The bridge looked smooth and soft. He imagined running his hands over it, it feeling like paper. But it wasn’t like that. Its stone was harsh and pitted and would rub away skin. The rocks below were the same. Under the water they looked like dull grey and brown pillows. He imagined jumping into them and sinking. But he knew they weren’t that way. They were harsh too and would shatter bones.
Still, he liked the feel of the bridge. It was interesting. Unpredictable. He ran his hand one way and then back trying to map the grooves and cracks and holes. This way a bump noticed on the tip of his finger, that way an indent under his palm. How could this be planned? No one decided how this bridge felt but him. If he touched it softly enough it almost did feel like paper, smooth and clean.
Maybe the rocks below would feel the same. He would take off his shoes. He would fall in feet first and be surprised by the way he could feel their shape. They would slide under him wet and slick and the bumps and crags and points would slip by. He would feel how soft they were. How could anyone know that it wouldn’t turn out that way? No one could decide the way they’d feel but him. They wouldn’t hurt him. Everyone was wrong.
He stared at the rocks under the water while thinking about what he had lost. What he was about to lose. What could he have done? It couldn’t have turned out any other way. He tried. He tried not trying. There was only one choice left. It wasn’t really a choice at all. It was in the rocks under the water.
He stared at them, the only choice. The rocks under the water, then the water over the rocks. A thought occurred to him. The water didn’t care. It didn’t think about what it was doing, why it was doing it. They could say it had to run the way it did. They could say it was just doing what it was supposed to. But what did they know anyway? They had been right before, but they might not be right this time.
Because it didn’t get hurt by the rocks. It ran along the rocks smooth and clean. It went over when the rocks were a bump. It went around when the rocks were a wall. It was unstoppable. It didn’t even have to try. It would never have to worry about what the rocks would do to it. They were always pillows to the water.
He couldn’t see the rocks any more. Only the water. Over and over and over, the water. Rhythmic. Nothing could change it. He felt his neck tingle. It made him want to run.
He ran. He ran as hard as he could. He had to get back quickly. He wanted to. He ran. He couldn’t even remember when he last ran. Every step slapped against the pavement. Tock tock, tock tock. Rhythmic. The timing was constant. Over and over and over, smooth and clean. Tock tock, tock tock. It made him want to run faster. To stretch out his lungs. He wanted to run. He sprinted.
“You don’t get to decide.”
Those were words that stuck with David. They stuck with him even though he didn’t want them to. They were not good words. They made him feel awful. They reminded him of what he was capable of.
They weren’t the exact words Greg said to him. It was more like, “They’re the ones who decide what sells and what doesn’t. You don’t get to decide. You’ve got to get on their good side. You have to change the band’s name.”
But David only remembered “You don’t get to decide.”
Greg was new to the manager business, but he seemed like he was the right kind of guy to be a manager. He used to own a store downtown that sold sex toys and baseballs cards. He had a reputation for ripping people off. He was the right kind of guy to be a manager.
“I don’t care what the fuck you think!” Greg screamed. “They don’t care what you think. It doesn’t matter what you the fuck you think.”
Greg enjoyed swearing.
“But it’s my band, Greg.” David said. “If it doesn’t matter what I think, why don’t they just think up the music themselves?”
“You don’t get it, do you?” Greg said. “These guys don’t find good music. They would need to actually have an ear for it. No David, these guys just decide what music is good. They have no idea what makes your music good. They don’t know what they see in this singer or that song-writer, it’s all arbitrary. They might not sign you 'cause they had a bad day on the golf course, man. They might-“
David interrupted Greg.
“But I don’t care about that, Greg,” he said. “I know what music is good, and I know my music is good. They’ll recognize it eventually. Someone will recognize it. That’s why I play, that’s why I practice. That’s why I work at this every day. I know it will pay off.”
