Pressure that was both pulling and pushing as if the world was a black hole and I was made of light – though more than ever, it was a great miasma of light and I an endless black hole.
Yet it pressed against me.
A tornado rushing on a horizontal plane.
Thunder moving the wrong direction.
A storm running away from me while it’s bitter entrails of lightning reached out and pawed at me like the fingers of the dead.
My mind had been in a fog while I drove.
It was that feeling like something was wrong but it was so vague that it didn’t make sense. Like I was locked in the feeling of “I think I left the oven on” plus “I forgot to do my homework” with a side of “I showed up to class naked” all sprinkled with a layer of “I might have pissed on my neighbor’s car last night”.
It was a feeling like every part inside of me was trying desperately to be on the outside and every part outside just wanted to wrap itself in a cold, dark shroud and hibernate until some time next century so that I could call a mulligan on my current life.
I imagined wonderfully elaborate scenes of being in a dimly lit interrogation room – two-way mirror on the wall at my right. The eponymous good cop/bad cop routine playing out in stock 80’s movie fashion.
The detective smoking a cigarette while the cool-headed partner lingered in the corner with his arms crossed…just waiting to come in and be the voice of sympathy and reason.
Words from a stubbled jaw saying, “Seems like a lot of shit’s following you around these days. And we have…” he’d thumb through pages as if it were an unplanned action, “…yeah…right here, phone logs. You say ‘Someone died’…strange way to put it.”
And the partner would come in, “Coulda been shock,”
“Oh yeah,” the bad cop would say, “sure…” he’d snuff out a cigarette in the ashtray that they clearly didn’t bring in for me because I didn’t smoke. “Could be shock. But it’s weird, right? Cocksuckers take your stuff down in Allensville. Boom! Dead. And then…I mean…I’m looking at this browser history of yours and…”
“Look,” good cop would say, “we’re not saying you did anything, but if you did…or even you know something…”
My head was like a saturated bandage. It was like a mouth full of gauze after the dentist removes all four wisdom teeth. I passed the address without even realizing I’d done it and had to double back.
I sat in front of the house like an idiot for longer than I should have before I finally got out. My fingers hurt where I’d gripped the steering wheel like a man riding a raging bull down into the depths of hell.
Steps to the door were an eternity, fraught with moments where I wanted to just turn around and leave.
I knocked on the door like a kid who doesn’t want to tell his mom that he got in a fight on the playground or an ‘F’ on his recent test.
I tried to take the lack of answer as “no one’s home” and I was about to turn and leave when the door finally opened.
Her face had no composure, eyes were ringed in red, and her nose was clearly rubbed raw. Her chin hat that tremble to it. That movement like anxious feet on the starting line of a racetrack made of agony and sadness.
I couldn’t help but recognize the shirt she was wearing. I’d seen it recently. Not in person, of course, but I’d seen it in a picture. In it, she was holding her arms out in a look of photographic excitement with an overly large sombrero on her head. A margarita that could have put down a narwhal was on the table. The whole scene was blemished by the side-profile face leaning in to kiss her on her cheek. Brad.
“I…” she was trying to say, but words didn’t come out, instead, she just uttered a string of incoherent syllables and reached out like I was a long lost teddy bear. I wanted to find solace in that, but a part of me knew that it was a hollow a moment as I never wanted it to be.
“I mean, look,” bad cop would say, “no way we think you tracked this guy down at 3 am and then ran him off the road, but it seems strange, you know? Pretty lady like that. She leaves you. It gets under your skin, yeah? Maybe someone knows you’re hurting, right? A friend of a friend sees the guy…yeah?”
“Best we can tell,” good cop would say, “you were at home all night. Nothing says you left. Car never moved. No taxis or ubers or anything. I mean, look, we’re just trying to sort this out. We’re on your side here. You gotta get out in front of this before other people start filling in the blanks for you.”
She felt soft in his arms. She sounded sad. I told myself that some of that sadness was for me. That is was because of…
In my mind, the oven was still on, homework still forgotten. I was standing naked in the classroom on my first day and I’m sure I pissed on my neighbor’s car. Everything in the world felt wrong. Holding her felt wrong.
I stood there silently while she cried. I didn’t offer any kind words.
When she finally muttered the tear-soaked words of “I miss him so much” between great heaping sobs, I clenched my jaw and closed my eyes.
“I know,” I finally said with words I carved out of ice and disconsolation.