A bellow of thunder rolling along the stormfront disrupts his attempt to listen into the house’s chatter to decipher his wife’s voice. He waits for the eruption to pass, pressing the bridge of his eyeglasses and sucking some rainwater from his mustache with his lower lip. The TV has gone to late-night commercial, and something is off with the signal, as the audio pitches nauseatingly back and forth pitch-shifting like an L.P. on a bias-tilted turntable, rushing into a vehicle repair insurance adverts at breakneck chipmunk squabbling, and the lagging into a drawling solipsistic recounting of mental medical conditions and valium solutions. All of them steadily battered by the raindrops fisting the plate glass without breaking the barrier.
“I … *** … used … to *** put … … *** … my feel … ings *** on … [in the liquid kettle of communication, he could swear that Deja vu, wow, he would swear that time had slightly rewound itself for a moment] … on *** … hold.used … to *** put … my feel … ings *** of victimhood *** front … and center… *** … of feel *** ings ***”
Whether it was a fuse blown by feedback from a lightning strike or masonry-creeping moisture seeped into the panel again or the howling mad wind shoved a weakling evergreen to the pavement tearing down high tension wire as it fell, the lights, exhausted, bow out. He could already imagine himself taking off his glasses, placing their arm between his teeth and puzzling out how to reset the microwave clock time, and its angry neon blinking, as if lost at sea without a compass or lighthouse — to be atemporally detached in a world of gears must be terrifying. As terrifying as waking naked and muddy in the morning wood with no idea what direction town is. What if you hadn’t spent youth in arcades, priming yourself to become one with entertainment, leaning into the circular Pac-Man, hungry for ghost meat, reeling back the fairy tale, picking up the breadcrumbs of where you’re going to be. Trying to remember how you didn’t get here. You can’t but end up at the beginning, and if you care enough to return to the last place you’ve been, you can use the wormhole to bypass the exhalation of time, and inhale deeply, mountain atoms of air drunk into your lungs. And if you pull back far enough in the frame you become the Atari. And then things start to get very weird.
It’s hard not to feel lost in your own home when your companion electricity defaults on friendship. He parses through his gut’s instinctual apprehension of the sudden darkness, recognizing stomach acid spritzy slushing, wrenching and hollowness. He keeps himself from becoming actively amygdally fearful, but only through a micro-meditation of counting and closing his eyes while measuring the breath in.
“Honey, are you there?”
He tries hard not to think the worst, and truth is, it’s not likely that she’d pass so soon, but she’s been having so much trouble sleeping lately, tossing and turning in the turmoil of her prognosis, the oxygen pegs that kept tearing out of her nose while she had her seizures, and the cackling whish of air that came squirting out, sending the tubing spinning like a water snake. But she’s been so tired, if she is asleep, he’d best not wake her, and certainly not with a gruff hounding that demanded answers.
Tiptoe it is.
As if they were the frames of his glasses he places the thin plastic sheet sacks of bundled medicines between his teeth, and wiggles quietly out of his muggy denim pants, resolved to clean up the mud prints in the morning. He nearly tumbles in the act, but lodges his buttocks against the wood of the door, chilly laminate on the backs of his thighs. Thunder snaps as the jeans fall, a twig lurches at the window, goaded by the serpentine wind, and he realizes he needs to remember that his car keys and wallet are in his jeans, aware the while he’s most likely apt to forget. Tomorrow’s a work day, he can’t squander a morning rifling through the kitchen.
Still toting the bag with his teeth, he undoes his fleece and tosses it on top his filthy mud-infused pants as best he can in the pitch dark. They all need to be washed at this point anyhow. No electric hums anywhere to numb the ears. Oh God, and she’s got her supplements in the fridge… if they go off…
Old Merc is around here somewhere, and dog toys like caltrops clutter the floor in the living room, so he lifts his legs high and places them down gingerly as the man negotiates the minefield. He leans on the back of the sofa, hoping that his eyes have by now adjusted somewhat to the absence of light. He realizes that he still has the CVS bag in his mouth and shakes a self-critical pout as he returns it to his hands.
Is this a lasting treasure
Or just a moment’s pleasure?
Can I believe the magic of your sighs?
Will you still love me tomorrow?
—Carole King, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow
A loud, unfamiliar measured voice from the bleak of the kitchen cuts through the rain pelting on the asphalt and startles him — with so much stark fright that he loses balance and his knees buckle, taking him to the ground.
“I see you there.” It said.