“I know you work hard, David.” Greg said. “I know you guys are good. I know all that. But the point is that these guys don’t. They have their ideas of when something is marketable, and they decided that your band’s name isn’t marketable. They don’t realize that you can market just about anything, so they make up stupid rules about what you have to do to be successful. Man look at that one girl, Sherry. You think she practices every day? You think she came up with all that stuff? She’s just like everyone else in the world. They just marketed her. They just put her out there on the billboards and on TV, man. They put it all together. They paid for it and produced it. They just think they found a star. They want to think that because it makes them feel like they’re good at something. Nobody found anyone, David. They made her, and she could be anyone.”
“Then why don’t they just make us too, Greg?” David asked. “Why don’t they just market us too?”
“Because, David,” Greg explained. “They don’t like your band’s name.”
“What do they want to call us?” David asked.
“Well, they threw around a few names,” Greg said tentatively.
“The Establishment,” Greg said.
“What?” David yelled. “The Establishment?”
“Yeah, it’s a good name, David”
“Good? It’s fucking stupid, Greg!”
“Bish didn’t think it was bad,” Greg said.
“Bish is an idiot,” David said. “He’s a bass player, he’s stupid. The name is stupid.”
“It’s not stupid,” Greg said.
“Yes it is, Greg. It’s clichéd. It’s ridiculous. That’s what they call bands in shitty movies about bands, Greg. The Establishment? They might as well just call us The Hacks.”
“There were some other names too,” Greg said.
“I’m not changing the name,” David said. He was stubborn. He wasn’t going to let those record execs decide things for him.
“Fine, David,” Greg said. “But if you give this up, I’m giving you up.”
“Fine,” David said. “I don’t need you anyways. I can do this on my own.”
Greg only lasted with David’s band for 2 months. Without Greg, the band had no way of getting good gigs. David decided to get a job on top of practicing with the band. He would do this on his own. If he tried hard enough, things would work out. He would be rewarded for what he decided to do.
David tried to shut the door quietly, even though he knew there was no point. She would hear.
“Where the hell were you?”
She was sitting on the couch, waiting.
“I couldn’t make it,” he mumbled.
“You couldn’t make it?”
Her voice went up at the end of her sentence. She wasn’t asking a question. She was blaming.
“No Anna, I couldn’t make it. I couldn’t get there on time.”
“Why? What happened?” she asked. This time it was actually a question, but maybe not one she expected a real answer to.
“The bus left without me,” he said. In his head it made sense. But when he said it to her it sounded ridiculous.
“The bus left without you?”
More questions. There was only one answer. One possibility.
“Yeah. It left without me. I was going to the bus stop, and it drove by in front of me.”
“That’s it?” she asked, incredulous.
“Yeah, that’s it,” he said.
It was all he could say. Could he say that wasn’t it? It would just make her angrier. The bus left without him. That was it. There was him, and there was the bus. The bus was at a place before he was at that place. What more was there to it? There wasn’t anything.
“So the bus left without you? How is that an excuse? Are you going to blame everything on the bus?”
She was getting sarcastic now. Her sarcasm always had the same effect. It would make him defensive.
“Maybe,” he said. He was trying to resist the temptation to play into her game.
“Maybe? Great answer. Maybe! Yeah, maybe you’ll blame everything on the bus. Well maybe I’ll think you’re an idiot for using that as an excuse.”
She always had a way with words.
“Well what the hell am I supposed to do, Anna?” he asked. He was angry now. She made him angry with that tone. She always did. “Am I supposed to make the bus go slower? Maybe change the flow of traffic so that more cars are in front of it? Maybe I’ll just change the laws of physics, Anna. I’ll just make time run slower for the bus, and then I’ll be able to catch it. It’s easy to make the bus come at a different time. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that.”
She stood up. She had gotten him to start arguing, so now it was time to stand. You aren’t in an argument unless you’re standing. You have to stand up for it to be an argument.
“Don’t patronize me with that shit, David!” she yelled. “You know when the buses run. You could have gotten there early.”
