my room consisted of a queen sized bed, a dresser, and a table on which my computer sat. it was essentially my bedroom, living room, and writing space, and once i was up there, i only came downstairs to feed my cat or buy more junk from the corner store. my cat, schuster, used to be one of two cats i owned, simon and schuster, brother and sister, but simon had some weird cat bone disease and died on my bed almost a year before this story began. schuster has been a husk of a cat since then, very depressed, very missing of her brother. hell, i’ve missed simon too. he was a loud, obnoxious son of a bitch who would always pee in the various corners of my house, never stopped eating the plants, and would always wake me up in the morning but sitting on my face so his butthole was over my eye, but he was a good cat. schuster was very timid comparatively, and spent most of her time napping or patting at me for food. she was really depressed after simon died and would just sleep constantly, wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t stare at the birds outside. she got better as time went on but it was really sad to see an animal acting like it had no agency anymore. she really loved her brother.
i changed out of my soaking wet clothes and sort of absentmindedly hopped in the shower. i didn’t realize it but it was friday, and i had the weekend off, as most people do, and i didn’t really need to show because it’s not like i was going anywhere, especially after the weird day i had. but something about burying my face in hot water sounded good, and so, after being soaked in the cold rain, i soaked myself in the warm shower water for far too long. i thought again and again about the day’s events, about the people on the bus, and recognized the repetition in my head as much as you’ve probably recognized it by now. i can’t help it; things get stuck in my head and i relive them over and over. in college i took creative writing classes and some screen and playwriting classes as well. i learned about dramatic structure, which i really enjoyed, as it was a helpful structure period for writing a story. but over the years i developed this terrible habit of concocting the worst scenarios in my head, taking ordinary exchanges with people or scenes in real life, things that i’ve done, etc, and conjuring the worst way that they could turn out. because that’s what happens in stories, the worst things always happen to people. that’s why audiences like to see and readers like to read, they like to watch a protagonist go through hell and back to save the world. “hell” is subjective to each person but it should exist, there should be obstacles for your hero to fight against, or else what’s the point of reading about them? it turns out i conjure these scenarios best in the shower, and that night was no exception. i thought a lot about the people around that woman and what they could’ve done, and imagined how painful their mental state must be right now. her death was like a psychic ripple, her body a bomb containing negative energy which pulsated through each and every person near her, rattling the windows of my office and reverberating in news articles and pictures posted on twitter, facebook, and instagram. those closest to her in proximity suffered the worst of the trauma, and i imagined their faces covered in her blood and body parts. made me think of jackie kennedy and that iconic picture of her on air force one, covered in JFK’s blood, and that moment in zapruder film when kennedy gets his head blown off and she nearly falls off the back of the cadillac trying to collect his brain matter. if all the people on the street tried to put the suicidal woman back together again …
i hadn’t cried in years. i didn’t cry that night either, but i was keenly conscious of the fact that i probably should be crying. i should be feeling something. instead, i felt numb, alienated from the world. i dried off after the shower and laid on my bed with the towel still wrapped around me. schuster hopped on the bed and mewed softly for me to get her food, and i did, robotically. i don’t remember getting dressed, going downstairs, making food, or talking to my roommates, or coming back upstairs. all i remember was this fuzzy pit in my stomach, a hollow pit where something was supposed to go, but i didn’t know what, or how to even get it there.
i woke up. didn’t remember falling asleep. i was clad in my gym shorts and white wifebeater i typically wore when getting home, lying on my back. schuster was curled up between my legs. i had a tiny headache and neckache and knew i had laid my head weirdly on the bed. it was saturday morning, the sun lost behind dark gray clouds, beads of rain slowly sliding down my windowpane. the soft patter of the rain began to focus in my hearing and i just laid there, listening to it. i felt better. sleep always seemed to do that. sleep is like the closest thing to a reset button our body has, and even when you remember the things that happened yesterday, they never hit as hard as they did the day of. so even in that moment when i saw the woman flash in my mind, it felt more like a distant memory than a visceral gut-wrenching emotion.
standing up, i berated schuster for leaping out of bed so quickly. she always jumps and runs off even if i shift my weight or turn over. my joints ached and i wasn’t sure why, and i felt a type of emotional drain i hadn’t felt since kelsey and i broke up nearly two years ago. i headed into the bathroom for the morning shit and tooth brushing. since i had nowhere to go i opted out of a morning shower or deodorant. this is one of my little secrets but i really like not showering sometimes. most days i smell clean and like deodorant and hair product, and that’s not a bad thing, but sometimes i like to just smell dirty, and for my pits to smell like me. so i went with it.
as i headed downstairs i saw kurt eating breakfast. we exchanged hellos and i grabbed a banana from the fruit basket. it wasn’t mine, it was allen’s, but allen had some weird thing about fruit going bad, and the instant a banana started spotting he wouldn’t touch it. this i found absolutely ridiculous because spotted bananas are the best and the most sugary tasting. green or yellow bananas taste more plant-y to me. allen has other weird things with food, which i’m fine with because it means i get to eat all the perfectly good food he leaves behind.
kurt began telling me about his plans for the day. “ellen” (his girlfriend) “and i are going to the arboretum,” he said. “have you been?” i shook my head no. “it’s pretty great. it’s free, and there are all sorts of different trees and plants to look at, trails to wander around and stuff. we go once a season, just to see the difference, you know? last we went in august and it was really hot and all the trees were big and full of leaves, just standing there like big dominant things.”
kurt got his bachelor’s degree in english from boise state as well, and had taken a few writing courses himself, a couple even with me. of the two of us, he was the more successful in publishing, though not enough to financially justify living alone. he had an agent, his girlfriend, and had published a few bits of poetry in various poetry magazines no one has heard of except for poets. kurt was one of those guys ladies loved, because in the fall you could spot him sitting on a park bench with a moleskine and a calligraphy pen, writing poetry by hand. occasionally, when he was single, he would write a poem and rip it out of the notebook, fold it up, and hand it to a woman passing by. he was average looking but always wore dress shirts and sweaters or cardigans, corduroy pants, always in muted earthy colors, brown, slate blue, forest green, the occasional burgundy. he was well dressed, slightly dapper, and had this shy introversion that drove women crazy. they could sense his brooding genius energy and were drawn to it like moths to a light, but it was like one of those zapper lights, and more often than not his “genius” temperament ended up ruining his relationships. he and ellen have been together for three years, mostly because she can put up with him, but also because they genuinely love each other, in that way that makes the rest of us secretly envious. sometimes they play open mics where he plays ukulele and she sings. they’re twee as fuck.
kurt asked me if i had any plans and i shook my head. he said, “do you want to come with us? i’ll wingman ya if there are any ladies you’re interested in.” he said that half-jokingly, knowing kelsey and our tumultuous relationship and how i’ve been single for so long now i’m not sure if i remember how my dick works with a woman. he always tried to get me to come out with him and i appreciated being invited, but i hardly ever went.