"I can’t live this way. Please refuel my soul.”
He woke up on the sidewalk again and checked his back pocket. ‘Good,’ he thought, feeling the overfull back pocket. ‘My wallet’s still there.’ His mouth was dry and foul from the previous night’s bender while the mixture of smoke and liquor permeated his clothing. He stood slowly, letting the world stop revolving around his hangover as he stumbled through his own puddle of sick, feeling its slickery feel along the sole of his boots.
Bits and pieces of filaments of memory filtered through the spotty sunbeams between buildings and light poles as he inhaled the diesel-tainted morning air. He felt his throat catch and vomited on the sidewalk again, this time almost hitting sober pedestrians on their way to work. Hunched over, he slowed his breathing down and spat out the last of the bile still clinging to his lips. He felt pressure behind his eyes, pushing them outward as pain shot towards the back of his head.
A quarter rolled its way into his downward view, stopped, and fell over smartly. He followed its path back behind him to a homeless man against the wall. Dingy brown cloth covered his body, but one could see the stink rising off of him in every direction. A beard of spotty black and gray exploded off his face in feathery tufts while his eyes squinted below over-bushy eyebrows. “Keep it,” he said with a grin. “You’ll need some gum.”
“If you should die before me, ask if you can bring a friend.”
We chose a private wedding, one without the trappings of an expensive dress or a buffet of hors d’oeuvres that carried remnants of spicy meatballs on the burp-breath of well wishers. She wore the sundress I met her in, pale yellow now and re-fitted to make way for a third (Michael from my grandfather? Shannon from her great aunt?) on the way. I was ashamed to be wearing the same tweed jacket and jeans ensemble from years earlier, but she smiled true at me anyway as we stood in front of the Justice. It was hot in the air-conditioned room despite it being muggy outside and I remember my hands being clammy and prunish as we spoke through the motions.This is what I remember when I sat in the hospital beside her. This is what I remember when packing up the unopened onesies to drop off at Goodwill.
I always figured she would be the stronger of the two of us, but she withdrew from everything and I was thankful for a five minute conversation regarding anything. Eventually, I just stopped asking questions about the spare room and disassembled everything over several weeks. I wallpapered over the blue bears and butterflies with non-committal stripes reaching from carpet to ceiling. I later painted over those with a neutral eggshell. I left the rocking chair in the far corner to stand guard since I was failing at the job.
This is what I remember when I gave her hour long baths. This is what I remember while she grasped at silence while the faucet screamed in her honor.
I stood at the casket, shaking hands and head as mourners lined up to offer heartfelt condolences. My legs were sore at the end of the three hours, but I didn’t want to leave. She looked waxy and content as I removed the thin veil from the lid of the coffin. They had done a good job of covering her wrists with makeup. I kissed her forehead and let my eyes water for the first time that evening. I had her buried in her sundress, but opted for an appropriate suit for myself. A deep purple tie to match a rose the same color placed on top of her lowered casket.
This is what I remember sitting in that empty, eggshell room. This is what I remember when I sit in the rocking chair at night.
“Fall on into those single file lines and complete the plans.”
The sun hasn’t even been given his wakeup call before there is a rush of commerce in the morning. The smell of lattes and espressos filters from the top of coffee lids held by hands attached to bodies clip-clopping along in polished black shoes. Slacks pressed and ironed, skirts the same but with high heels attached. The mixture of colognes and perfumes is an aromatic abortion left to linger for the next batch of suits at the intersection of Bigger and Better. We built up and out to fill the coffers so that we could keep filling the coffers so that we could keep filling our own coffers.
Her strides eclipsed the slower tourists of the morning as she spoke sharply into her earpiece. She stepped into traffic with ease, unconcerned for the taxis barreling towards her at lunatic speeds. Squeals of tires praying for a quick stop accosted her from the right, but she walked on, oblivious and practically screaming into her phone as she crossed over to the other side of the street and filled another coffer.
He couldn’t believe how close he’d been to hitting the woman in the red skirt. ‘Would’ve served the bitch right,’ he thought. ‘You can’t just not pay attention in this city and hope someone does it for you.’ He threw his hands up in disgust as she walked by, not even bothering to look at him. The passengers in the backseat screamed at him, wondering why he was driving like an idiot and he screamed back in kind through the Plexiglas separating them.
The man threw a cluster of green at the driver through the small sliding tray and grabbed his fiancée, exiting the cab quickly as the cabbie screamed back at them that it wasn’t enough. He was out of earshot by the time the couple made it halfway down 47th street. It was close enough to their destination that they didn’t mind, but they scurried around the next corner anyway, giggling in that new love kind of way couples on the cusp of forever seem to have. They found the furniture store after several blocks and walked in clutching each other’s hands. A lady in a red skirt passed the recessed doorway as the couple stepped into their first living room purchase.