When she blinked, she realized she had no idea how long she’d been sitting there. With the novice eyes of a newborn puppy, she brought the world (back?) into focus.
Photo from a trip to North Carolina, by a lighthouse in Cape Hatteras.
Blue paint scarred black from where careless movers hired for $12 an hour took away…
A rudimentary inventory.
With a heavy breath, she emerged from the couch’s protective coccoon. She shuffled in the direction of the kitchen and a flick of her pointed finger brought the overhead light to life. As the bulbs set off a luster she could only consider rude, she leaned her left hip on the cold granite in hues of cream directly to the right of the sink.
It happened to be the exact place where her right hand could reach across the corner of the counter top to brace her body. She bent forward like a reed exhausted and the tears came rolling down.
She wasn’t a sobber.
Her lips still and straight, not a word in sight.
As crystalline paths coursed down her cheekbones, her eyes fell shut in a most delicate fashion. A gentle breeze shutting the windows to her soul.
That’s what it was. Gone.
She remembered coming home that afternoon and deliberating whether she should smash the jade green glass sculpture on the end table in the living room or have a martini. She chose the martini.
Rather, she chose the vodka, considering the remaining ingredients unnecessary intrusions on her glass of limpid wisdom. For a moment she was humming an old Johnny Nash tune, simply because she found the lyrics
I can see clearly now, the rain is gone
to be a snide commentary on the colorless fluid inside her glass.
There was nothing particularly bright and sunshiny about this particular day, however. She was failing miserably at finding the humor in any aspect of it, from sunrise to whatever the hell o’clock it was at the moment.
As her eyes peeled open, a stealthy tear plummeted onto the granite, initiating a sharp pivot to the right to face the kitchen island.
She opened the second drawer from the top and removed a dish towel. After rubbing her fingers over the waffle pattern, she shut the drawer and in one flowing motion, pivoted back to her left and whisked the offending tear away in a chariot of creamy cotton deliverance.
She should throw something.
With a sidearm wind-up strong enough to bench the starting pitcher on the Yankees, she hurled the wad of towel over the breakfast bar into the living room. While the towel-wad lacked velocity, she did score a direct hit.
On the cat.
It sat for a moment half-shrouded by the petulant rag. Following a feline shimmy that sent the towel floating downward, Peanut poured himself onto the floor from the back of the chair and slunk off into the den.
She felt guilty about hitting the cat. That is, until she remembered that there was nothing in the den.
She strode to the metal staircase and stopped.
With an inhale
she set upon the sea of stairs.
Each martini-but-not-a-martini step brought with it a hollow in her heart, the machinery of events gone by excavating a hole in her soul. She stood paralyzed with both feet on a single stair – one that threatened her arrival at the top landing.
It’s gone. All gone.
She’d never care for Mondays again since last Monday she’d come home and it was all gone. Love had vacuumed-out her life, her heart
the den, the loft … surprisingly enough, the coat closet as well.
The blank space she witnessed between her black lambskin DKNY scuba coat and the ¾ length Burberry trench — the space where his grey North Face rain shell hung next to the ratty wool peacoat he’d owned since college — was most hostile and mocked her that day. And every day since when she dared peer beyond the closet door.
“How the hell much vodka did I pour?” she mused. It was much easier to attribute the swimming pool of bile in her stomach’s backyard to the vodka than the fact that
in all honesty
she was three steps from losing her mind.
It had been six years of good, one of questionable
and one of how do we get back to good?
She was stupefied, however, that between their have-a-good-day kiss at 7:40am and her last patient at 3:30pm that he was able to make everything disappear.
She never took his kisses for granted. Not last Monday. Not ever. Perhaps if she’d told him on occasion that her heart still stuttered each time their lips met
it wouldn’t all be gone.
But it didn’t matter now. As her heart ran its own little Indy 500 on that step, she thought that it would have been kind of him if, in addition to his calculated clearing of his worldly goods from their labor-of-love-loft
he’d taken away the memories that now lingered with their musty weight on her mind.
How his lips turned up on the left side as he worked the crossword puzzle in the Times each Sunday. She always knew when he got stuck – that’s when he got up for more coffee.
The argument on the E train about buying this “godforsaken” loft that was interrupted by the train stopping unexpectedly and her smacking her head into a pole, which sent her tumbling to the tacky transit system floor. For a week afterwards, he’d sneak up behind her and whisper, “Duck, duck … GOOSE!” as he rubbed the huge goose egg on her head from the fall.