She thought she was right, but she didn’t understand. Still, he had to answer her. He knew he would lose this argument. She was always just better at it. He knew what he said made perfect sense, but she had ways of making it all seem stupid. A raising of the voice. A snide comment. A veiled insult. It had nothing to do with what they were talking about, but it would make him look stupid. He had to answer.
“But I didn’t,” he said.
It was as true a thing as he could ever say. But she had her ways.
“Yeah, exactly,” she said, accusingly. “You didn’t. You didn’t go early for the bus because you didn’t care. You didn’t even care about seeing me tonight, did you? If you cared you would have tried a bit harder.”
“What?” he asked, confused. “How the hell did you get from the bus being early to me not caring about you? What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“This isn’t about the fucking bus, David!” she screamed. When she screamed she was finally getting to her point. “This is about you. You didn’t even try. You didn’t try because you don’t care. Just admit it, David. You, don’t, care.”
The way she emphasized her words made them hurt. He didn’t think they were true, but she made him feel like they were.
“Yeah, I don’t care,” he laughed. “The bus was early, so I don’t care. The world and the stars aligned in just the right way, and the bus was early, so I don’t care. Thanks for letting me know how I feel.”
She stood silent, her arms crossed.
“What?” he asked.
“You’re ridiculous. You know that?”
“I’m ridiculous?” he yelled. “You’re the one blowing this way out of proportion. The bus left without me! I don’t understand how you can turn that against me. I’m not taking the blame for this. I’m not taking the blame for what the bus did. That would be ridiculous.”
“That’s just it, David,” she explained. “You can’t accept responsibility for anything. Did you even think about what you did?”
“I didn’t do anything!” he yelled. “I’m not going to feel guilty because you think this was somehow my fault. I got there on time, and the bus left without me. It’s not that hard to understand.”
“Fine, fine,” she said. “It’s not your fault. Nothing is your fault. The world is set up against you.”
She grabbed her coat and started to walk for the door.
“But none of this would have happened,” she said, “if you got a job and didn’t have to sell your car.”
The door slammed shut.
David sat on the couch. He hated it. It was brown and ugly and uncomfortable. He didn’t choose it. It was there when he moved in. For some reason Anna turned off the lights when she left, but David was too angry to get up and turn them back on, so he sat in the dark on the couch he hated.
David left fifteen minutes after Anna. After their argument his mind began to obsess. He lost control of it. There was a bridge he liked to go to. He left the apartment.
A whole year of writing resumes and applying. There are rules to how you apply for a job. He collected them from everyone who had advice.
“Don’t make your resume more than one page. Believe me, employers hate to flip the page. They want to see all your info right away.”
“One page. Check.”
“Answer honestly. Employers love honesty. They can tell if you’re lying.”
“Honesty. Got it.”
“Dress your best. You want to let the employer know that you’re making an effort.”
“Don’t dress too fancy. You have to be casual, relaxed.”
“I only have one suit anyway.”
“When you shake hands don’t shake with your elbow. Shake with your whole arm, from the shoulder. One quick motion, firm but not forceful. You have to show confidence.”
That one required a lot of practice. Hand shaking is a storied and complex ritual.
“Show up early. Let them know you’re well organized.”
“Don’t show up too early. You don’t want to seem over-eager.”
“If they don’t call back, call them. But don’t call too early. And only call once.”
“Remember, first impressions are everything. Smile enthusiastically. But don’t smile too hard.”
“Seems pretty reasonable, maybe.”
“Cologne is important. I find a mid-price cologne works best. You don’t want to give them the impression that you’re better than them, so don’t go too expensive. But don’t go too cheap either. They can smell cheap cologne. They’ll know you’re desperate for a job if you can’t afford good cologne.”
“I don’t have any cologne.”
“Try rubbing talcum powder on your hands before you go. That way your hands won’t get sweaty. Sweaty people never get jobs.”
Some of them bordered on ridiculous.
