I couldn’t see the ceiling but I knew it was there, and it was real. The dark was thick. No light from the streets filtered in. The curtains were heavy. The heater radiated against my feet. They were no longer cold. I concentrated on the weight of the blankets on me. A memory flashed of Eve’s weight on top of me. How warm she was. Now, there were these blankets, and a space heater. In a different apartment, in a different time, in a different part of the city.
I closed my eyes tightly. I was lonely with no shadows against the wall. Just the thin sliver of light that managed to come between the curtains.
By the time I woke in the morning, Mel was gone. She didn’t wake me up. I must have slept like the dead. It was unusual. I hadn’t slept in a bed in so long that of course, my body wanted as much rest as possible.
The curtains had been opened. Daylight. I threw the blankets off and went to the window. The chill hit my skin. The apartment was cold. I had been so warm beneath the blankets. The view was different from here. There were more apartment buildings. We were on the second floor. The windows faced southwest. The sun was rising somewhere behind me. I could feel it at my back, tugging at the hair on the back of my neck.
A shiver came through me.
Here, again, in the unfamiliar. In the moments of quiet and stillness. Alone. There was something beautiful about being alone in a cold room. The knowledge that another place is warmer brings hope. The chill sharpens the mind. Things start to become clearer.
I didn’t want them to become clearer. I wanted them to remain obscure. I didn’t want to think too hard about Mel. I didn’t want to think too hard about myself. Whatever was happening, I was not prepared for it.
I was not ready to feel. To question. To consider the butterflies returning. To consider feeling. To consider wanting again. To consider loving.
I stood there, very still, thinking of what I had just thought to myself. That there could be something with Mel. That there was something with Mel. That she felt something. That I might feel something as well.
But I was empty. I was trying to fill myself, but not with another woman. Not with more wanting. That was mad. I was so tired from wanting earlier. There was more to be found.
Anger began to swell up. How could Mel lure me back this way? It felt dirty. I felt dirty all of a sudden. Like the kindness I’d just been shown was tainted. It did not matter that there was certainly genuine caring. It did not matter that she was a friend. The generosity felt like it had been given with ulterior motives. A path to conquest, perhaps.
That didn’t feel right. A conquest? That is absurd. I had never been the object of conquest that way. Why would she approach me now? It seemed predatory. To invite me here and– and what?
And try to show me caring. To try and give me a break from the wandering. To help me find some peace. To help me build a life again.
She had done nothing. I had thrown so much frustration at her in those few minutes of my mind turning over the possibility of her desire.
I did not have to succumb to it. I did not owe her more than my pure gratitude. She didn’t expect more. I knew she did not. She was being kind. We’ve become a people trained to think that all kindness comes with strings, with conditions. Mel hadn’t shown any of those intentions.
I had to leave that room. I had to walk. I had to become reacquainted with these streets.
When my feet hit the sidewalk, I felt something familiar well up. Hope? Was that what that feeling was? A sliver of joy tinged with dreams?
I decided to walk to the diner and report for a shift. I could have gone exploring, I knew. I could have gone anywhere. I could have walked a thousand blocks searching for memories of Eve.
Instead, I walked to the diner. Because there, I could be distracted. I could think of cleaning silverware instead of Eve. I could drink endless cups of coffee and get a free sandwich.
I could be near Mel. The comfort of a familiar face, a friend. I thought I didn’t need it. I thought I could handle this all on my own. I thought I could be alone the way I had been throughout the past few months. I wanted to be. I wanted to be able to run around with only Eve’s spirit there to keep me company.
But she wouldn’t have wanted that, I knew. She wouldn’t have wanted me to traipse around alone searching for her memory. She would want me to make new ones. I wanted to make new ones. I wanted to be alive– I wanted to want to be alive.