Everything feels a little sticky and dry and I scratch my entire body. She tells me to stop, even grabs my hand. I always stop for a while but then the stick, the itch; it all comes back and I have to carry on. The television is still there but the credits are long finished and I don’t remember what movie it was but I know I will never watch it again. Lighting a cigarette I turn to her and can’t help but smile. She is tired and she yawns and it reminds me of some kind of small animal; a shrew or a mouse. A church mouse.
I toke on the cigarette and look away, back towards the television. It’s getting hotter by the minute and I can smell the dirt in the room, a grimy combination, so I look at her again and she smiles back at me, her eyes wide, lips slightly moist. I tap her on the nose with one finger and she smiles wider. I toke and blow the smoke towards her. She closes her eyes and my heart melts. I take her head in both arms and pull her towards me so that she is resting on my chest. She rubs my stomach with her hand and everything is suddenly blissful. I close my eyes and all I am aware of is this safe feeling, a comfort, like nothing I’ve ever felt.
The butt starts to burn my lips so I stub it out on the side of the coffee table. To reach the ash tray I would have to move her and she’s breathing deeply now, meaning she’s almost asleep. ‘Fuck the table,’ I whisper. I’d burn it to ash before I’d ever wake her. It’s five in the afternoon and we both drift away on that sofa in my living room in a cloud of smoke as the boiler hums and the rabbit hops around.
When I wake up I’m alone and I wonder where she is, I wonder why I can’t hear her banging around in the kitchen or bathroom. I shrug and begin to roll a joint, smoke it, think hard. What day is it? It’s Sunday. Does she work today? No. Did she have to go home and get something? No. She practically lives here and has everything she needs. To get food? Again, no. I think and I think until I’m absolutely convinced that something awful has happened. The misery sinks in so savagely that I begin to shake, but then just as suddenly I stop, realising that I’m a fucking moron and should just call her.
My phone is not in my pocket and it’s not on the table and it’s not on the floor and it’s not in my room or the kitchen and it’s not stuck down the side of the sofa or under a plate in the kitchen or still in my bed or outside by the bench or anywhere I look. Misery grows.
I try to hold it off, standing up and shaking my limbs, before rushing towards the front door. I blast through it and make a left onto the street. There’s nobody around. I shudder from the chill, should have grabbed a jacket on my way out. Glancing from left to right, I decide which way to run. I close my eyes and think fuck it and run left down the street. Maybe it will turn out to be a lucky guess.
I pass nothing, not a sound nor a shape other than the houses. Nothing lives, everything just stands, rising into the darkness, pointed roofs and chimneys smokeless, empty brick upon brick. It is darker and colder than it should be and I run hard.
The road doesn’t end where it should. It just carries on. I turn back confused, spinning as I step along. I feel myself start to panic, start to lose it, so on I run while the road stretches out ahead. My heart flutters, stiffens, and I panic more. What is this? I stop running and should be short of breath but I’m surprised to realise I’m fine.
I carry on walking fast now, and still the road doesn’t end. It keeps going, reaching out in the darkness, that deepens as the street starts to narrow. The inky sky starts to close around me and soon I have to crouch low to walk. And then I’m crawling. On my knees I’m in a dark tunnel, coiled in darkness. I notice I am no longer scared and have forgotten what I’m doing. I’m focused only on crawling forward, crawling to the end of the tunnel, possessed by a need to see the other side. But it doesn’t come. I continue to crawl and crawl and I don’t think about anything else or remember anything else other than the fact that I must continue to crawl.
Days go by, weeks, or is it months? I cannot sense time. And still I crawl on my hands and knees down a black tunnel with no light at the end. I feel nothing and I think nothing until an itch on my forearm breaks the numbing darkness. I stop crawling and sit in the tunnel, my legs sprawled out. Words begin to move up the walls, white on the black, like credits in a movie, one that I cannot remember. There are hundreds of names that I don’t recognise and as I watch them dumbfounded I begin scratching my arm. I scratch it and it feels wonderful so I scratch harder and though I can’t see it I’m certain the skin has long turned red. I stop suddenly, remembering her, I remember why I’m here. She’s gone. I must find her.
I remember so many things, pictures without sounds roll out of the dark, fuzzed like a bad recording, replacing the meaningless names in firing out of the blackness. Then the images fade and a light appears, a tiny white light far away down the tunnel. I remember now, I remember why I’m here, who I am, my life. As I remember her the light starts to grow and I crawl towards it eagerly, alive. I feel the thump of pain in my knees, fear in my heart. I feel love. I crawl and as I do I realise it’s not her that’s disappeared, but me.