But he used every piece of advice he could. If he tried hard enough, he knew he would get a job. Getting a job was about working hard, and the more work he put in the better chance he would have of getting it.
He had been polite, chatty, casual, relaxed, focussed, interested, inquisitive, genial, and whatever other positive adjectives he could think of. He practiced small talk, he practiced his hand shake. He practiced standing up straight, looking in the mirror to make sure his posture presented confidence but not cockiness.
He even practiced answering employers' pointless, arbitrary questions.
“What would you say is your best feature? Your worst?”
Is that a trick question? Are these people super-star psychologists? Are they going to figure out if I’ll steal hand soap by the way I answer this?
“I think my best feature is that I work hard. My worst feature?... I would have to say, um... that’s a tough one. I guess sometimes I just work too hard, you know? Ha, I guess you could say I’m a workaholic!”
He practiced those answers because every employer asked them. They must have some sort of answer in mind. There had to be a right answer. If he worked at it, he’d get better at answering them.
But it hadn’t worked so far. Every time he thought he nailed it, every time he thought he and the manager hit it off, every time he thought he had the experience and training, they didn’t call back.
Or they would call back.
“Hi, is this David?”
“Hi, this is Lisa from Entero-corp calling.”
“Hi, how are you Lisa?”
It is important to say names. This shows you are someone who pays attention to detail. An important attribute in the working world, apparently.
“Good. We were just calling to let you know that, unfortunately...”
Unfortunately. Unfortunately for me. It doesn't matter to them.
“Unfortunately, we had to pass you over for the position.”
Even though I used talcum powder?
“But we’ll keep your resume on file, in case another position opens up in the future.”
Another position never opened up in the future. The file was probably a shredder next to the secretary’s desk.
But this time was going to be different. This time he felt like he had to get it. He had to get it because he worked so hard. He had practiced with Anna for this interview a dozen times. He made sure to take every bit of silly job-getting advice his friends had given him. He paid attention to detail. He tailored his resume and cover letter to the job. It was a computer retail place. Under “Interests” he put “Computers.”
The waiting room was nice. There was some old computer posters on the wall. “The Apple IIe: Experience the future, in a full 256 colours” one said. The guy sitting next to him looked nervous. His heel was tapping feverishly, making his knee bounce up and down. He rubbed his hands on his pants and looked over his resume, his back hunched and his head low.
“Hi, my name is David.”
Introductions are very important. They show initiative.
“Oh. Hey, I’m Oliver,” the nervous guy said, nervously.
The say-their-name rule, again. Saying people’s names is important, remember?
“So have you been in the computer business very long, Oliver?” David asked.
“Oh, no. Not at all. I just got out of university.”
University? This kid looks like he’s twelve.
“Oh, great. What university?” David asked.
“Eastern,” Oliver said. “Got my bachelor in management.”
Ha, Eastern. That place sucks. This guy doesn’t have a chance.
“Oh, very nice,” David said. “Eastern is a good school.”
Oliver nodded. His knee was still bouncing madly.
“Where did you go?” Oliver asked.
“Me? I went to Appalachian,” David explained.
Appalachian was a small liberal arts college. They had a good music program. No business or management.
“Really?” Oliver asked. “I guess that makes us rivals then,” he said jokingly.
Rivals? David didn’t know about any rivalry between Appalachian and Eastern. He was never really caught up in school spirit.
“I didn’t know Appalachian and Eastern were rivals,” David said.
“Oh yeah. It goes way back. Ever since Appalachian cheated in the rowing competition in the thirties. I can’t believe you didn’t know that.”
Whatever. Like I could have known that. No one ever told me that before. It’s not like learning that stupid fact makes you special or something. It just so happens someone told you, and you learned. Just so happens no one told me. Big deal, jerk.
“Well, you learn something new every day,” David said. He smiled.
The door to the manager’s office opened.
“David?” the man asked.
“That’s me,” David said. He got up and, with an enthusiastic-but-not-too-hard smile, he reached out his hand for the shake.
