I notice the cars now.
The lot is empty.
Has been for 4 days.
That's when the last snow was and there's no tracks.
I haven't left home in 5.
It's around Christmas now.
I imagine i'm alone in this apartment complex.
No tracks for 4 days.
I light up.
'No ones around to catch me'
I feel sly but its too cold.
I check the mail and walk back upstairs.
And am hit with a sad deja' vu
Something in BIsmarck, H-----n St.
The apartments where at any given time 4-10 people lived at in a small 2 bedroom.
I had this one weekend to myself.
Everyone had gone home to their families.
Everyone thought my parents were dead.
I never mentioned I had brothers.
I never corrected anyones assumptions....
I only really remember scrounging up change for cigarettes.
Stealing quarters from the dryer.
Saltine crackers and coffee black.
I was forced into sobriety for a weekend.
I didn't know if I still had a girlfriend, she had gone dark for two weeks.
I was still dreaming of Italy.
I would be missing someone something awful soon in a year.
But I just wouldn't know it yet.
It was -10 degrees. With the windshield?
I was sad.
I got frustrated and broke into one of the lease holders room.
Put on his socks and snow boots, grabbed a scarf and this thick, heavy coat on.
I grabbed some mittens in the kitchen shaking and fumbled to put them on.
I dropped one and cursed and screamed and kicked a dent into the fridge.
I was angry.
I was nauseous.
I was alone.
I ran out the door forgetting the lock, got outside and threw up.
It's always the same bush, front door, right side.
It's yellow and orange and brown.
'Halloween decorations!' I laughed to myself mid heaves.
the sweat was terrible.
It felt as if I had gotten dressed inside the bath,
I should have went back inside. I started to walk.
The sun was so bright and the crackling from the snow sounded like gun shots.
you're running out of time here...you're getting tired...
I looked up and was at a gas station. It had already been a mile.
What time was it? It was already dark.
I walk in and get a look. That's fine.
I use the change counter machine. $5.87 after the 10 percent take.
Get to the counter, ask for a pack of cigarettes. $3.20
I think about a coffee but just pocket the rest.
Warmed up, lit up, and started the walk back and it hit me.
I was lost.
I must've gotten turned around in the dark. I knew where I WAS but I didn't know which way I came from.
I panicked but I was stubborn. I kept walking and smoking, alternating hands to hold the cigarette. Mittens off, mittens on and so on and so on.
If I could just find the one fucking hill here, I can figure it out...
The cigarette burnt out from the cold.
I hadn't noticed.
I've been inhaling nothing.
I trust my internal compass and am confident enough to follow footprints that match my foot size, it was the best I could do.
As the foot prints slowly turned into just one pair I grew more sure.
I tried to light another cigarette, but my matches got wet, maybe it was just to windy, maybe it was just to cold.
I started to run, I began laughing, I dont know if I was broken or if it was sheer madness.
I charged through bushes and ran through backyards.
Jumping and tumbling over fences into the snowpiles.
Laying in the snow I realized the sweat was making me numb. My muscles were pulsating.
Out of breath I walked up to the street sign and wiped the snow off,
West C and H-----n.
Somehow I was on the wrong side of the street, low traffic, I took off.
I was looking up at the sky. Head pounding, there was blood coming from somewhere, I could tell by how it felt.
Brushing off the coat, someone was screaming at me
"ARE YOU FUCKING CRAZY?! GET OUT OF THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD YOU FUCKING LOON."
Staring at him dazed I started to hear cars honking at me, I heard a siren go off.
I mumbled something and stumbled to the light post.
People kept shouting at me while I waved them away.
I don't know what had happened.
I was dizzy and vomited on some mans boots.
He cursed at me as I said everything but an apology.
I walked off and down a hill.
OH how I missed that candy corn bush.
I had silly thoughts of going back and taking one of the sleds from one the back yards.
But the cold was getting me. I couldn't bend my knees.
My chin felt raw, the skin had broke, I was picking gravel out of it.
It made me realize I had lost one of the mittens.
I would have to explain that later...
I finally stumbled through the door and collapsed.
I began tearing off my clothing and kicking off the boots and laid there in my boxers.
I couldn't feel anything, I half thought I was hyperventilating but, I'm not smart enough to say that.
I passed out.
I woke up with blankets on top of me. They were so heavy and I felt so frail.
There was somebody in the kitchen and it smelled like beef broth. I sat up and curled the top blanket around my shoulders.
'I don't remember being naked...'
Pots and pan noises were coming from the kitchen. Someone had changed the lightbulb, I had just thought the light was broken.
"Huh? HEY, are you up?"
Kara popped her head out from the kitchen. Kara was a current....thing. She always knew how to find me. She was kind.
'um, yeah, uh, why....why am I....'
I couldn't finish. I was HOT and out of breath. I took the blankets off and immediately covered up my bottom half.
"HAHA! It's OKAY. Nothing I haven't seen."
She went back to doing whatever it was and continued
"So how drunk are you? You were lying in here in wet underwear with the door WIDE open."
