Stephen Tomasetti lives in Brooklyn with his lovely fiancée and slobbery pig-dog. He writes short fiction and dramatic works.
We bumped and lurched and I knew the bus wouldn’t go much farther.
As we came to a stop, I watched outside my window the trembling church sign slow and become a message that read
I thought about primates hanging by their tails and wondered about God and how we must be like apes in a zoo for Him. I was on my way to make it right with Danielle and I wanted God to be real, and the same with forgiveness.
We got off the bus and the driver was by the flat tire cursing at it.
On the curb, a man with thick glasses sat next to me smoking something he had just rolled up. He reached out to me with the joint between his knuckles and I puffed on it a few times and returned it to him.
It was nice to get high. I wanted to smoke until the words on the sign swirled around themselves and I forgot about Danielle. The man and I sat together.
He lifted a folded paper from under his tube socks at his ankles and showed it to me. Under the fold lines a curvy woman in a dark one-piece swimsuit dangled her legs off a diving board, pointing her toes toward the water. Behind her was a grey Hollywood hills kind of home with big glass windows and a long bar and martini glasses. Everything was wrinkled and fading. His smudgy fingerprints bordered the photo like a frame and it smelled like pulp and sweat.
“I am going to marry her,” he said to me. “It’s relativity man. Einstein man. Her name is Mona Phillips and she was big in my day. So big.”
He pushed his glasses up with his palms.
“The first black hole was discovered in 1981. Time warp. As you approach the speed of light time slows man. Mona Phillips man. Time dilation. I still have time, especially at the speed we’re moving nowadays. Can’t slow down, you can’t stop man. Mona Phillips, man, I can’t stop moving...”
He talked but I had stopped listening. I sat on the curb. I looked out over the road and wanted to see someone else out there, on the horizon, even a silhouette in the distance. I wanted to feel something different, to have the courage to stand up and walk somewhere.
I can’t remember how long it took, but it felt like I blinked and was inside the next bus. And it didn’t make a difference.
Danielle wasn’t at the station to pick me up so I started walking. I listened to my shoes squeak along the road beside the storefronts. I wanted rain.
“God damn her,” I heard myself say out loud.
Every time we argued she would land one that stuck. She had that on me. You phobic fuck she called me this last time. Her mouth was unfailingly caustic. We had fought about something I said that seemed insensitive. I can’t even remember it now.
The storefronts became open road and it was an hour or so when I arrived at the doorstep of her mom’s place.
When no one came to the door I peered through the windows. A number of Danielle’s canvases were tilted and leaning along the walls and scattered on the floor. I imagined floating above everything. I saw my body burst and fall like confetti over it all. I wished she used color. It was always black and white.
Danielle often stayed with her mother when things were rocky. Her mom was also an artist. Her sculptures were all over the house. Long, phallic looking things. Always reaching upwards. They worked on their art together just as they did on their own. Neither were strangers to solitude. It was just the two of them left. Danielle’s father passed away years before I had met her. She hadn’t much other family but a cousin who lived upstate and an aunt across the country in New Mexico.
I sat at the door with my chin on my knees. To my left lay an old chest with a number of plants inside, and bushes on the other side. Soon I felt squeezed between the two. The space narrowed to a point and the road flipped around until the streetlights were like giant hooks fishing for clouds. The sidewalk below me turned on its side. I reached at the bushes to keep from falling over. The nausea drove me to the concrete and I managed to get sick over the dirt. I sat up, wiped the dust from my pants and waited.
Sometime later Danielle’s mother appeared. She saw me and felt my forehead with the back of her hand. She wiped away the sweat. She said something in a low voice. She pulled my arm up over her shoulder and ducked beneath it. I felt her slender bones under me. She opened the door and brought me in.
My shirt dripped vomit at the neck. Danielle’s black and white at my feet. Her mom brought me a glass of water with an ice cube. She put it down on the floor.
“Keep your head down,” she said.
She lifted my shirt by its neck and her fingers grazed my collarbone. When it was off, she told me to take a drink and I did.
“The ice cube—” I said.
She nodded and put her fingers on my brow to check for fever. Then she walked to the bathroom across and dropped my shirt at the door. She stepped inside for a moment and soon after the sound of the running bath water echoed in the house.
She came back to me. When she was beside me she lifted me up similar to before and carried me toward the water. She lowered me beside the tub onto the bathroom rug.
“Are you good from here?” she said.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Okay,” she said, “come here.”
She removed the right sock first, then the other. Black fuzzy parts were still on my toes. She wiped them off with her blouse. Then she took off my slacks. Then underwear. She told me to stand up and I did. She held out her arm and I braced it.
“Step into the water,” she said.
I sat down in the tub.
“Where’s Danielle?” I asked. The warm water rose around me.
“She left this morning for the city,” she said.
“The city?” I asked trying to make sense of it. “She left for home?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “I’m sorry.”
I lay my head on the back of the tub. My eyes were heavy. I felt a cool rag on my forehead. Hands in my hair. I didn’t open my eyes again.
I didn’t want to get out of the tub. I didn’t want to go anywhere.
Danielle’s mother, I think she lit a candle or two, and I heard her put my cup on the counter before she left.