Window and Glass

By: Nickolus Gragg

A short story

            It's cold. It's always cold at 4:00 a.m. but this morning's chill seems to be burrow under my skin and into my bones. The window of my third story apartment is open. The drapes rustle rhythmically, endlessly against the white wall. The drapes are white and have a pattern of yellow daisies thrown across them. I suppose, considering it is late November, most people should have their windows closed. But I can't close mine anymore. Last night I picked up my only lamp and, running towards the wall, threw it into the glass. I needed to hear that sound… of crashing, of screaming prisms, of cacophonic wonders.

            It saved me last night; the window. It broke out. Not a single shard of glass landed on the apartment floor. A phenomenon? Maybe. All I know is that one of those prisms was going to find domicile in the lower layers of my skin. I needed that, too: pain.

            I'm sitting up now. My head rests against the wall behind it. The bed railing is digging into my back, but I can't feel it.

            In my hands rests a notebook. It is not big, but I don't need a lot of room. What I have to say will not fill a novel. It will be short; not sweet.

            Two cotton balls rest on the scarlet blanket. They are to my right, the hand I do not write with. Two other cotton balls are lodged in either of my nostrils. I have a bloody nose that is proving to be quite chronic.

            My hair drapes into my vision. Wearily, my reflexes lift my hand and push the fallen bangs back from my eyes. This is a very small task, but my arm collapses to my side and lies useless, as if it has been struck with catatonia.

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            It was 11:00 p.m. when I walked out the door of my apartment last night.

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            Slowly, I exhale and then suck in oxygen again. It sounds like a sigh, but I'm actually wheezing. My lungs don't want to expand and the back of my throat is on fire.

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            I left at 11:00 p.m. last night and climbed down the stairs of the apartment complex. They creaked, but I was careful and the sound was muffled.

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            I raise my hand once again and massage the back of my neck. I crane it forward then side to side.

            The orange digital numbers of my clock read 4:18. I've been staring at the notebook for an hour and a half… terrified.

            I can imagine how I must look. Albeit, I have not looked in a mirror since 10:30 p.m. last night, I had to comb my hair. Everyone wants to look nice for their date; even if you know they'll love you no matter how you look. If she could see me now… I don't know if that would hold truth. I know she would be disappointed; probably frightened.

            The fluorescent light in the kitchen is on. It sends cold, tree-finger like shadows across the green-brown carpet. They waver and strobe; pulsating like stars. I admit it's beautiful. Even when the beauty in my life is wrapped in cerecloth, I still see its majesty.

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            I walked out of the apartment and into the cold air last night. I moved briskly around the complex's corner and got into my Subaru Loyale. She didn't care about my car. Wouldn't have cared if I had had no car at all.

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            Next to my left leg is a book. It has two words written in bold, gold letters. The cover is stained leather. It is a long book, but I read it every night.

            I lift my hands and rub my temples. There is a forest fire raging in my head. It will get worse as insomnia ensues, but I'll bear it.

            The whites of my eyes are scarred with bloody bolts, I'm sure. I can't remember the last time I blinked, but it has been a while. I've been staring at memories for a few hours now.

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            It was Friday when I drove into the street. The city's lights glowed and burned as the car sputtered and accelerated. Before I knew it I was three miles from my apartment and my car had stopped in front of someone's house. I was walking toward the front door after climbing the three steps of a porch. My hand reached out for the doorbell and I practically jumped out of my skin as the door burst open.

            I felt arms close around me; the smell of perfume. I wrapped my arms around her waist. She pulled back slightly and pressed her soft lips against my cheek. I hugged tighter.

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            It's cold in here. I elect to move my legs under the blanket. The breeze stealing its way into my apartment is freezing, but it is placid and lovely. It brushes my neck and cools my throat as I try to breathe in.

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            Her hair tickled my face and I start to laugh. She joined me and we didn't stop until we were at least five minutes on our way.

            The lights danced off the windows and painted her face with yellow, phosphorescent streaks. She caught me staring at her about a million times as we drove, blushing always. I told her she was beautiful whenever I found a chance to steal a compliment, despite all those times that she would simply look away and say, "Whatever." But, I said it as we drove, and I think I might have caught a smile spread across her face… if only for a brief moment. We laughed again. I loved the way she laughed. I never got used to the way my heart leaped. Never would have, I promise you that.

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            The notebook tumbles from my lap. I'm exhausted. I can barely hold my eyelids from crashing together. Me stomach is growling. I haven't eaten in a while. If I can just stand up maybe I can eat a pop-tart. A pop-tart sounds nice right now; heavenly.

