His promises weren't true.
| Awakening from an unsettled sleep, he swiftly dressed and looked around the room, knowing that he had to promptly begin. The saffron light poured through the window and the cold air in the room made him shudder as chill bumps appeared upon his exposed flesh. He cursed the "new" solar powered apartment with its white, stone walls and oft frigid water that should have been hot and then wiped the crud from his eyes. His mind began to churn, turning and spinning his thoughts around inside his head like a visage of ocean waves upon a tossed and tormented sea. The pain in his stomach was still there, just as it had been before he had closed his eyes the night before, squeezing and sucking the air from him. Tears began to well up in his tired eyes and then fell from his face onto the brownish bronze carpet beneath him. Sluggishly, he made his way across the room and reached down for the tape; its yellowing label beginning to tear away from the plastic outer casing. He slid it inside the mouth of the player that sat upon the small, brown table beneath it and the songbird began to sing her song; so sweetly, yet sadly, she sang. "You don't bring me flowers, you don't sing me love songs, anymore...... He closed his eyes, turned his head down and to the side, sighed deeply, placed his hand over his face, and wept.
Minutes, that seemed like years, passed and he began to sing along with her, forming the words with his mouth when he could, stopping each time the tears would run too hard or too heavy. Traveling to the connecting bathroom, he peered into the steam covered mirror hanging upon the wall there and could make out the grief weary and haggard reflection of himself. Stained with anguish, it stared back at him with fear, uncertainty, pain, and a blankness that defined his features until all he could see was how old, ugly, and unloved it looked. "Hurry", it cried. "You've got to hurry, you don't have much time." A wet, green, plaid washcloth hung over the edge of the basin beneath him and surviving flecks of moist toothpaste clung to the now chilling porcelain. The green toothbrush, in its place, left a tiny puddle of foamy water beneath its keeper.
He crossed into the bedroom, found his eyeglasses, put them on his face, and then lit a cigarette. He drew slowly and longingly upon it, feeling its effects as the smoke rushed through his lungs and heard her ask, "honey, honey, can I put on your clothes?"
Facing the glass of the window, he looked down upon the parking lot beneath him. Droplets of water clung to the cold glass, beaded together in groups. Some stayed there in their places, seemingly firmly ensconced, while others, less committed, fell away, dispatched by gravity and warmth into the oblivion of memory. They disappeared so quickly that it seemed as if they had never been there at all yet traces of them held on, desperately, to the glass they would soon leave behind before etching themselves into the past. His car was the only one on the lot and a lone sparrow hopped upon its hood, leaving tiny footprint indentions in the dew deposited there before taking flight and disappearing from his sight. He watched it until it was gone and then looked upward at the light blue sky, now covered with wispy, carefree, cotton-like clouds. They reached down and enveloped him in his loneliness as he placed his arms tightly around himself and held on with all his strength. He thought of nothing.
He sat down upon the bed behind him and drew more smoke into his lungs and tried to force himself to become mobilized to take action, but couldn't find the will inside of himself to do so and, thus, did not. He heard the susurrus of the bed as it beckoned him to return and whispered "come back, close your eyes, sleep, and forget." His eyes grew heavy and started to close. "because they feel so good" Those words bore into him and brought him back from the promise of peaceful slumber and he forced himself to open the eyes. He stood and walked to the dusty chest of drawers that stood against the wall, placed the cigarette face down into the full, deep ashtray, and squashed the remaining breath from it.
The open closet door faced him and he turned to it and then entered into the long, rectangular space. Clothes hung there to the right and he reached out for a red, silk garment with shiny, silver buttons. He took its sleeve betwixt his fingers and raised it to his face and smelled the scent it gave to him. "Because they feel so good and they feel like you. They get to me, they touch me, and they move me." Closing his eyes, he felt the cool fabric upon his skin and tried to remember when it last, filled with flesh, had touched him. He could not.
