Chapter 13 – What Must Be Carried
I hate it when she looks at me like that. Like I’m the reason she’s..
“Neither of us wants that.” Terrence said, only realizing the words were utterly false as they exited his mouth.
“I’m gonna go.” Terrence said. Desiree looked torn, as though she wanted, in some fashion, to beg him to remain. As though she were straining to find the way to make her mouth say the word.
“Fuck this.” Terrence said. He walked out. It wouldn’t be over so quickly, he knew. His things were all there. They had a lease. Shared a car. It would require seeing each other many times before it was over. He might even have to touch her again. The word hit never flitted across his mind in application to his touching Des. Perhaps something in past could be linked to it, perhaps Des assumed it was his micropenis that inspired his rage, perhaps it was all fucking bullshit.
I touch her because she’s fat. I hate fat people.
Then why have you fucking her for the last seven years?
She wasn’t always fat.
Yes she was.
I don’t know!
Terrence pressed the back of his hand to his forehead. The inner dialogue was hard to stop, when he could manage it. Most times he could not, and he just let go on its merry way. A lifetime of the dialogues had made him very good at seeming normal. Yet he knew he wasn’t normal. He also knew this meant he wasn’t crazy. Crazy people don’t know they’re crazy. It was the kind of uninformed thing his father would say.
All black people like to fight.
I can tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi.
Catholics are pedophiles.
A chair is a chair everywhere.
Guns don’t kill people, AIDS does.
Terrence’s father had never uttered any of those things. Hands pressed to his head, Terrence tried to will the dialogues to stop. To make the ache of not being alone with his own thoughts dissipate. Nothing seemed to work. His feet managed to carry him half a block down the street away from the apartment building. Few people were out walking, especially this close to downtown, on a weeknight. There was a quiescence altogether discordant with the height of the buildings around, the brightness of the street lamps, or the din of the surrounding city, the voices inside him.
“You aight?” the stranger said. Terrence whirled in the direction of the sound. It was a bedraggled man, his matted hair shining with a gleam of filth even in the low light.
“Yeah, whatever.” Terrence said to the man and rushed away. He found his way to his car, unlocked it and got in, began to drive. At first there wasn’t much intention to his direction, save to get on the Interstate, headed anywhere south. A email notification pushed to his phone and it lit up. Terrence only caught a glimpse of the text at first. It startled him so much he pulled over to the side of the Interstate, to fully read the email.
“I just want my life back…” it began. The rest was just spam. Some kind of boot camp fitness program for a gym he had never visited, but might have seen before. He wasn’t sure. Oddly, the feeling of being in the car, not moving, gave his mind a sense of peace. He could feel everything moving around him, the swirls and whorls of the world substantive without evidence. More, the voices were silent enough Terrence could consider himself without them, for a moment.
“Did I really just leave her?” Terrence asked the empty car.
A car zoomed by, fast enough its Doppler effected sound was far more apparent than any visual aspect, along with the slight shake of Terrence’s car caused by the passing vortex the speeding automobile trailed.
“I can’t just…”
“I want my life…”
“What’s wrong with me…”
“What have you done?”
“Where am I going to go now?”
None of the questions had answers, even if he would have been able to provide them. Another push notification lit up his phone. He pressed the home button and then Messages to view it.
How long has it been? A year? Two? Three?
What the fuck does she want?
Another push notification came through, another text from V.
“Fuck this.” Terrence said to the fear, to the doubt, to the voices inside. He hoped they were listening. His finger stopped short of pressing the message on screen. He could see V’s name lit up, knew the messages were from her, but he had no idea what they actually said. It hardly mattered, he had already made his decision.
Terrence put the car into gear, his course set, direction confirmed in his mind. He drove with his fingers wrapped tightly around the steering wheel, his torso leaned just slightly towards the windshield, as though the tilt of his frame could add the necessary inertia to the thousands of pounds of metal and rubber to get him to his destination faster.
Lights streaked by overhead, cars fell behind as he sped along. His normal attention for idling law enforcement was forgotten. All that mattered was getting where he wanted to go while his mind was clear, solid. Strong. He exited the Interstate off Essen lane and drove south. Passed stop light after stop light, the tracery of cars forming patterns in the rear view mirror which might have fascinated him where he paying attention to them. But Terrence wasn’t. He knew something about himself now. He needed a mission. A goal. A destination. Then he could keep the voices at bay. And when the voices were silenced, the was no chance the memories would come trailing after them like eager hounds.
