Well, I couldn’t squish this into a single post… I promise it won’t be too many. Welcome to my short foray into serial fiction…
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It was just a small apartment. I don’t know what I had really expected, but not something so patently vacant. It would end here? There was a dinged up coffee table, a faded olive sofa that didn’t match the carpet, a landslide of unsorted mail on the counter. A stain on the wall. It was a place abandoned—a place forgotten. I imagined the current occupant was probably spending nights over at his girlfriend’s. Or maybe he was backpacking in Europe. Finding himself. Falling easily into laughter. Smoking cigarettes. Cursing at something delightfully obnoxious. Everything in front of him.
I was jealous in a way.
Because I was here. Taking the full tour. Staring down the pain.
They told me before we came: we can only show you which wire it is. You have to be the one to cut it. If it depends on me, I thought, there could be a problem. Then Jesus had grabbed one of my shoulders in each of his hands and given a firm squeeze—had held me still, like he was cementing something into my middle. I wished I had seen doves lifting into the sky, but all I’d seen was a tub of that fake butter we used to eat growing up. I felt like abandoning myself altogether. I couldn’t match his willingness at all. Not even close. He said afterwards, when all this was over, even breathing would be a joy. He said we’d go somewhere and just breath together. Sky diving maybe. Lots of air up there. We had laughed.
Then they’d brought me here. They led me through the door and sat me on the couch. Slid the coffee table out of the way. Made the room an empty space. I was already starting to feel it then. The pressure. The need to be somewhere else. Couldn’t we go out for a sandwich? Why couldn’t we just do that? Just sit by the window and talk about something philosophical while we watched people wobble down the street. Maybe I could achieve the purest realization that way, too. What did method matter?
Last night, every so often but never quite relenting, you could hear the wind-up of tinny engines straining on their mounts. There’s something farcical about the sound of beater cars trying to haul ass down the alley back there. All those meshugganahs gunning their way through the modern ruins. They all think they’re going somewhere. To them, the act of accelerating is perfectly reasonable, but all I could hear was something hungry in the sound of their passing. The sounds didn’t stick. They just glanced off the sides of buildings and dissipated into the darkness.
We had talked some during the night, but mostly they’d been in the next room working. Out of sight. Preparing… listening… making sure.
Jesus was at the window now, peeking out through a gap in the curtains. Waiting patiently. Earlier he’d made the rounds one last time. Walked along the outer wall, then down the hall and through the bedroom. Across the hall into the bathroom. Back through the kitchen. He took slow, measured steps. I could see his mouth moving occasionally, as if he were whispering to someone, but I couldn’t hear the words. I could just feel something rising– my commitment and my doubts together. A sea full of shattered timbers.
When he walked past the refrigerator, he paused, listening carefully. His breath slowed right down and his eyes closed. I pictured the guy who lived here swinging open that refrigerator door. I heard the rattle of condiment bottles, imagined him reaching for a beer. So effortless. So easy. Just because. Then Jesus was there, statuesque on the linoleum, receiving instructions. Setting a boundary. Discussing the matter that lay ahead of us with Power itself, with a woman perhaps.
All I could see was the way every fiber of his being was present, the way he seemed to be a conduit to places I could scarcely comprehend. Places that were arriving to set up camp. Doorways.
Now he was at the window, and Hafiz was handing me the snips. For cutting the wire. A bottle of water. A blanket. Nothing else.
“Feels like Gethsemane in here, doesn’t it?” It was meant to be a joke.
It just fell into the silence and disappeared. It stung.
They were slipping away from me, easing out of my space.
Hafiz, his back to me, was up on a step ladder in the hallway taking the batteries out of the smoke detector. Coming back through, he flicked the light switch one last time. No power. Good.
They were scanning the place for any last minute tasks. Any moment now, and they’d be gone. I was on the verge of tears—could almost taste the loneliness creeping in along the seams where the walls met the floor. Could sense the silence hiding in the folds of the curtains. Another whiny four-banger turned the corner and sped down the avenue outside. The noise faded, emphasizing the magnitude of something hollow into which I was slipping.
Hafiz kissed me on the forehead, silently, his hands on my cheeks, lingering for a moment, and walked out the front door. Jesus waited by the window for his cue. I could hear the faint whoo-hoos of a couple of boys on bikes from down the block. He took one last breath. A long one. Then he came over, leaned in and placed his cheek next to mine, his mouth close to my ear.
He told me to just let it come.
All of it.
Let it come.
My hand, holding the snips, was shaking.
Then he walked out, too, and the door clicked shut.