Void

Cold. Wet. A quiet, yet vibrant buzz.

With a bat of her lashes, Chloe slowly came to her senses. She sighed, straightened her back, while watching the streetlights whiz by through the imprint her forehead had left on the condensation covered bus window. The clock next to the driver’s cabin showed 11:11pm. “Make a wish!”, Chloe thought. The 51 bus had been late as always, which had left Chloe standing shivering in the pouring rain for a solid twenty minutes. Even now, some thirty minutes later, the cold dampness lingered in her clothes just like the every evening sadness lingered in her head.

Tonight’s shift at Tesco had been uneventful, give or take a few weirdos plus the regular late shift drunks shuffling in before ten pm to get their fix. Thankfully, her annoying co-worker Marty was still on vacation somewhere (she didn’t know where and she really didn’t care either) and was replaced by some temp worker for the time being. An orange juice spill in aisle four and the temp worker frantically trying to find the mop had been the highlight of her evening.

Chloe sighed again, louder this time. It had been almost a year and she was still trying to figure out how her life went from country club weekends to late shifts at Tesco and scrambling to pay rent at the end of the month. One decision, just one, to drive a wedge between her and her family, to the realization things were not going to work out the way she had imagined, to her driving away all that she had left. Just one decision.

“Compton Street”, the monotonous voice announced. Chloe grabbed her bag & got up. The rain had stopped, but a harsh wind was still howling down the streets. She pulled her parka tighter around her body and rushed right into the next house entrance. Hastily, she fumbled for her key, while the wind pressed cold air into her lungs and clothes.

The staircase was empty, only the muffled sounds of a few TVs accompanied Chloe as she hurried up the stairs, taking three steps at a time. The key was lodged firmly in her palm as she passed by the Clementson’s apartment. For once, no screaming, no drunk husband sitting outside begging to be let in. She exhaled with relief, stepped over a trash bag someone had left lying and quickly slipped into her apartment.

Unfamiliar; the same apartment she had been living in for years. For the good, for the bad. Unfortunately, also the same apartment she was living in for years with him. Now that he was gone, every single room was filled with void; his own, personal void.

Chloe had thought of getting a cat, but she didn’t want to be that girl – the girl who gets a cat at 25 to cure the loneliness someone had left. So instead, she cured it with canned spaghetti on toast, a glass of wine (or two or three) and lastly, two of the little white pills Clara had given her. She kept them in a little tin box sporting the print “Lifesavers”. She barely managed to plug in her phone charger and get undressed before she collapsed onto her bed and into a nervous, medically induced sleep.

Three People Walk Into A Bar…

…I am one of them. I decide to hide out at a corner table, swallowed by the shadows around me. The other two grab the table next to the door, chatting, smiling. I order a whisky. Like liquid amber, it sits in my glass, waiting for me. For the tingling sensation, the smokey aftertaste and that burning sensation in my stomach. The other two strangers are talking. He seems uncomfortable. She doesn’t seem to notice.

Her facial expression drops. Her eyes are turning watery. He is apologizing furiously.

While I watch her misery unfold, I remember your words. I let them flow through me, through every vein, every artery, crawling under every squarecentimeter of skin. Every nerve, every cell is in alert mode. Your words are rushing by; my inner workings try hard to hold onto every piece of substance. Your words are bashing in walls: hearts, lungs, stomachs. Everything hurts.

She gets up, screaming. His face is blank. She storms out the door.

The amber is rushing down my throat. It feels nothing like relief. Your words seem to break down my body. Slowly, but steady, having been trying for years. The way you looked at me, full of pity and self-righteousness. More amber. More amber. My thoughts get blurry, like headlights in time exposure. Your words flow over my eyes, holy scriptures in a language I wouldn’t understand.

He gets up, pays, sighs and walks out into the night.

I wrap myself up in my coat. I suppose everybody needs to defend themselves somehow. I trace the wet tracks the amber has left on my table. Your words have become silent. Satisfied, I get up. I pay the bill for a short night’s peace, I turn up the collar of my coat, brace myself for the cold, harsh air outside, give the good old table by the door a tap, and leave.

For the third time this year I’m vowing to never walk into this bar again.

Gone

God, I miss her.

I miss her so much.

Every gasp of air I choke down reminds me that I wasn’t worth it. I wasn’t enough. As much as I tried, I would have never sufficed. I was her downfall, when all I ever wanted was to be everything to her. I wanted to be perfect for her, perfect, just like the perfect deep grey of her eyes.

She had always hated their color.

Oh god, dear god, I miss her so much.

I open my eyes. Everything hurts.

Today’s the day; day one of the rest of my life – my life without Maddie. I just want to vanish, cease existing here and now. I loved her so much.

I feel a paw on my face. A friendly reminder that the world keeps turning. As much as I refuse to acknowledge the fact that the sun will rise and set like any other day, I’m afraid I don’t have much of a say in this. “Life goes on.” was the first thing Mom told me (tactful, I know). Bullshit. Utter and complete bullshit. My life does not go on. It has stopped dead in its tracks and is staring wide-eyed right down the abyss. A paw on my face, again. My cat Thatcher is giving me death stares. A quick look on my alarm clock reveals the time: 3 pm. Thatcher has been due for breakfast for hours; no wonder he is so pissed.

I slip out from under the blanket and sit on my bed. I’m one hundred per cent positively convinced that my heart will explode out of my chest any second now. She’s Gone. Gone, gone, gone. Thatcher is standing in the doorframe, purring. I surrender, throw on a t-shirt and head down the stairs for the kitchen.

The sun is bursting through the French windows of my kitchen, bathing the room in rays of light. It feels obscene. I fill Thatcher’s bowl and head for the water kettle, in hopes of soothing my aching mind with a cup of hot Sencha tea – at least temporary.

Maddie had always loved my house with its high windows and large double wing doors. Now, it just feels like a wasteland to me. Every time a thunderstorm came up, Maddie would grab some pillows and blankets and hide out on the window sill in the living room, watching the rain drops race each other down the window glass. Thatcher and I usually just hid out under the blankets of my bed, praying to god that the storm would pass soon.

The lump in my throat gets bigger. I’m desperately trying to fight against the rising panic inside of me. She’s Gone. Gone, gone, gone. Forever lost. I make a beeline for the patio doors, I need to get out, I need air, I’m suffocating in here. When dashing past, I accidentally rip down the water kettle. Hot water is scuffing its way over my hardwood floors, leaving drips and splashes and drops everywhere. I throw the doors open, grasping for air. Deep breaths, in and out and in and out again, air filling every cubic centimeter of my body, rushing through my lungs. Breath after breath, my heartbeat begins to slow down, my hands become steadier.

Then – silence. And with the silence comes the sadness, creeping up my spine, into my veins, pressing every last bit of air out of me.

She’s Gone. Gone, gone, gone.