Had it really only been a day? The morning had gone smoothly enough. It was almost picturesque, in a sense. Memories were stacked on top of images on top of memories and the days blurred together. Was he really remembering the morning before or was he remembering every morning?
A small ray of the morning sun had caressed his cheek and ushered him from his unfettered dreams. The cool air from the night before had flown, leaving him wrapped in an oven-like cocoon. A subtle soapy scent of fabric softener and perfume mingled with a very human aroma that filled his nose with the scents of a restful morning. Beside him, not yet awake, lay his wife. Her skin had all the warmth of baking bread, yet felt cool to his touch. It seemed that the same warmth which held them in its embrace began to seep into and kindle within his body, filling him with its slow intoxication. So much did he wish that this moment would stretch on for the rest of the day and let them bathe in the bright, unforgiving light of happiness.
“Yet, all good things must end” he supposed and leaned closer to her. For a second, her warmth and the scent of her hair held him transfixed, leading him by the hand into another spiral of memories reborn. Farther and farther he fell in to a euphoric cycle of reinvention and self-recrimination. Until, at last, his mind lay once more in his basket of misery, to that warm bed and his glowing bride.
Sunlight sparked off of her, as if, upon contemplation, it feared ruining the pale brilliance of her sultry skin. These deflected rays danced within her wake and lent an aura to her delicate quiescence. So it went for a minute or more until, shaking himself, he brushed his lips against her ear and whispered a loving call from slumber. A trebled groan and smiling lips beneath an outstretched arm answered him. “Morning hun”.
So it was and always had been. An endless stretch of blissful mornings lay behind him. Each and everyone one, it seemed, stretched on endlessly, but as a fleeting infinite. All of them bound to end without the proper reverence they deserved and he desired. Why had he, for so long, thrown each away with the cavalier attitude of a man possessed? A thoughtless, reckless deed began each of his days, followed by a relentless drive to forget. Only now, in this light that pierced him so, could he… would he… be forced to remember.
It was with this attitude of reminiscent allegations that he approached the fridge to provide sustenance for a body which wanted none of it. “Still gotta eat. Still gotta live,” he reminded himself over and over. Nothing he could conjure seemed palatable. Even the finest foods he could imagine seemed as a fetid froth to his imagined tongue. With a reluctant tug, he cracked the fridge and the pristine light from within spilled forth to hold aside the gloom for a time. His eyes were instantly drawn to the bottom shelf where, wrapped in immaculate form, there lay a sandwich. The last sandwich she had made for him before she had gone from his life.
He stumbled backwards as if struck. How could he feel so deeply for this single item? Still, there it lay, an icon of her love for him. Carefully wrapped in plastic and assembled with care, it looked to him like an idol of worship. It wasn’t just that it was a sandwich, no. It was his sandwich made by her. In the time they had spent together, she had learned every nuance of his preferences and he had learned to love the special touches she had poured into each and every bite. The mustard spread to run just to the edges when squeezed so that no bite was dry and yet none was suffused with a totality of mustard seed. So too were the ham, lettuce and cheese balanced so that each bite was as complete as the last. Even the sandwich itself was a reflection of her considerations for him. It was a Tuesday sandwich and on Tuesdays he always craved ham.
Yet, had he always considered these nuances? Once more, the rain of his wasteful, unappreciative nature beat down upon his head. So, the sandwich lay there, unassuming, like the relic of an age long past. He couldn’t bring himself to eat it, despite the ceaseless cravings that threw themselves against the walls of his heart. For the time being, he contented himself with an apple. As he tore the flesh and meat from the apple’s core, he thought back to another lost paradise in a garden long forgotten. He too, it seemed, had let such gifts slip away through pure disdain. The day closed and he hated himself all the more.
Night wrapped his small dwelling in its unassuming embrace. Cold and distant, it held the corners and edges of his home in a perfect tranquility. Through the quiet virtue of its velvet wrapping the cracks and chips of time were obscured; slowly worn away by the fading light and its absent revelations.