At V’s house he screeched into the driveway, his intent stare noticing there was no car there aside from the same cookie cutter Honda Civic V had always favored, only this was black, not green, as Terrence remembered. Somewhere, he noted the difference, recorded the possibility that her life had gone on without him, despite the assertion it wouldn’t. Despite her suicide attempts, despite his disregard. Light shone from the living room windows, the blinds left open. Terrence took a chance V hadn’t grown all that different in the years since they had been lovers. He got out of the car, walked purposefully to the door and opened it.
It was unlocked, it opened easily.
Dogs immediately began to bark. The place was a mess and it stank. There was a staleness to the air Terrence only loosely recognized as dirty dog, old feces, and something sweet and foul smelling he couldn’t place. Rather than call out for V, his eyes tracked the corners of the room, noting details just long enough to discard them, when he realized they were not her.
A sofa. Messed up. Shredded cushions.
A TV. Smashed. Glass on the floor.
Dog shit in the corner.
An AV receiver. Powered off.
A floor lamp, left on.
Three large dogs, one barking at me.
When Terrence saw the foot wrapped around the edge of the hallway he froze, unsure his mind hadn’t somehow begun to play a whole new round of tricks on him. Slowly, leaning first forward, as he had while driving, Terrence moved towards the lone, wrinkled white foot. It took two steps before realized it couldn’t be V’s.
The light in the hallway was blinking fitfully, as though a particularly late-to-the-game indie director had just sculpted the scene to make a point, which to him, seemed amazingly vivid, and not at all cliché. Darkened, but with flashes of light in unreadable and yet recognizable patterns splashed the walls, then fled off to the floor or ceiling before returning, slightly different for the exchange. Terrence paused over the foot, let his eyes trail up past the leg, the hips, the fat belly, to the withered, half eaten face.
He read books. He watched The Walking Dead. Terrence had some idea of what it meant to call something half-eaten, even in terms of human flesh, but he had never expected to actually see it. To see the strips of burnt brown color interspersed with the bluish pink, as though some particularly grisly abstract artist had decided to step up his game from deconstruction on the canvas to something more tactile. He should have felt horrified by the gore, the coagulated streams of blood along one of the mostly intact cheeks, traveling down the neck, florid with wrinkles and missing fat underneath papery skin. Whoever the body had been, she had been old. It was definitely a woman, though only one full breast remained, still mostly covered by a spotted, dirty bra. A pile of dog shit was just past the dead woman’s head, more solid than it should be.
It’s been here for a hot minute.
At first Terrence was not at all certain the voice hadn’t been his own. Sometimes words came out of his mouth from the Others. They sounded different to his ears, as though spoken with some strange, new voice. It had taken a long time, but Terrence had finally recorded himself for hours straight until the voice change had happened. When he had played the sound back it hadn’t sounded different at all, but rather was clearly his own voice, as discordant as any voice heard by the speaker unused to the sound. But this was different. This was not a phantasm of his mind, a reinterpretation of his crazy into sound waves.
“Ter? Is that you?” V said. The tremble in her voice was pronounced, and it shook Terrence in some soft, deep place to hear. To know he still had a soft spot for V was not all that surprising, but to hear what sounded like his own soft spot echoed at him from her shocked him enough that he closed his eyes. After walking out on Desiree, driving away from his current life, the idea of suddenly finding himself in V’s house again, staring down at a dead body of a strange, half-eaten woman was not the strangest thing coursing around in Terrence’s mind.
Is any of this real?
What have you done?
“What have you done?” V said, urgency tripping over the tremble in her voice. Her hands hovered near Terrence’s face, her fists balled up, anger apparent in her eyes, when Terrence opened his own and looked into hers. She was wide-eyed with something which might have been anger, terror, suspicion, or some heady mix of all of them. Terrence had gotten very good at recognizing the blend of emotions a woman’s eyes could transmit. When he beat Desiree, before and during sex, he had tracked those mixes in her eyes, relishing the way they took him outside him, allowed him to be swallowed up by something other than the vast depths of his own crazy.
I can’t be crazy. Crazy people don’t know they’re cray…
“Ter!!” V said, more urgently. Her small body slammed into his pushed him back towards the stale smelling, dog-crowded, glass-strewn living room. “What the FUCK Ter? What have you DONE?”
“I left Desiree.” Terrence said, his curved smile a bit feline.
V look at him in pure, shapeless horror. She backed away from him, backed away until she bumped into the dead, half-eaten woman’s foot. The contact caused her to tumble backwards, partially over the dead body, partially onto the floor. V shouted and scrambled away, on her hands and knees.
“I saw your text, V.” Terrence said, only becoming uncertain of the track of events when V got her feet back under her and began to run away. He watched her disappear through the back door into the backyard. Away from her precious car. This alone jarred Terrence in the most uncomfortable way. His car was blocking hers, maybe that’s why…
Wait. Why is she running away from me?