It was the rain. It was always the rain — it gave him a feeling of despair that he didn’t know what to do with it. But only for the first few minutes. After that, he opened his heart to the possibility that everything washes away with water. The feeling was gone. In its place was the boredom of still life. It wasn’t quiet and peaceful, it was restless and frantic. It was also foreign. Steve wore it like an old suit that stretched in all the wrong places; the collar was like a noose around his neck and he was suffocating.
The phone rang. He ignored it. When it stopped, there was no voicemail or text that followed. He didn’t recognize the number. He wondered for a moment and then paced around his apartment. He picked up the phone and waited. There was no answer.
He heard a knock on his door and dropped the phone. He didn’t startle easy, not usually, but without the wall of sedatives to shield him, he was a different man.
“Who is it?”
He opened the door and a man dressed in a hoodie wearing a backpack held up a drenched paper bag.
“What the fuck am I gonna do with this?”
The man said nothing. He shoved the bag towards him, forcing his hands to cup the bottom, and then walked down the stairs.
Steve felt the drops of water hit the top of his bare feet. He turned around and walked back inside his apartment, where he placed the bag in the middle of the living room table and walked ten paces to the kitchen to grab a glass of water. He sat on his couch and opened the bag in front of him. It was time to kill another 20 minutes.
The noodles were cold and the chicken was dry. It felt good to eat something, even if it was just to alleviate the boredom. The television had been on but he’d already grown immune to the flickering light show. The options were insurmountable in his current condition. Too many things to watch but afraid to settle on any of them.
The phone rang again. He picked it up. The line went dead. He dialed the number back — it was the same one from earlier — no answer. He took a couple of bites and then set the rest of the meal to one side.
“So what do we do now. She’s just laying there.”
“I know, I know. You gotta give me a minute.”
“You don’t have a minute. That phone’s gonna ring again. Don’t pretend like you don’t know who it is. Who the fuck else is going to call you.”
Steve closed his eyes and tried to think of the alternatives. There were none.
“So if it’s him, why doesn’t he just fucking say so.”
“You didn’t know it was him, did you? You thought it was anyone else but him. Admit it, the thought didn’t even cross your mind.”
“No it didn’t.”
“How strange. How very strange of you. But hey, you’re doing things differently now. How long has it been?”
“How does it feel? Is your head clearer? Are the synapses between your ears firing off a little better? Tell me about it… I want to hear all about it.”
Steve didn’t respond. He went to the window and saw flashing lights below. They came and went quickly. He breathed a sigh of relief.
“You did this one right. But then again, we were there to help you. Now answer the phone.”
The line began to ring again and he threw the phone across the room, shattering it across the exposed brick wall. He sat back down and pulled the plate of noodles close to him. He took the fork and watched the tentacles twist as they wrapped around the sharp metal spikes. He forced the bite into his mouth and barely chewed it, causing his throat to clog. He took a sip of water to force it down to his stomach.
“That’s it, just eat. You’ll feel better after you finish.”
He didn’t feel better. But he felt something, too many things, and that was pissing him off. There were no more pills to help him with that. There was just her.
“You didn’t need that refill. You needed us.”
Steve stood up from the couch and walked into the bedroom. He took a knee next to the radiator and looked at her, tied up with tears rolling down her perfectly pink cheeks, now stained with mascara and dried blood. He held up his finger to his mouth and whispered, “shhhh.” Then he gently peeled off the duct tape from her lips.
The woman started pleading again and he smiled. Her voice grew louder and he placed the tape back over her mouth. The phone rang. He answered it.
“Take your time with this one Steve. You’ve earned it.”