Sitting on the floor of the kitchen, Alex nursed the dregs of the third breakfast vodka. This was the last one of the morning, more because there was no vodka left in the apartment rather than any real desire to stop at just three. At least the pretence of being a fancy Bloody Mary imbiber had fallen away once the celery gone limp in the fridge. It was just vodka neat after that for the last few weeks to get prepared for the outside world. Gently swirling the glass, the final sip coating the inside, running back down in rivulets to coalesce in the bottom, dragging out that final hit, that final kick. Swirling, watching the patterns, the forms that the vodka made, looking like water, but just that bit different from water that there was no fooling. Alex slowly got lost in those patterns, those swirls, that alcohol.
A phone buzzed from the bench top above. Jolting back out of the glass, Alex sighed and knocked back the last of the vodka. It would have to do for the day. Until lunchtime. Until Alex could find a café where a drink wouldn’t look out of place at ten in the morning. Alex would need that for what was to come. People to see. Things to do. Unpleasant things. Things that would drive a person to drink. But between now and then there was bound to be a café that would oblige. But between now and then, Alex had to get up and deal with what the vodka couldn’t.
Standing upright, Alex unbuttoned her shirt. She carefully zipped open her chest and unhooked her sternum. She pulled a paring knife from the knife-block and reaching in behind her lungs, gently severed her heart. She gently nestled it – still beating – amongst the blood red pomegranates and scarlet apples in the fruit bowl. Colour coördinated. Watching it pulse gently while she did herself back up, re-hooking her sternum, zipping up her chest; she knew taking it out was the right thing to do today. She wasn’t going to need it, not today. Her heart would only be a hinderance.
Alex grabbed her bag and made her way out the door, glancing back at the fruit bowl. No, best to be without it today.
The eyes that stared back were unwavering. They’d seen too much to be overly bothered by his appearance today. Still, his own reflection was a bit of a surprise. He had no idea how haggard he had become in the last few months. It had been a long, hard slog. He’d watched it all and observed so much. One more day of this, a few hours maybe. Then it would all be done.
Greg finished drying himself, got dressed. Came back to stare at himself in the mirror just a bit longer. Just enough to get what hair was left in order and his tie straight. He made sure he had everything he was going to need with him, best to be organised. His bag for the day on the bench with his sunglasses, wallet and house keys in his left pocket, phone in his right. One last check of his hair to make sure, last check to make sure all was correct.
He picked up the spoon and carefully slid it behind his right eye and popped it out into his waiting hand. Placing it carefully in an awaiting jar, he topped the jar up with saline while he could still see. He then repeated the procedure with his left. Greg had seen too much lately, way too much. He didn’t need to see anything else today. No more, no more.
He felt carefully for his glasses and put them on; one extra barrier. He found his bag and slung it over his shoulder. Watching himself as he made his way out the bathroom, Greg just hoped that he would have it in him to put them back in when he returned tonight.
Alex looked up at the waiter as the Bloody Mary was deposited on her table and remembered to smile a thank you. Turning back to her drink, she marvelled at the fact that the addition of tomato juice and the celery stick she was now mixing in the tabasco with converted an evening cocktail to a perfectly acceptable breakfast drink. A quick sip confirmed that her surreptitious request for a double had been honoured. With her heart in the fruit bowl and her thought processes being slowly dampened, Alex waited for the last of the requirements for today to drop into place. She had a good view of outside, she’d see him coming.
The Bloody Mary ran out just as her steak sandwich was being placed in front of her. Sucking the last of the vodka from the celery, she asked for another. She couldn’t risk thinking, not now. A quick glance at the plate and she knew she had what she needed. Another fake smile as a thanks as she accepted the next drink and slowly unwrapped the knife and fork. Placing them beside the plate, she forgot about the sandwich, kept one hand on the table, drank with the other, and waited.
So she could see.
Greg walked down the city street, navigating the chaotic crowds as her went. Not that he could see them, he was still staring at the back of the bathroom door. But he could sense them, the people, the creatures, the cars, the buildings. He could feel them as he went. As least he was here in the now. He could deal with this today, just the now.
Which is why he didn’t see the woman suddenly step out from the café and leap at him. They both went down to the footpath, her on top, almost emotionless, knife to his throat, pinning his arms down and grabbing at his glasses.
“Give them to me. I need to see.”
He did all he could to stifle the laughter as his glasses went flying out into the path of a courier van. Greg stared up into Alex’s face, the steak knife at the corner of his eye, ready to remove his them. He looked at her with his dark empty sockets.
She started running her hands down his jacket, his shirt, his pants. “Where are they? I need to see them.” She emptied his bag out onto the street, ignoring the coins as they bounced down the hill, combing through what came out. They weren’t there. He was blind to the future.
Alex knelt back onto his chest and pushed the knife into his throat, just enough to draw a drop of blood.
“I will push this all the way through if you don’t give them to me.”
Greg tilted his head towards her, sensing her, finding her in his memory of what was to happen.
“No Alex, you don’t.”
It wasn’t a hope, it was a statement of fact. It was a memory of tomorrow that he he saw yesterday.
“I need to see them. What gives you the right to deny me that?”
“No Alex, you don’t need to. You want to, but you don’t need to. I could, I could let you see them, but you’ll hate both of us if I were to allow it. You won’t cope. I barely cope and I was born to this – the before the tomorrow of now, I see it all. I don’t want to, but someone has to.”
Alex slumped back off Greg, the adrenaline having burnt off the day’s rations of vodka. She knew her heart was currently dancing a foxtrot with the pomegranate. Alex knew he was right, she didn’t need to. Her kids were gone, they weren’t in her future. She wouldn’t see them again in this life, not with her eyes, not with Greg’s. Whichever seabed the yacht was laying on, that’s were her children and husband were. That was their grave. Their unplanned burial in the depths.
Greg was right, she didn’t need to see.