I blinked. I realized I think I might have gotten hit by a car.
'I, no, I'm not at all, promise.'
"Hm, well it looks like someone punched you in the face."
I heard the clicking of the burners being turned off. It smelled really nice.
'Ha, I uh, no, nothing like that...' feels like it though
She was pouring something into a bowl, then another. I scooted myself back up to the couch and turned on the tv. I needed some noise, I was getting nervous for some reason.
"Wellllllll, i'm sure i'll hear about it later, here."
She handed me a bowl of soup and saltines and sat beside me covering her legs with a blanket.
"You know there was nothing to eat here but crackers right?"
She blew at her soup and took a sip from her spoon.
"I took your underwear off and covered you up."
Not even giving me time to react,
she grabbed a cracker and let it float on the top of it.
"Then I went to Dan's and got some veggies, broth, some seasoning. OH. and a GOOD knife. You can keep it if it helps you cook more."
She scooped up the soggy cracker in the spoon and ate it one bite.
I was staring at her. What in the hell was going on?
She put her head on my shoulder. Hand on arm.
"Eat. You've gotten really skinny since I saw you last."
'Uh, um. Yeah.'
I grabbed a cracker and threw it on top of the broth. I liked her style.
I felt her chin move. She was smiling.
"AH! HOLD THIS! HURRY!"
My hands were full so she put it on the floor beside her, jumped up and ran back into the kitchen.
I snuck my bite and threw in another cracker.
She came back with a glass of water and a cup of coffee. She handed me the mug.
It was still warm.
"Seriously though, did you know all you have here is coffee and crackers? Don't like,
seven of you live here?"
"Not even wheat ones for crying out loud......EAT."
She rose an eyebrow.
"I'll believe you're not drunk if you finish the soup."
I didn't even know what to say to that.
I stabbed at the cracker and ate half.
"Still doesn't prove that you WEREN'T."
Feeling annoyed I drank half of the broth down and ate a chunk of potato. I couldn't help but notice how happy it made her. It made me feel...okay.
I started to pick at the vegetables. She kissed me on the cheek and changed the channel to some cartoon.
"I don't think you can handle the News right now."
She was right. I didn't even know where my hat was.
She had it sitting behind her on the couch. It had my wallet, belt, keys, watch, cigarettes, matches, and the spare change in it.
"You're clothes should be dry soon if you were wondering."
'J-sus, how long have you been here? What time is it even?!'
"G-d stop being so dramatic. It's after 8 and you were still wet. So you weren't sleeping THAT long."
I thought it over and didn't notice anything missing. I realized that I just felt embarrassed.
always being saved
I took a sip at the coffee, it was awful. I finished the soup to get the taste out of my mouth. I didn't mention the coffee.
'thankyou. this is really weird. I....'
"Shush....I believe you by the way."
I was getting tired and nodding off.
"That you're not drunk."
"Now...just don't throw it back up please.
What do you have against that bush outside anyways?"
She started giggling.
'HEY. it's called fashion.'
The nausea kicked in. I had overeaten.
I couldn't get myself up to the couch so I laid my head in her lap instead.
She started to play with my hair.
Half awake I mumbled
'...why are you so nice to me?'
It was silent. A funny noise came from the tv. I chuckled.
She cleared her throat in a unsure way that made me uneasy.
After some false starts she let out a exhausted sigh.
"I don't know I guess. I just think that...you...won't let yourself be loved sometimes..."
She let out a weak laugh.
I fell asleep.
I woke up covered in blankets again.
She had cleaned up all the dishes and left a folded note beside me.
"Check the fridge!"
My clothes were folded neatly on the couch behind me,
I finally felt the strength to stand up again.
I put my boxers on and walked to the fridge.
There was a post it note on the door with a smiley face on it.
I opened the door and found the biggest pot we had full of soup and all the veggies she had bought.
I would be eating again soon, I felt relieved.
I then noticed something tucked away in the back.
Where did she find all of the post it notes?
I burst out laughing, a laugh that's so sincere that it's become a rarity.
The kind of laugh where you felt like someone dangerous was punching you in the gut.
It was so marvelous I collapsed in the kitchen still holding on to the door handle.
I closed the door holding my side and realized it was all bruised up.
I just laid on the tile floor and stared at the ceiling, chuckling at myself.
I sat up and opened the door again.
She had left me a single barrel of my favorite whiskey.
Hand numbered with a cork top.
I grabbed it, a chilled glass, opened the freeze and took out four ice cubes.
Ice, glass, whiskey til the ice floats, top off with water.
I wouldn't know it at the time but this became a ritual.
I walked to the kitchen table and sat down with the drink.
With the TV still on I thought about what she said
You won't let yourself be loved.
That would cut deep, haunt me even, for sometime.
It honestly still does.
And she wouldn't be the last to tell me the same.
I took the post it off the bottle and turned it around.
I would hold on to that empty bottle for many years out of sentiment.
I laughed again but knew my sadness would return.
But at least not for the time being.
She wrote 'Merry Christmas!'
I rose my glass.
And started to run.