Perfect execution. Not too much elbow or wrist, all from the shoulder. Just enough grip. Release at the right moment.
“Come on in,” the man said with a smile. “My name is Hank.”
Hank’s office was well organized, but fairly sparse on decorations.
Small talk. Have to make small talk.
The lone picture was a photo of two kids. They looked around 10 or 11.
Perfect. People love talking about their kids.
David sat straight and firm without fidgeting. The interview went well. He answered all the arbitrary questions quickly and cleverly. Hank shook his head approvingly and wrote things on paper. David even managed to make him laugh.
“What’s the worst thing an employer has asked you to do?”
“Well, at my first job, it was at a grocery store, an old lady came to the parcel pickup room with her cat.”
“My job was basically just to push carts around, bring people their groceries, stuff like that,” David said. “But parcel pickup were always kind of the go-to people at the store. If someone wanted a cantaloupe that didn’t have a dent in it we had to fetch it for them, or if the boss wanted the windows cleaned we had to squeegee them. That kind of stuff.”
“So this old lady comes up with her cat, and it’s on a leash.”
Hank nodded and smiled.
“And she says, ‘Excuse me are you parcel pickup?’ I say yes, obviously. Then she says, ‘Oh good, you have to watch my cat while I go grocery shopping.’”
“Ha, seriously?” Hank asked. He hadn’t quite laughed yet. It was more of a chuckle of disbelief.
“Yeah!” David said. “’You have to watch my cat,’ she says! So I’m thinking this is crazy, I can’t say yes to this. So I go talk to the manager to find out if I actually have to do this. I ask him if he knows anything about it. He tells me he has no idea who this lady is. He hadn’t heard anything about anyone watching a cat.”
“No way,” Hank said. “So she just came up and said you had to watch her cat, without even asking anyone if it was alright?”
“Yup,” David said. “But get this. The manager comes back with me to talk to the lady, and when she sees my manager, she says ‘Oh, there he is! He’s the one who said you had to watch my cat.’”
Hank leaned forward, interested.
“And when the lady says this, my manager says, ‘Yes ma’am, David here is going to watch your cat for you!’”
Hank’s eyes widened with surprise. “No way!” he said.
“I swear,” David said. “So I end up sitting with this woman’s cat for like, an hour and a half, because she’s really slow getting her groceries. I should have been pushing carts around, but instead I literally did nothing but watch this cat on a leash and make sure nobody stole it or something.”
“Haha!” David said. “That’s ridiculous!”
A genuine laugh. This one was going perfectly.
The rest of the interview went to plan. It seemed like David’s work would pay off.
“Well, that’s all the questions we have for you,” Hank said.
“Great,” David said, as he got up to put on his coat.
Now is the small talk opportunity. Leave a good impression.
“Are those your kids?” David asked.
“Hm? Yes. Jeremy and Emily,” Hank said.
“Ah, still pretty young, I see,” David said.
“That’s actually an older picture. They’re getting ready to go to university now,” Hank explained. “Where did you graduate from, again?” Hank asked.
“Appalachian,” David said.
“Oh,” Hank said. He paused.
What was that? Why did he stop talking?
“So, um, what university are they planning on going to?” David asked tentatively.
“Eastern,” Hank said. “Just like I did.”
David didn’t get a call back. He went to the store a week later to ask if there was any news about the position. Oliver was behind the counter.
All the hard work David had done didn’t pay off. The meritocracy was really an arbitrary popularity game. It was all decided by someone else, something else. It was the last job David applied for.
The hospital room looked and smelled exactly like what it was. It was not inviting. The light from the bedside lamp was too bright, and it was shining right in David’s eyes. He didn’t do anything about it. It wasn’t up to him.
“How did he get here?” the doctor asked.
“I’m not sure,” the nurse said. “He just walked in the front door and fell over.”
“Any injuries?” the doctor asked.
“None,” the nurse said. “His pupils dilate, his breathing is normal. There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with him. But we had to drag him onto a bed. He was totally limp.”