            I slide my legs out from underneath the blanket and they drop to the floor the instant the edge of the bed stops. The floor is freezing, but I'm too hungry to care. I can't feel it much anyway; my toes are too numb.

            I try to scoot out of the bed, but end up crumpling like a piece of paper and fall to the floor. My knee explodes with pain, but I manage to start crawling none the less. If I were not so hungry I would fall dead to the carpet right now, but my stomach roars and I'm off to the toddler races.

            It takes me forever to reach the kitchen. By the time I reach the porcelain counter my knees are bright red and raw from rug-burn. My back aches and my neck is so stiff it feels like my spinal cord has been fused. I stretch my arm as far as it can without tearing anything and get a weak grip on the counter. The porcelain is cold, but it's nothing to complain about; the goose bumps on my arms from the draft look like robin's eggs.

            The pop-tart does the trick and I make it back to my bed without any further troubles. I have a little energy now. I didn't know if I would ever eat again, but I find I have already begun to miss food.

            I crawl back under the blankets and close my eyes.

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            She looks at me again. Her eyes are deep russet. In this moment I will relive the rest of my life. I will flail my arms in vain as I imagine her dimples. When she smiles it makes her that much more severely cute. Every time I start to think I'll be pulled back into this moment. This moment in time when I wasn't in rehab; wasn't cutting myself. When I had never even seen a syringe much less used one nightly; before I snorted an ounce of cocaine. This second in time where everything is fine and shards of glass aren't burrowed deep in my beautiful's arm, legs, and face.

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            I'm screaming…

            How long have I been asleep? Have I been sleeping at all?

            I can hear the drapes rustle against the wall. The window is open.

            There is a notebook in my lap, and a small plastic bag beside my hand. Two cotton balls are in either nostril.

            Am I still sleeping?

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            We were walking in the park. I could feel her warm hand, its fingers laced with mine.

            We are walking by a church. Its monolithic stained glass windows are lit by flickering candles. The colorful shadows on the grass leap and recoil as we walk in them.

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            We're lying on damp grass. My back is wet and cold. She's lying beside me, her eyes staring up at the deep velvet sky.

            "Have you ever seen so many stars?" She asks.

            "Not since I was a kid."

            "I wish we were kids again. It always seemed so magical."

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            I'm screaming again.

            The notebook is open. I can't remember writing in it yet, but there appears to be a sentence or two on the first page. My eyes are watering and my vision is blurred.

            You'll never go back.

            She'll never come back.

            I can make out a little of it now. But I can still hardly read anything. I can't remember crying.

            You'll try to go back while you're awake; while you're asleep. You'll go back in your dreams. And sleep will be your only comfort.

            I can read it now. All of it. My eyes start to burn. I can't hold it in anymore.

            "I can't sleep!" I scream to no one.

            (You'll never go back!)

            "I can't sleep! How can I find her if I can't sleep?" I scream to the open window. The drapes brush the wall in their monotonous rhythm.

            (She'll never come back!)

            "Oh, God…" I'm weeping. My hands are soaked with my own tears.

            The water is changing. I can smell lead. The clear water darkens and the color shades into red. It's blood. My wrists are cut. I'm bleeding every where. The crimson drips from below my eyes. It's smeared on my face in two large, distorted lines. I can hear something…

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            "Have you ever seen so many stars?"

            I'm lying on grass; cool, wet grass.

            I turn my head and see her eyes staring at the sky again. Her eyes are so calm. She has no idea what will happen later tonight. She does not see the car in the other lane. Right now she doesn't feel the prisms sticking out of her face…

            I admit I have only when I was a child.

            "I wish we were kids again, Andrew. It all seemed so magical."

            I tell her I know; I wish we could all go back.

            (You'll never go back!)

            I tell her I love her.

            (She'll never come back to you!)

            She turns to me and I can see that smile that I've fallen in love with again and again.

            (You'll go back in your dreams.)

            I tell her I can no longer sleep.

            "Don't worry, Andrew," she whispers. "I will always love you."

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            The stained glass windows are fading now. The images distort and blur. They become mere apparitions; ghosts forever branded onto my memory. My hand works desperately to save the image with my pen, but it is gone before I can finish. My eyes lose focus as they stare at the open window and the daisy drapes. Their monotony brings me back to the surreal, crawling fingers of shadows as the flickering twilight in my apartment strobes…endlessly.