The now-naked space in front of the sofa his flip-flops used to call home. She visualized them walking out the door behind him last Monday as the movers carried the final box of his books down from the loft and into the truck. She wondered if they made a wistful glance backwards as they followed him out.
He’d taken his desk, the Eames chair he used to read in … the brushed nickel desk lamp. He’d taken all those things but left memories like rat droppings throughout their house, so small yet so vast in number that they seemed to be everywhere at once and the prospect of cleaning them up was beyond overwhelming.
What plus 8 equals zero?
Eight years and he’d moved-out in less than 8 hours. No discussion, no goodbye kiss. No gratuitous plea for counseling or even the courtesy of a slip and fall, his dick landing in his secretary.
Just the note.
She was pissed about the memories.
She was pissed there was no secretary.
While there was plenty of furniture left in the house after everything was
he’d left her with nothing she wanted.
She lifted her right foot from her safe stair step onto the next (just for balance, mind you), wondering what it was eating her alive – working its way from the depths of her soul to the surface of her skin.
Was it how/when/how fast he left?
Or did the truth lie a bit closer to the fact that she had no resolution, no say, and had been…
She remembered when they moved-out of their tiny TriBeCa apartment. Boxes meticulously packed, everything labeled. OCD moved-in and they lived as a family of three for a month before the move – packing, cataloging, labeling. On the “big day,” as movers carried the boxed fruits of their organizational efforts out the front door and into the truck waiting below, they both searched
checked and re-checked
each room for items that may have escaped their packing frenzy.
They found nothing.
He’d even made one final sweep as she hailed a taxi to follow the truck to Dreamland. He collapsed in her lap like one of those travel tumblers made of interlocking rings in the taxi’s back seat. A minute later, he mustered the strength to tickle her.
Her left foot now moved up to join her right on the higher step.
She didn’t leave her foot behind.
They didn’t leave anything behind when they moved.
But he …
He had left her behind.
Sorry for this.
The Note was written on a scrap of ruled paper, probably torn from the legal pad he kept in his tan leather padfolio that he carried with him everywhere (yes, everywhere). She could even hear the -snap- as he closed it. Taped to the inside of the front door, she remembered it flapping as she arrived home last Monday
waving at her in an Alice In Wonderland manner that said “Read Me.”
Alice shouldn’t have drank the potion and Alice shouldn’t have eaten the cake.
Admittedly, she had no idea what The Note even meant at first glance. She plucked it from the door frame and placed it on the mahogany nesting tables by the front door and peeled-off her sweater. She deposited her briefcase on the arm of the sofa. In search of more comfortable clothes, she climbed the stairs to find that pair of beige linen pants and a t-shirt. To get comfortable.
Her journey upstairs revealed the empty loft Peter had made into his office. “His space,” now devoid of him in all forms and vacated right down to the bare floor. It wouldn’t have surprised her if he’d swept.
A search of the house revealed the den to be empty as well. His closet, barren. Half of the medicine cabinet, hollow. Her yellow toothbrush leaned towards the faucet in the holder by the sink, its blue mate having left for bathrooms unknown.
She could go no further. She descended eight
steps and lowered herself to a seated position. Her right hand trickled down the wall from the handrail and came to rest with fingers on her temple and elbow on her knee. Her head made an almost indistinguishable thud as it leaned into the wall.
It was being left behind that bothered her.
Not Peter’s stuff being gone or that he’d left while she was at work or even that he’d kissed her good morning last Monday as he was likely waiting for the movers to arrive.
It was the fact that she was left to rattle around their house and reconcile
he’d left behind.
Seven more steps brought her back to the first floor and she made a determined line to the kitchen.
Though the downstairs was furnished and the vacated den sat clear out of sight, she felt empty in the knowledge that she was merely a part of what remained. Perhaps she should have done more, said more, worked less, loved with greater fervor … perhaps then she wouldn’t be just a remnant on a bolt of fabric it’d taken eight years to weave. She struggled for an adequate description for what this past week had done to her
knowing she’d been left behind.
Yes, “crippled” was more than adequate. The “martini” had helped with the fear she felt creeping into her core, but for all intents and purposes, she’d been rendered useless and felt that the one man who could free her had
left her behind.
She momentarily weighed the benefits of water versus vodka (all things being equal on the basis of color).
As she reached for the glass to make another “martini,”
it occurred to her…
She hadn’t even tried to call him.