June 12, 2013
Loneliness started to grip me at times, so strong and pervasive that I often thought it was the new way of things; that the hard heavy feeling had laid strong roots in my insides and would flower and produce rotten fruit for the rest of my days. It always passed, yet I never learned to anticipate the eventual relief. There were speedy nights, when the medication hit me wrong and I stared into the dark for hours, prayed for a new day, and was haunted by my own Ritalin-addled mind. I’d never be sure if I was asleep or not. I heard Jake call out to me.
Zelda shook me awake and held me and shushed me like a baby. She ran her hands through my damp sweaty hair and told me it was all right, that I was ok. She said it was just a bad dream and then asked if I remembered what I was dreaming about.
“Jake,” I said.
“I’ll get you some water,” she said and got up from the bed.
“Can you get me a Seconal from the medicine cabinet?”
“It’s three in the morning,” she said in a way that clearly meant no.
“Get me a Seconal,” I said sternly, as if I meant to put my foot down with my words. I immediately regretted my tone and followed softly with, “It doesn’t matter. I’ve got no job to go to, no people to see. I can sleep all day.”
Zelda flipped on the lights with anger. She turned the faucet on full blast, and opened and closed the medicine cabinet doors as one does when alone mid-day. She grabbed my meds and shook them like a rattle. She filled a glass with water, and set it down in a manner consistent with her well-asserted state of aggression. She turned the light off and I heard the warning rattle of my pills in her hand and then the whoosh of displaced air as the pill bottle flew through the air and struck me flush on the forehead.
“What the fuck, babe?”
“I’m over this,” she said and flipped the lights back on. “It’s time to get your shit together.”
“It’s three in the morning,” I said and pulled the pillow over my face. “Can’t we talk about this in daylight hours?” I searched the bed for the pills and once I found them I took two.
“No,” she said. “I’m sick of it, you need to get a job and start pitching in around here. I’m sick of picking up your dirty socks, and cleaning your plates, and your general mess. You steal my cigarettes and that fucking bag is in the same spot you dropped it when you moved in, it smells.” She kept yelling at me as the Seconal dragged me into a deep and dreamless sleep.
I started staying out later each night. Zelda didn’t much appreciate it. After a few weeks we just stopped talking to one another and there was nothing in the apartment but silence and stress. Even when she was mad or upset, or we weren’t talking; she’d still hold me and take care of me when I woke from my fever dreams. When she’d finally had enough, she’d throw something at me. I understood the frustration, but somehow lacked the strength to care enough about her. When I woke from my Seconal sleep around four PM, I took my duffel bag to the laundromat.When I returned to her home she was already in bed and the lights were out. I dropped the bag in the corner, took my clothes off, and sidled up behind her. She felt distant and I had this strong urge, a need, to win her over.
“I cleaned all the clothes in the bag,” I said.
“Good for you.”
“I did the dishes.”
“I put them away,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’ve been terrible. I’m going to get better at it, I promise.”
“You smell,” she said and turned to me and hugged me and kissed my face.
In the morning I woke to find Zelda in the kitchen, clanging about happily. She had made me breakfast and for some reason the gesture stirred a great resentment in me, like she was rubbing it, the fact that I need taking care of. I repressed the feeling as best as I could and smiled and gave her a great big good morning kiss.
“Do you want to meet for lunch?” she said. Her back was to me as she pushed eggs around in the pan.
“Sure,” I said even though I didn’t. There was something about love and generosity that made me unhappy. All Zelda wanted to do was spend time with me and be nice to me and that bothered me. If only she held her disdain for me. That hate triggered some kind of need inside me.
Timmy Waldron is the author of World Takes: Stories Designed to Amuse from Word Riot Press (2009). His work has been published by Serving House Journal, Keyhole Magazine, Mud Luscious Press, Dogzplot, Necessary Fiction, Sententia, and Monkeybicycle. He is the Assistant Editor of The Literary Review and an Editor of Best New Writing.