He pulled two boxes down from the top shelf and placed them on the floor and then picked up his suitcase and carried it to the end of the bed, laying it down upon its back. He opened it and then returned inside the closet and started removing clothes. Not bothering to remove them from their hangers, he stuffed as many of them as he could into the plastic box and closed it tightly around them. He put another cigarette into his mouth and placed the black lighter down upon the false wood of the dresser. His half empty cigarette package lay there too, keeping company with the waiting ashtray, whose stomach sagged from the weight of the dead soldiers; now used, forgotten, and waiting for their trip to final destruction. He picked up the tray, intending to empty it into the trash basket that sat upon the floor, and saw different colors laying there together; wedged closely beside and atop one another. He sat it back down on its resting place and then put his just lit friend into the teeth that lined its rim; to hold it there, safely in place. He reached into the crowd for one of the short corpses that had not been caressed by his lips and placed it between his fingers. His arm brought the, once long and lithe, old soldier up and his fingers took it to where it lay, restlessly, in the cleft of his lips. Reborn, it then settled into place like a lost soul finding its long sought home. A strange sensation, yet with comforting familiarity, rushed into his mind, down into his lungs, outward to his arms, and then down below into his loins. The image in the mirror caught his attention so he engaged his own face, again, and this time saw futility and self ridicule. He knew how pathetic he had become but at that place in time would do anything to once again recapture those feelings, that now seemed like nothing more than an old fantasy. He turned away from the image and stayed there, inside himself, dwelling inside those emotions, knowing they would soon be far away, not ever to return. He remembered shared cigarettes, smoke rings blown high into the air above exhausted and sweat drenched bodies, sunrises of kisses and ever so sweet caresses, and laughter that came easily and cost nary a thing. He remembered the warm breath upon his face, strong arms holding him so tightly that he knew they wouldn't, couldn't (ever) let him go, and the sweetest brown eyes that stared, back at him, into his own. He remembered feeling, for the first time in his life, that someone else mattered more to him than himself. All of the questions, left unanswered, swirled, hauntingly, through his head. Had he given too much? Had he lost himself somewhere? Who was he, now? He did not know.
The thoughts and remembrances dimmed and then changed into something else; vague, dark, and sad. He remembered more: nights all alone (in the darkness), the phone, cold and lifeless, staring at him as he longed for it to come back to life, and brusque indifference when paths were crossed. He remembered unused love that spoiled and became rotten, like milk left too long alone. He remembered stark disdain for then unwelcome and unwanted overtures of affection. Then he remembered no more.
"Hurry." The fire, forgotten, stung his skin and he let the, now wet with him, butt fall from his hand into the wicker basket.
The songbird was replaced by another. "You always have my unspoken passion...." The pain, of an unquenchable fire, burned like cinders deep into his psyche. Defiantly, he fought back the latest tide of tears; his face contorted into a distorted grimace. The ache that only those who have played the game, and have lost, know. He returned inside the closet and pulled an old, green, duffel bag down from off the nail that held it and then stuffed the contents of the two top bureau drawers inside it. The glass of the ashtray was cold in his hand as he stamped out the now expired cigarette into it and he, now exhausted and spent, found the bed again. The whitish gray speckled tiles of the ceiling, arranged into rows one after another, looked down upon him. He lost focus and, drifting away, consciousness.
The black phone, standing on the bedstead, jolted him back into the day with its loud, shrill, piercing ring. Renascent, he raised himself up on one arm and faced the erect messenger but dared not take it in hand and let its rings continue until they finally ceased. Time was short. How much of it had he lost? "Hurry, hurry." He stood, never looking at the clock, and packed the knick knacks away, into the cardboard boxes and the old, plastic, square, milk containers that he had found behind a supermarket. Exiting the bedroom, the did the same in the living area and opened the front door and looked out on the small cement patio. "I'll meet you anytime you want... in... our.. Italian restaurant. A bottle of reds, a bottle of whites, they're the kind of mood you're in tonight." Returning to the bedroom; the old, brown, tape player was silenced, unplugged, and carried to the living area where it awaited transport.
