My best friend doesn’t have a face. Don’t get me wrong – he used to. But the aftermath of a bizarre night of drinking and tailgate surfing left his once delectable visage a fair comparison of thawing hamburger. I thought I’d never see him again, but lucky for me, after the funeral he showed up at my apartment, sloppy face still dripping with blood.
“Hello Marshall,” I greeted him, slurring from having one too many drinks. “What’s up?”
His response was muffled; little bubbles of saliva popped where his mouth used to be – but I’m sure he said, “not much, just felt like hanging out.”
I barely remember letting him in.
He crashed on my couch after having a lengthy discussion about the origin of milkweed, three more beers and a shot of tequila. I put a plastic bag on a throw pillow I had earlier tossed in the trash because my cat, in rebellion for getting another cat, had urinated on it. I didn’t think Marshall would mind. Not like he would be able to smell it.
I went to bed that night, floating as though I had bathed in 180-proof vodka, wondering what I might have eaten to spend the night in a hallucinogenic state.
The next morning I woke up to find a plate of southwestern scrambled eggs with a note: Ran to the store. You’re out of ground sausage – Marshall.
I stared at the chunks of tomatoes and meat floating in the runny eggs. I threw them in the plastic bag along with the pissy pillow. I dropped the bag by the door so that I would remember to take it out with the rest of the trash.
I showered, walked naked to the kitchen to write myself a note: wash towels at earliest convenience - then stood cold and uncomfortable in my closet until the proper attire jumped out at me.
I hate wearing skirts, but found black gossamer draped over black leggings a good look for the day. In honor of Marshall, I thought. I coupled the ensemble with a white pocket tee and a black, zip-up hoodie.
I tousled my uneven bangs out of the black scarf I tied around my head as a makeshift headband before smearing black eyeliner around my large green eyes. I don’t wear mascara. My lashes are long enough for God’s sake. I’m not one who favors knocking the glasses off my face with each blink of my stiff, fashionably long, those can’t possibly be real, spider-like eyelashes.
I found my keys on the bathroom floor. No idea how they got there. They joined my purse on the chair as I sat to tie my 1980’s, well-worn, Goodwill hi-tops (black, of course.) Hanging my purse over my shoulder, I stuffed my keys in my mouth to free my hands to secure my black and grey, striped mittens onto my chronically frigid hands.
As per usual, I wiggled my bare fingers to make sure they were all there. I cut the fingertips off of mittens when I get them. Keeps things real. Life is for touching, feeling, experiencing – not muffling under a millimeter of cotton weave. Sometimes feeling things with my fingertips is the only way I remember I’m alive.
I wonder if Marshall wore gloves?
Feeling sentimental, or guilty – sometimes I can't tell the difference – I jotted a note and placed it on the counter with a fork from the sink. Eggs were good. Off to work.
I took one last look at the apartment. There was a lumpy blanket on the floor beside the couch. Magazines scattered on the coffee table, some with pages torn, others never having been opened. A letter opener, covered in residue, set beside a half burned candle; hardened wax covered the coffee table, spilling onto the carpet, staining it red. Mr. Pickles, the new cat, curled like an orange cheese ball around the base of the lamp by the window; Ivan (the terrible) scratching at the curtain remnants on the other side of the window.
This was my home. An empty shell of one anyway, but home all the same. It suited me. It was a fine comparison of my disheveled and unorganized manners. Careless, uncoordinated with shredded curtains and bent blinds.
A stale odor forced my nose to curl as I sniffed.
Closing the door behind me seemed so final as the chill autumn air crept into my lungs, choking my will to breathe. I tossed the garbage over the railing into the dumpster and puffed into my cupped hands before shoving them into the hoodie pockets for what little added warmth it would offer.
Rounding the corner, I spied what was left of Marshall. I stared dumbfounded as he skipped in my direction. I couldn't help frowning. Pops and gurgles sounded in the air - his rendition of a merry tune, no doubt.
He leaped into my path. Taking my hands, he kissed my mittens, shaking his head. He pulled up my sleeve, fingering my arm. It itched and burned. I recoiled, horrified that he would poke and prod me like a dead fish. I wanted to vomit.
He pinched my elbow, dragging me to the subway. Curiosity bade me follow without resisting – Marshall was always full of mischief – there was no telling what his chipped and dented mind had come up with.
I glanced back for no reason. People scurried to and fro, huddling within their overcoats and scarves. Someone swiped the paper from my doorstep. Ass-hole. Note to self- remember to pick up paper before leaving. I looked at my door. Yellow tape covered the entrance to my apartment.
My arms burned and itched as Marshall pulled me down the stairs, into the black tunnel. Cold, numbing sensations blanketed my body as I held to the memory of the yellow tape; the yellow tape, why was there yellow tape?
Marshall’s grip tightened. I felt my stomach churn and twist. Marshall let go. I was floating, or sinking, I can’t remember… still I thought of the yellow tape… yellow tape and red candle wax. My mind went blank, and after that…