(first, read this)
he walked to the window and drew back the curtain to stare at the brick wall on the other side of the alley. the sleeping homeless lay curled against a battered green dumpster, their meager bundles of possessions doubling as makeshift pillows. he looked up, up, straining his neck to see the pigeons lining the roof of the building opposite. rats of the sky, he thought darkly. his bedroom window yielded the same view; a streetlight shining through at night forced him to sleep with his back to it.
her room, on the other side of the building, looked out on the city and its crown jewel, the fabulous skyline.
he unashamedly begrudged her the view.
she would bake eggs this morning, he thought, with parsley and butter in the little white dish she called a ramekin. she would grind his coffee beans, stir them up in the french press, then pour a cup of italian roast into the mug he’d picked up at the tate modern.
and then the questions would begin: about his week, about his life; about his future, about his past. he was a recognized master in the art of shallow sarcastic dialogue, but she was oblivious, and stubborn. and sometimes the truth slipped through, if only in part.
she was quick, too, and brought up at random minuscule facts he’d forgotten mentioning. that memory again. she remembered things he thought no one knew. it didn’t help that he babbled when drunk.
three years. three years since the start of the great love affair with whiskey, and drinking to forget. he hated memories. their sole purpose, he was convinced, was to make him feel guilty for all the things he’d done and hadn’t done but should have. what guilt could he feel if he couldn’t remember?
but he did, in spite of himself. it was jarring.
little things, foolish nothing details, would bring it back. squeals of tires on the highway during early morning traffic. the desk stapler jamming when he stuffed too many papers into its jaws. the way she looked up through her eyelashes. the songs from his first summer post-college. drills. saline. spumoni ice cream. life insurance.
what a joke that was. like winning a posthumous pulitzer. but his whole life was some sort of joke left lying where it fell. life, he often thought, was something to be got through as quickly as possible. and then death — well, death was really what made life bearable. if he had believed he had a soul, he didn’t have a heart left anymore to care what happened to it.
there was only a raw emptiness there, and not even whiskey could fill it.