So two days ago I got home from work and packed a bag. I didn't know where I was going and I didn't care and it didn't matter. Now I'm here and I still don't care and it still doesn't matter. But I'm here.
I can see the sea from this shitty window in this shitty guest house, or at least I could earlier, before it got dark. I can still hear it though and the damp salt air creeps through the gap where the window doesn't close completely, working its way into my lungs like stone fingers.
I might have been up all night after I got here, but I don't know. There was pacing and drinking and pulling scabs off my knuckles, but I didn't look at the clock even though it was looking at me. Then I must have slept because I woke up and it was almost evening again. I drank some more and I puked so hard I burst a blood vessel in my eye and maybe I ate something, but I don't remember what, and I slept again and then it was today.
I had a shower, as hot as I could get it, and I'm clean now, in some ways that aren't so important. I closed my eyes under the water and let it burn my face and chest like stripping my skin off with lye. I needed it though. It did something for me, something good, something necessary.
And now it's dark and I feel like I'm in prison even though I can walk out the door any time I want. Prison might be four walls, but it also might be madness and I keep saying the word prison over and over in my head so it doesn't sound like a real thing at all. I turned off my phone sometime after I got here and I don't want to look at it. I don't want to deal with it. I'm meant to be back at work tomorrow and I don't want to deal with any of it.
I need to get out of here.
I need to get out of everywhere.
I walk out of the guest house and past the little coffee place on the corner that I want to go into when I'm a real person again. It's called Alchemy and the name would make me smile if I could smile right now. I keep trying to because I want to make my lips bleed, but there are small tremors running through my face and nothing makes the shapes it's supposed to. The thing Byron said about the brain hemorrhage keeps coming back to me and I want to hit my head again just to see what happens.
The streets are empty because the only people here in November are the people who live here and they have more sense than to be outside. But you. You. I see you under a flickering streetlight, near the coffee place with the name. I can't see the sea on your skin, but I recognise you anyway and there's a twitch in my fingers. I almost expect you to recognise me too, but you don't know me.
You're looking at the ground, lost in your head and the shadows around your feet. I don't want to start a conversation, but I want to start something. I need to feel something break inside me. Something else. The car didn't do it, but maybe you can. I've always trusted in the ability of the universe to send exactly what I need when I want to be broken.
We're about to pass each other and my reflexes kick in hard enough that my hand moves of its own accord and your wrist feels like iron in my grip.
And you stop.
There's concrete under my feet, but I feel like I'm standing at the water's edge, facing down a tidal wave. I don't want to swing for you first, but I will if that's what it takes.
I steel myself for cracking bones and with the force of your weight behind the first punch the inside of my cheek splits open against my teeth. It feels. Fucking. Incredible. It's always felt good, but never this good. Maybe no-one's ever truly meant it before, but you do. I feel like you mean it every time and I can't explain how I know there's an every time with you, but I know there's going to be.
Whatever's been wound tightly inside of me lets go and there's nothing but impact after impact, everything I need. Prison has been replaced on the conveyor belt in my head with alchemy and it means everything and nothing at all.
Finally, stillness finds us both, equal parts unstoppable force and immovable object. Your face is a mess, which is completely my doing, and it's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.
"What the fuck is wrong with you?" Blood trickles from the corner of your mouth as you speak and you don't seem to notice, but I want to taste it. I commit that to the part of my memory that deals in imaginary happenings so I can return to it later, in case this doesn't go how I'm hoping.
I say nothing. There's nothing to say. This whole thing is so perfectly unintentional and I couldn't have asked for better. I'm returning to myself.
You speak again. "What the fuck is this?"
It's one of those rare moments when time's shocked into stillness. A few seconds stretch out into an eternity of high-definition slow motion, cause and consequence. It feels like an ending and a beginning and an entire turn of the wheel all at once. We shouldn't be here in this moment, in this place, but through a collision of accident and decision, we are. Watching ourselves and each other from outside and inside and before and after, waiting for whatever comes next.
Or maybe that's just how I see it after a few heavy blows to the head. Still no brain hemorrhage that I'm aware of.
I answer you.
"It's how we meet."
YOU ARE READING
Winter FollowsGeneral Fiction
One month, one city, five lives colliding with the forces of fate. A thrill-seeking tech genius with an appetite for dangerous extremes. A retired contract killer fighting to escape his past and himself. An underworld driver tempted deeper into a li...