Hands tremble as she fumbles with the last of her cigarettes. It’s been days since she’d found a fix. She hasn’t slept. The walls in her apartment make it feel more like an elevator than a home. Today, she got lucky. Today she could get back to feeling normal, but what was the point?
“How the hell did I end up here?” She mumbles to herself with the final flick of her bic.
Smoke fills her lungs and twirls in front of her thin fingertips. No one is there with her, but she continues to speak quietly, as if that’s the only way her demons will hear.
It seems like just yesterday she was loading down her car and heading off to a better life. Something that happened seldom in the small town where she was raised in. No one ever got out of there, not alive anyway.
It all happened so quickly. Bastard came out of nowhere; ran that red light like it was invisible.
“One too many beers and the world around you just seems to… disappear.” She inhales sharply, remembering. So much glass. So much blood. She can still taste it.
Physical therapy could only do so much. It wasn’t long before the orange bottles were rolling around empty on the floor of that old Honda, and she was scrounging for change for her next refill.
That’s how it started. The little orange bottles. That drunk bastard and that damn red light.
“Why was I even at that intersection?!” her voice is louder now. Frustration curling the corners down like hotel bed linens.
Before the accident she had options. Her future was bright. She had a family, friends, and a great job. Anything she put her mind to she mastered. She could have been anything, anyone, and the world didn’t seem so…
“Dark and empty.” She shakes her head and takes another drag.
It couldn’t be more different now. Her mind and body were failing her. She didn’t have the energy to brush her hair even on the best days. Others, she was lucky if she got out of bed. Her friends and family were gone. She’d spent too many hours trying to feel normal, and not enough with them. They only checked in to make sure she wasn’t dead.
She goes back to that intersection for another brief moment. If it wasn’t for her, he wouldn't have been there at all.
A smile forms, only briefly. The thought of him soothes her momentarily, until she realizes that he’s gone too. They’ve left her to rot in this coffin sized apartment where the rents is 2 months past due.
Extinguishing the cigarette, pushing herself off the couch, she makes her way down the hall. Sweat kisses the small of her back, but her skin is freezing cold. No one would be here to wake her if she ever fell asleep, and that was her own damn fault.
Or was it? This could be all part of gods plan, right? What god would plan for someone to struggle like this? What god would leave her alone, scared, and praying for death?
“Not my god,” she chuckles sarcastically to herself as she bends as much as her back will allow to turn on the shower. Warm water feels nice. Maybe she’d have enough to stay in the tub for a while.
She hasn’t turned a light on in days, terrified of the electric bill she can’t pay. She fills the empty shampoo and conditioner bottles with water. It’s diluted more than once over, but it’ll have to do.
Carefully, she lifts the back of her knees, one at a time, and lowers herself into the pooling water. Minding her legs, she glances briefly towards her cracked cell phone just out of reach. A sigh of relief escapes her lips as her body finally finds the bottom of the dingy tub. It had been months since anyone had cleaned it. She couldn't manage on her own anymore.
She let's the tub fill only partly, and shut the water off, hoping to save some warmth for later. If she could only just lie in this tub forever, maybe she'd finally feel okay. Wishful thinking, of course, was just as indulgent as ever these days. Letting her muscles relax as much as possible, she gives in and sinks below the surface. Water tickles her ear lobes and smoothes her hair to the nape of her neck. There is no relief from the pain. She enjoys a moment of stillness before her legs start to spasm. The muscles tense just below her hips.
Readjusting her body is quite a feat. It takes all her strength to pull herself upright. Her palms are wet and slip from the grimy tub lips.
Closing her eyes she imagines a river bank just before sunset. A beer in one hand, his in the other, her head on his chest. His breathing excites her, his heartbeat is keeping the time. He lifts his hand gently, brushing strands of hair from her face. A quick tuck behind her ear, and a kiss on her nose brings color to her cheeks.
"I think we'd better get going. It's getting dark. We're going to have a damned time getting the tent packed up in the dark." He whispers.
"Can't we stay? Just one more day?" She replied.
Another wave of pain snaps her back to reality. This time it's not the same. Her body is rigid, her heart is near collapse. A tear rolls down her face.
She leans into her memory and runs a little more water. Sliding beneath the warmth entirely this time. She remembers just how happy she'd been in that moment. She remembers how relaxed they'd been the next day. Waking up to the sunrise and packing their things, she'd never have guessed it would end up this way.
Trembling now, she inhales a sharp breath. She can't stop the memory from forming. She goes back to that intersection for another brief moment. If it wasn’t for her, he wouldn't have been there at all. If she'd only not asked him for one more day.