I stare at the digital clock on the nightstand. It blinks 12:33am. A flashing of red light that splashes rhythmically onto the white walls of the bedroom. I roll onto my back, scratching at the stubble on my chin before stretching out my arm. The pillow next to me is cold. I run my fingers along taunt sheets still tucked and unwrinkled.
The sound of typing bleeds in under the bedroom door. I slowly crawl out of bed, but the room begins to tilt as I stand, and I fall into an oak credenza, gripping the wood, waiting for stillness to return. Waiting for a semblance of calm that has taken flight to somewhere unseen and unknown.
I rub the bandages wrapped tightly around my wrists as I glance out the window. Sullen storm clouds loom high above the city, their pregnant bellies illuminated yellow from the noise of street lights below. A gust of wind shakes the branches of a few Ash trees rooted in an empty park across the street, their trembling shadows dancing silently on freshly-cut grass.
The hardwood floor creaks under my bare feet as I walk down the hallway, pulling on a black t-shirt over my head. Jeremiah’s at his computer, blue light from the screen spilling over his bare, freckled shoulders. His shock of red hair standing almost upright.
I walk up behind him and lean down, wrapping my arms around his chest. He continues to type. I kiss the back of his neck, but Jeremiah leans forward.
“I need to work,” he says amid the ceaseless clacking of keystrokes.
“Have you eaten?”
More typing. The minutes slide away between each breath.
I turn and walk into the kitchen. The clock on the stove flashes 12:47 in green. The ignitor clicks loudly as I turn on the gas burner, pulling out a large skillet of leftover campanelle pasta from the refrigerator. The sharp smell of pesto crowds the kitchen walls. Ice cubes ring sharply as they fall into two tall glasses. I fill them both almost to the brim with cold green tea, then toast two slices of bread in the oven, adding butter and a pinch of garlic salt. I garnish both plates with fresh parsley.
“Food’s ready,” I say, standing behind Jeremiah.
More typing. “Not hungry.” The clicking of the mouse.
I’ve heard that time heals all wounds. That’s bullshit. A maddening lie. Rather, time pulls and tears at the tender edges of the delicate flesh. It festers into scars soon to be fastened forever on the surface of the skin. A piercing echo of a mistake that cannot be unmade.
I sit at the kitchen table next to an empty chair, slumped forward. It’s only after the ice cubes have melted that the typing stops. The hallway floor creaks behind me. The bedroom door shuts quietly. My fork scrapes loudly against the surface of the plate as I push the pasta around in circles, parsley tumbling to the linoleum floor.
The clock on the stove blinks 1:49 in green just before the power in the apartments shuts off. Yellow light trickles down the walls. A flash of lighting. Thunder rattles a framed picture hanging next to the refrigerator.
And for only a brief moment I saw us both smiling, standing on the summit of Mount Elbert, both of us covered in dust and sweat, my head resting on his freckled shoulder, his arm around my waist. The Rocky Mountains, ancient and timeless, stretching deep into the horizon behind us.
I hear tapping against the kitchen window. I glance outside as it begins to rain.
Fiction and Photograph copyright Mike Yost 2015