Into the Dark
Author's note: I like music A LOT. When I listen to songs, I mainly enjoy listening to their lyrics, trying to... Show full author's note »
1219.92 HOURS BEFORE THE END, November 1, midnightLaughing, Bob and Becca Hale kiss harshly outside of the restaurant. He squeezes her butt, she giggles loudly, and they clasp each other’s hands. Their breath bellows out in puffs from their wrinkled mouths, and Bob strokes Becca’s stark white hair. She places her hand on Bob’s wrinkled cheek, and kisses the other one. Half of his face is nonresponsive from a stroke he had when he was seventy-five, so she makes sure to peck the one that can feel. They suck in their mutual smell of old spices and laundry, missing momentarily their sense of taste. Bob wraps his arms around his wife of sixty years, and they depart from the parking lot.
Inside the restaurant, a young man is watching the older couple show this magnificent affection, then faces his own wife of a year. They are not speaking or touching. She threads a piece of string that came off her costume through her fingers, in such deep concentration he almost feels guilty for interrupting. Then, he doesn’t feel bad anymore. “I can’t believe you.” He declares quietly. She remains silent. She scrapes her finger on the table, trying desperately to remove a splash of petrified tomato sauce. “How long?”
“A while,” she says, her voice meek. He leans over the table and puts his hand on both of hers, trying to stop the incessant movement. She refuses to stop, continuing under his hands. He cries in exasperation and slaps her fingers. She moans and leans into her seat, tilting her chin up so he can’t see her eyes. The smell of fresh banana pancakes wafts from the kitchen. “Can I have some of those?” She whispers to the ceiling. The waitress looks worriedly at them. His hands are covering his face. The waitress returns, places the banana pancakes in front of Cath, and scurries back into the kitchen. She bends back over and shovels pancakes into her gaping mouth. She looks up and hits his arm. Startled, he glances up, his cheeks wet. “Stop being such a buzz kill.” She winces, immediately regretting it.
“Are you f*ing kidding me?” he shouts, his voice shaking. He won’t even wipe his eyes, which she knows should cause her pain, but it doesn’t. She shrugs, continuing to eat. He stands up, rubbing his face with his jacket, and goes up to the bar. He orders a bacon vanilla milkshake. When the waitress brings it back to him, he takes a long sip, enjoying the complicated explosion of sweet ice cream and salty bacon. He wraps his hand around the glass and carries it back to the table. His palm is damp and cold by the time he sits down, and he rubs the frozen hand on his red pants. “You should try this, Cath.”
“I don’t really want to,” she says after a moment, pushing her syrupy plate away from her. Her face looks pale and skeletal, like she is truly just bone. Jason shrugs and bends down to take another sip. He weaves his fingers through his hair and supports his head, drinking in the sweet, salty combination in a single sip. Cath stares at the ring glowing on her finger, twisting it around and pausing whenever the gleaming little triangle of obsidian would come around. “You think we could have been like them?” she inquires, still watching her ring turn and turn and turn. He lifts his head from his drink, his brow crinkled.
“That old couple you were staring at.”
“You noticed that?”
“I notice everything you do.”
He pauses at that, and then groans. He stands up, throws a twenty on the table, and trudges out of the restaurant. They walk back to their apartment building in silence, the cold freezing their noses.
She feels Bixby’s hand on her back, but somehow receives no warmth from it. She is stiff, not giving but also not taking. Not anymore. Bixby moves his hand to her neck, steering her into the creaking elevator. Her skin does not even react to his cold fingers. “This elevator smells like s***,” she murmurs. Bixby does not say a word as he presses their floor number: 24. “Or maybe roses.”
After a moment, he says, “Those are a little different.”
“Not much,” Cath retorts, popping a mint into her thins, red lips. The chill spreads through her mouth and electrifies her tongue. Now, every part of her body is cold. “Can I have your jacket?”
“We’re almost in our apartment.” After she doesn’t respond, Bixby pulls off the navy blue sweatshirt and passes it to her. She holds it in her hands, staring at it. He puts his arm around her shoulders, and she feels him shiver against her much colder body.
“You can have it back.”
“I don’t want it.”
“Well, I don’t either.”
“What do you want?”
She doesn’t know how to answer.
The elevator door squeals out a sound like gears churning, and the doors slowly creak open. “This building is broken,” she states as she walks out.
“So are we,” Bixby murmurs. Cath freezes, her back to him. He does not get out of the elevator. She moves like a glacier, turning her frail body back to him. Tears are filling up in her eyes, threatening to spill over down her cheeks. The elevator doors begin to shut, but she puts her hand out and stops them. Her fragile fingers can barely hold back the much stronger metal doors. “We’re leaving tomorrow.”
Her hand falls feebly to her side. “You don’t call me butterfly anymore,” she whispers. “Why?” He shrugs, quickly wiping his face. But he knew why. He steps out of the elevator slowly. It closes firmly behind them. He breathes through his nose, which makes Cath think of that bull they saw in Spain for their honeymoon. She hated the bulls, and hates him for leaving her. He walks past her, towards their door. She holds his jacket, and brings it to her face. She screams into it, absorbing the smell of bacon, s***, and roses.