The doctor prepared a needle to draw some blood. David tensed up and his heart rate increased as the needle went into his arm. But other than the automatic responses there was no reaction from David. He stared straight ahead, his expression blank.
“Does he have any identification? A driver’s license?” the doctor asked.
“None at all,” the nurse said. “All he came in with was the clothes he was wearing.”
David lay in the hospital for six days straight. They had to put in an IV because he wouldn’t drink, and they spoon fed him because he wouldn’t eat. He didn’t refuse any treatments though. He wasn’t belligerent or uncooperative. He just didn’t do anything. Whatever the nurses did just happened to him and he didn’t seem to mind. His expression remained almost unchanging, except every so often the faint impression of anger or sadness would appear on his face when the nurses talked about music or computers or school. But the impression would disappear quickly and David would continue just existing.
After the sixth day the hospital had David transferred. There wasn’t anything the doctors could do, because they couldn’t find anything wrong with him. They needed the bed for other patients with real problems. So they sent David to an asylum. The doctors and psychiatrists could only label him with severe depression, but they couldn’t explain why he was unwilling to do anything whatsoever.
For a month or so the world just happened to David. Nurses, doctors and psychologists would come and go, drugs would be fed into his system, food and water would go into his body. If a fly landed on David’s face he would twitch, but his hand would never raise to swat it away. It was up to the world whether or not the fly came or went, not David.
Eventually the asylum also decided to get rid of David. The only place they could put him was on the street. But when they brought him downstairs and pulled him out of the wheel chair he would just fall to the floor. The only way he was going to go outside was if the doctors and nurses dragged him, and the only way he was going to go back upstairs was if they carried him. He would stay wherever he was until something made him move.
Normally the doctors would not have a problem with letting a patient back onto the street; usually the patients wanted to get out, and if the doctors couldn’t control them they had no choice but to let the patients go. Suffering from dementia or psychosis, the patients most likely wouldn’t last very long on the street. But the doctors couldn’t make the patients do what they didn’t want to, and so they let them go. It was not a happy thing to do, but the doctors couldn’t beat themselves up over it.
But with David it was different. If the doctors pushed him out the front door, David would lay on the pavement until he died. If it was raining he would drown, if it was snowing he would freeze, and if anyone felt like hurting him, David would do nothing to defend himself. If the doctors put David outside they would have to accept responsibility for whatever happened to him. David no longer had any part in his life, it just happened to him. Whatever happened would be the world’s fault, not his.
Her hair was short, but not too short.
“I thought you said you didn’t like girls with short hair,” Bish said.
“I don’t,” David said. He didn’t want to explain. He was distracted.
“But her hair is short,” Bish said.
“Yeah it’s short, but it’s not too short,” David said. He still didn’t want to explain.
“You do realize she’s a teacher, don’t you?” Bish said.
“What? What does that have to do with anything?” David asked.
“She’s a kindergarten teacher. She can’t talk to you. The kids’ parents would flip if they found out she was with a guy like you.”
“Okay, whatever,” David said.
He walked across the bar, thinking of what to ask her.
“Hi, do you want a drink?”
No, that’s stupid, she already has a drink. Why would she want another drink?
“Do you want another drink? On top of the other one you already have?”
No, I already established that she doesn’t want a second drink.
“How’s it going?”
I don’t know her, why would she answer that? Asking how things are going implies you already know how things were.
“Hi, I’m in a band. We’re playing tonight.” David paused. He didn’t know what to say. “On the stage.”
She laughed. “Okay,” she said. “What's your band called?”
David was enthralled. Normally he didn’t care what other people thought of him. It made a lot of people dislike him. But it didn’t matter, because he didn’t care what they though of him anyways. It was a win-win situation. For David, anyway.
But he cared about what this girl thought. He cared so much he couldn’t talk.
“Um,” David said. He paused again. He could tell she wanted to make fun of him for saying ‘Um,’ and then locking up.
