28 Nov Amy Johnson
we walked all together in the dark, each one in their own universe, down the middle of the empty street. swimming in the aphotic zone. there were no words exchanged, no directions shared. i looked at my own feet to see they were bare, hadn’t i been wearing shoes before this all fell apart. a cab honked, swerving around us when no one scattered from the street, leering, yelling foreign obscenities. the whooshing in my right ear became deafening, drowning me in pink noise.
he was gone.
we were fine.
i had ordered indian on tuesday, or was it monday. it was after the weekend for sure. i open the styrofoam container and smell the contents, close it and put it back in the fridge. i take a stack of stoned wheat thins from the package and stand at the counter dipping them one by one into a container of chunky peanut butter, chewing slowly. i put everything away and go to bed.
i walk alongside the other intern, down the street to get bagels and coffees for a meeting we aren’t invited to. she explains the plot of a show i’ve heard of but have never seen.
“did you see that episode? he came back but he’s played by a different actor. it’s like they think we won’t notice, like it doesn’t matter, you know?”
“that’s insane. anyways. you should”
at the store we get a half dozen poppy and a half dozen sesame, four containers of cream cheese and black coffees squeezed into recycled cardboard trays. we each slide a plastic bag into the crook of one elbow and grab a tray with each hand.
shane said he would call and we would go for sushi. neither happen. i stare into my phone willing it to react. i lay in bed thinking of all the more beautiful, more sophisticated and more adventurous women he most likely met since tuesday, or was it monday, when he’d last spent the night. peaches kneads her claws in and out of my thigh. in. out. giving up on shane and sushi and text messages, i pack up my work clothes, more boxy and shiny than my life clothes, and walk 4 blocks to the laundromat. i am trying not to stare at three girls, most likely friends and not sisters, the only other people inside. they speak slowly and methodically to each other, the two smaller ones slightly more quiet than the tall one. they dress in a way i had always planned to. i watch them as the tall one hoists herself up onto the counter and the other two continue folding their clothing. pulling hot t-shirts from the dryer and giving them a hard snap before lovingly folding them into retail perfect packages.
standing at the bathroom mirror investigating my eyebrows i meditate on the three girls from the laundromat. i measure myself against them. their ease to my austerity, their confidence to my cowardice, their closeness to my solitude. i pluck two hairs and decide i’ve made things worse. accidentally stepping into a small pool of water on the bathroom floor I consider the time required to remove my tights and find a new pair, then slide on my boots and leave for work.
on my way to and from work i pass slowly by the laundromat shifting only my eyes in an attempt to be inconspicuous. the need to see them feels stronger than any crush or curiosity. like they have something that’s rightfully mine. they have it and i need it back. of course they are not there, they did laundry yesterday. I am embarrassed to be seen with myself.
i make a tuna sandwich with apples in it.
i listen to a podcast where the man has a soothing voice.
i block shane on my phone.
i get bagels and coffees for executives.
i google how to unblock contacts.
i take echinacea for a cold i might be getting.
i eat spaghetti with nutritional yeast and butter.
i scroll infinitely through stranger’s photos.
i swipe right.
i watch people compete for a husband on tv.
they are sitting on the bench of front of the laundromat smoking and leaning into each other. enough time has passed. i am compelled to run at them and away from them simultaneously, ripping my body in half. king soloman’s judgement. i can’t be totally sure but i think i stop existing. i am in my room grabbing at clothing and throwing it into a canvas bag. i am in the laundromat getting quarters from a machine. i am sitting on the bench next to them. i am listening.
they speak to each other the way i had been replaying in a loop in my mind. their words come out slowly and carefully like each one is first being chewed. i can barely make out what they’re saying but the resonance alone is the fix i’ve been craving. their way and their air. i flip aimlessly through my phone. i open the voice app and start to record.
their clothes are dry and folded. placed gently into bags made for just that occasion. they collect their things and exit the laundromat. i open the dryer where my still wet clothes are being tossed around. i throw them into my bag, the wetness seeping through, and follow them home.
curled up on my own sofa with headphones on listening to my recording i understand nothing in the muffles but the sound of their voices against the passing traffic and the low rumble of the laundromat makes me high, my skin is electric, my organs are hot. shaking open a green garbage bag i start purging my closet, my drawers, my laundry basket. i eat 4 spicy olives, 2 spoonfuls of hummus and a peach with a soft spot. i turn off the lights, climb into bed and close my eyes listening to the vibrations. i wake with one earbud still in and the other hanging loose. the cord has pressed a snaking line into my swollen cheek.
i consider cutting out gluten or dairy or both.
i buy an eyebrow pencil.
i browse stores for things they would like.
i eat 17 peanut m&ms.
i buy bath salts for aligning my chakras.
i walk by the laundromat.
i watch a youtube video on messy braids.
I swipe right.
I go through old facebook photos and untag myself.
i eat samosas from a styrofoam container.
i walk by their house.
the sign is neon orange, it says ‘for rent’. i rent it. i pack the few things i haven’t ridded myself of into boxes from the liquor store. i move in. they are upstairs.
i can feel their energy in the walls and the air, i can hear their hush, their drone, their silence. i can hear crying and accompanying whispers and coos. i call in sick to work to sit still with my eyes closed listening to the shuffle and the tears. i hear them outside and watch through the window. the tall one has swollen eyes, the other two hover like bees.
i want to reach up through the floorboards and hold her, braid her hair and tell her she’s beautiful.
at work i consolidate spreadsheets, prepare conference rooms, apologize for late replies to emails on behalf of a man. the other intern and i go for a drink after work. she is dull. she wears a thin silver bangle with ‘you are my sunshine’ embossed in it. i swallow a lump in my throat thinking about whose sunshine she might be. i drink two more glasses of wine than i plan to. my face is flushed. i buy more wine on the way home. i stop outside my building and find myself at the top of the stairs knocking on their door. i’m extending the wine as a gift. i’m inside on their sofa. we are talking. i am outside of myself. i am fighting to find air.
the reason for her crying is named chris. he has caused her pain. deep pain. unfixable pain. violating pain. intrusive pain. he has caused the same pain in multiple women. all of his ugly has come to light now. there is a facebook group. we finish the wine but there is more. there is gin. the smallest one rolls a joint with nimble fingers. i am high. i am alive. i am electric. our words get lost in the heady smoke. we make violent plans, we drink and smoke and cry and laugh off the plans as make-believe. everything feels suddenly euphoric and i can feel the bond we are forming for life. in this evening, in this exact moment. it is just as i suspected they were waiting for me and i was waiting for them, i can feel it. i look at all their lips moving as they speak in their way, including me now in the slow careful conversation. i try to match my cadence to theirs. we drink until the talking gets faster and more hysterical. more vicious, more furious.
we are putting our shoes on, we are outside, we say we are getting more wine. we are standing on the sidewalk in front of his apartment. we are making violent plans again. we are inside his apartment. there is shoving and a quilted throw pillow. chaos and abandon. a transference of energy and strength. i am protecting her, i am protecting them, i am protecting us. silence.
we walk all together in the dark, each one in their own universe, down the middle of the empty street. swimming in the aphotic zone. there are no words exchanged, no directions shared. i look at my own feet to see they are bare, hadn’t i been wearing shoes before this all fell apart. a cab honks, swerving around us when no one scatters from the street, leering, yelling foreign obscenities. the whooshing in my right ear becomes deafening, drowning me in pink noise.
he is gone.
we are fine.
Amy Johnson is a Designer, Writer, Thinker, Mother & Lover living in Montreal, Quebec.