Even during a fitful night, with much desperate grasping at peace, the rise and fall of his chest was steady. A breath in and it expanded, tossing and turning, retraction followed and his tension relieved itself. In and his need for air was sated, to be expelled once more. In… out… in… out… Until, the tenuous knuckles of sanity failed and from his claws slipped the sweet breath of oblivion. In once more and it burst the bubble of sleep.
Darkness held still the roaring night. No, there was little noise within this empty cavern. But so quiet was it that every notion and blip rang as a cacophony in the darkness. Tick… slowly he fought through the clouds …tick… of blackness until the tick…. World took form.
“A midnight snack perhaps…”
He couldn’t admit to himself the reason he stalked towards the fridge. Long hallways and daunting drops stood between him and the euphoria of the light that drew him. Unthinking, he left the partial gloom of his bedroom.
Breathing filled his ears and the light touches of the world around him brushed past his fingers. Nothing seemed to lie before him, shadows cast upon shadows played across existence and obscured the hall. He drifted within a globe of his own, isolated in a sea of ambiguity. Pictures he knew hung somberly out of sight sailed silently past. Scraping from the carpet beneath his feet competed with the tremulous tremor of his ragged breath for clarity, drowning silently, desperately in the drone of the approaching light. Again, the bubble of epiphany would burst under the tantalizing electricity of a wall, or corner or chair. The wall would break and all of the weight of suppression would drain away. Then suddenly, he was suffocating once more.
Less and less the world pressed in on him. The closer he got to his intended, the more the mist cleared. Eager surroundings encroached, touched him, and, with a slight exertion, his world was pierced and shattered. The shell flaked off and clarity seemed to stream from the white monolith before him.
Finally, he stood unveiled before the object of his attentions, a Freon-fueled deity of the coldest nature. Over and over again, the shadows caressed him freely and stole the warmth from his skin. Shivering slightly in this unbearable heat of oppression, he twitched as a tingling writhed along his fingers and crashed through his arm. Slowly at first, but with gathering momentum, his arm raised itself, a broken appendage on a sadistic marionette’s string, and moved towards the handle. As his fingers closed around the cold polymer and his arm began to flex inwards slightly, he hesitated.
It wasn’t exactly the darkness that stayed his hand. The siren song of repressive self-recrimination had long since lost its magic. A sickly sweet scent caressed his nostrils. He wondered, not for the first time, how long he’d been standing there, frozen. Not in the fridge, but in this world. Had it really been a day? Again… he was frozen in the wake of some passing behemoth sending ripples through the blackness… A shaken leaf on an imagined pond caught in the steps of a greater beast. It turned, met his gaze and, with the barest thought, stripped every last piece of resolve he’d mustered. It offered him nothing, no reason for hesitation, but left no reason to continue.
In the distance, a song drifted: a beautiful melody of moving lips and careless finger tips. It whispered briefly in his ear and asked him to swim. Not for the song, it had long since played, but so that he may dance again.
The question echoed to no one and came back to ring in his ears. The answer struck a quiet, discordant melody in his chest. It wasn’t beautiful, smooth or flowing, but he could move to it. Strings lifted and he pulled the door open. A thin beam of light pierced the darkness and swept it clean. Nothing existed beyond that doorway. The room, illuminated, showed itself unkempt, full of the rot of a man’s soul. Within its embrace lay an answer, wrapped in its polyethylene package.
Fingers pried and it breathed in. A familiar scent wafted up from the supple container and brought it all back. Regardless, he was not the slave of those sights and scents any longer. It was his ears he danced to now and the silent prayer their music offered. Possessed once more, he ripped the sandwich from the bag and tore a piece off. It sat, quivering, on his tongue for a moment’s time. Another, smaller, piece followed the first. Hot tears rolled down his cheeks. Reddened eyes spat their final wishes as both bits of his wanton past rested in time’s brief sanctuary from his ivory threshers. They’d both become dry.