and cries. Where I am, it is not raining.
And I feel completely safe.