she sat at the window, watching the humid haze of dusk slowly deepen into midsummer night against the office towers and tenements. city sounds streamed in softly through the casement the landlords had sealed shut to prevent suicides. she lived on the seventh floor; seventy-foot falls weren’t known to prolong one’s life.
they’d talked about life that evening, idly, as much as they ever did talk. most of the time they traded barbs in a sardonic duel of one-upsmanship. sarcasm had never been her strong point. she was afraid to let loose and say the stinging witticisms she dreamed up late at night; there wasn’t enough time to heal all the wounds she could inflict.
but tonight, somehow, as he’d twirled his noodles around his fork, it had almost seemed they were friends. that he was sober. that their relationship would arrive at the normal it had never met.
they’d been discussing the latest inane office policy offering for health care, the pros and cons and expensive incomprehensibilities. she found their accidental death or dismemberment clause humorous, considering she enjoyed (or endured) a strictly desk-work job. he, on the other hand, followed his artistic fancy to the brink of bodily harm in pursuit of the perfect angle or patch of light. and didn’t care.
“i’ve never thought about life insurance,” he said, with a half laugh a little too hilarious. “i’m not worth all that much.”
she sensed then it was the whiskey speaking, and not a sudden desire for honesty, but still she was shocked silent.
“i’m not worth all that much.”
at her window she wondered what his life felt like in the secret, darkest places he walled away. how exhilarated he felt during a time on the town. how his head ached with the morning hangover. how his heart burned with whiskey fire the nights he spent alone. if the girls he brought home ever filled the yawning void she knew he’d never admit to.
she stood up, closing her eyes a moment to dispel the dizziness, then crept stiffly into the kitchen to fill a glass with water. the tiny blue enamel box, kept close to the sink to jog her memory, she collected and carried back with her water to the other room. she opened the box and looked at the two grey pills sitting primly inside, cold, emotionless and unaware of their effect on her. placing them under her tongue, she grimaced at the chemical tang of their coating, and hurriedly washed them down. they kept dizziness at bay, for a while, for now.
until then, life went on as usual.
she resumed her seat in the wing chair, and gazed out the window again. the darkened sky was illumined dully by one last stubborn glow, as if the sun refused to yield to nightfall.
do not go gentle into that good night, dylan thomas had pleaded in a masterful villanelle penned to his weakening father. life, she thought, whether insured or no, was too precious to spend forgetting the things you’d done in order to forget. if anything, she wanted to remember everything. she needed, desperately, horribly, to know everything.
especially about him. while there was time to learn it. she sat awake, wondering, long after the rest of the city had succumbed to sleep.
rage, rage against the dying of the light.