“You’re band is called ‘Um?’ That’s a weird name.”
But she gave him a chance.
“My band is called Destroy, Destroy, Destroy, Lunch,” he said.
“That’s a weird name,” she said.
“Yeah, probably,” David said.
“But it’s pretty cool,” she said. “My name is Anna.”
David and Anna talked for the rest of the night. David was nervous around her, but comfortable. When his band went on stage he looked for her during every song, to make sure she was still there. She was. She was in the crowd the whole time, watching him.
After the show David asked Anna to go to a movie with him. Normally David was sceptical of people. He didn’t trust anyone because he knew that he could get things done on his own. Other people would just mess things up, confuse things with their unpredictability. He didn’t try with anyone. But he didn’t feel that way about Anna. He knew Anna was someone he had to try for. He had to try, because he couldn’t help it.
David sprinted. Over and over and over the pavement. His feet hurt. His shoes weren’t made for running. But he ran as hard as he could. His lungs ached and his shins burnt. The pavement sent shocks up his legs every time his feet hit the ground. But it didn’t matter. He ran over the pavement, smooth and clean. The pavement was pillows to him. He had to get home. He had to talk to her.
A week earlier Anna had gotten a job offer in England. A teaching position. It was what she had been working towards for most of her life. It was her dream.
Then they had the fight. Not the only fight, but an important one.
“This job is a huge opportunity for me, David,” she said. “I want to stay here with you, but if you don’t get a job, if you don’t stop acting like this, I can’t stay here. If things don’t change I’m going to take the job in England.”
He didn’t say anything. He sat with his arms crossed, angry. What could he say? How could he change her mind? How could he affect her? There were reasons why she wanted to go to England and they all came long before David had ever met her. A teacher she admired, a job at a kindergarten teaching kids, a brother who dropped out of high school and disappeared after becoming a junkie. He couldn’t change those reasons. They were far out of his control. Nothing he could do could change Anna’s mind. She had already chosen long before he met him.
“I’m going to leave you, David.”
“I can’t stay here and hope we’ll be able to make rent somehow. I want to teach. I don’t want to stay here if this is how things will be. The school offered to let me start next month. They offered to pay for my flight. It leaves next week, David. I’m going to leave in a week if things don’t change.”
David ran up the stairs as hard as he could. He tripped over one of the steps. His hands scraped against the carpet, rubbing away skin. It hurt badly. His palms bled. Normally he would have given up. He would have stopped because of the pain. But he kept running. Two steps at a time. Thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk. Rhythmic. Each step fit the pattern. It made him want to keep running. Over and over and over the stairs, smooth and clean.
He got to his apartment door. He couldn’t find his keys. He felt despair and panic. What could he do? The door was locked. No keys. He couldn’t change that. The door stopped him. He couldn’t get inside.
His foot hurt when it first hit, but he could hear the splintering. Again. Again. His foot hurt more, but the wood splintered more each time. The door was pillows to him. It swung open.
She would think he was insane. He could have just knocked. She would have answered. She would think he was insane because he smashed the door open. But the door was trying to stop him.
He ran into the living room. Empty. The living room was empty. All that was left was his ugly brown couch. He hated it. He swung the bathroom door open. It didn’t slam up against the towel rack. It should have. The towel rack was gone. Everything was gone. The mat, the toilet paper, the tooth brushes. Even the shower head.
He ran out into the kitchen. There was a note on the fridge.
I left for England. There’s nothing you can do to get me back. Things didn’t change. They only got worse. I’m determined to get this job. I’m determined to make my life better.
I’m determined to never see you again.
She always had a way with words.
David sat on his couch. It was the middle of the day. He didn’t move. He sat until he was sitting in the dark on the couch he hated.
The next day David didn’t make breakfast. He didn’t shower. He didn’t pick up his coat or wallet. He got up with only the clothes he was wearing. He walked out the front door and down the street, toward the hospital.