The pain, all encompassing, reached into his belly and tore at his mind as thin raindrops started to fall from the sky. He reached out with his arm and used his hand to push the door closed. He turned and faced the waiting room, heaved upon his lungs for breath (that took forever to come), and picked up the rosewood statue that stood quietly upon the undusted mantel. He felt the smooth wood in his palm and brushed away the dust that lay upon its base and between its feet. He looked at the squinted eyes and the white teeth of the little man and thought back to their first meeting when his brisk, hurried pace had been altered and then completely halted by its gaze upon him. Drawn to it he was, like a treasure hunter who seeks his ultimate and greatest prize, even through the dirty glass that tried to hide its magic from him. Once his, they had gone home together, as the sun passed away from that day, and there he had presented it to another with the greatest of pride, joy, and expectation. It had been treasured upon reception, eliciting excitement and gratitude. Those hands had reached out for him and took his face between them and then a kiss, sweeter than the sweetest honey, had melted upon his cheek. Then...lovemaking, (breathtaking) lovemaking, promises of undying love, divulgence of secrets long kept, and confessions from the deepest of depths. Since that day, the little man had stood like a sentinel over the union; watching, hearing, and crying for him when betrayal, unnoticed and unexpected, seeped in. He raised and then held the small man above his head and could see, in his mind, its shattered splinters scattered upon the floor after the force of the impact with the wall tore its reddish-brown body apart. He brought the arm down and slipped his friend, gently, into the duffel bag that waited on the floor beneath him.
He turned the round knob and opened the door again. The rain had stopped and sunlight filtered through the transient clouds and shone down upon the walkway. He descended the stairs and carried his belongings down the steps to the Ford and threw them into it as quickly as he could. "Hurry, you must hurry." Five or six treks back up the stairs and down again finished the job and as he re-entered the small apartment it looked, to him, as if it had been ransacked by thieves. He knew that, indeed, a thief had been there but was now gone and had taken from him what he treasured most.
The couch, with pillow and blanket rumpled upon its chest, stared at him and cruelly mocked his continued presence there. Above it he could see two ethereal faces, their bodies floating beneath them; smiling, laughing, taunting. Hands clasped together and legs intertwined; their casual coupling defying him with accepted convention of which he would never know. He let the image fade back from whence it came and passed by his detractor, walking to the red desk that sat next to the ornately decorated wall. He sat down upon the metal chair and pulled the centrally located drawer out, took a ball point pen and a page of lined paper into his hand, and then laid them both down upon the face of the desk. Overcome with grief and the finality of his actions, he removed his eyeglasses from his face and placed them, too, on the desktop. There he sat for the longest of time; still. Hands over his face to keep out the light, he began to weep. Drops, like torrents, fell from him upon the page below and placed his agony there, indelible, forever etching his sorrow into the paper.
The sun had taken its midday stance in the sky and shadows began to grow across the room. He stood and walked to the radio and turned the dial to the on position. "Just give me the sign and I will be gone......that's how much I feel." Overcome with a tidal wave of despair, his legs gave way beneath him and he crumpled to the floor, great heaving sobs exploding from within him. "That's how much I feel, how I need your touch, I live for your loving." Numbness, took him. "Hurry, now, go."
He returned to the desk and sat down. The man on the radio, with some ludicrous made-up radio name, announced the time. It was indeed growing very short. Focus came upon him and he picked up the pen and began to write. Dear xxxx. The knot that he felt in the place where his heart was located ached, and tore at him like a lion separating flesh from bone. The words came slowly and thoughts clouded by emotion would not be easily transferred from his hand onto the page. He leaned back in the chair, turned to the side and looked about the room and allowed the pen to fall from his fingers onto the desktop. It rolled away, down onto the floor. He picked up the flimsy, tear-laden sheet and clenched it in his left hand, and then stood. With his empty hand, he reached for his eyeglasses and righted them upon his nose. The front door was opened and he walked slowly onto the patio where he gazed into the distance before reaching into his pants pocket and removing his ring of keys. The door key was pulled off and placed into the heart of the, now, crumpled paper and squeezed there by his fist. All his strength was mustered to send the two of them away, into the air. Where they landed he did not know. He clenched the handrail, placed his right foot forward and then down upon the first of the many steps before him, and seemed to deliquesce away as if he had never existed at all.
He did not look back.