He wakes up in the litter of last night’s bender. His head pounding, eyes swimming in and out of focus. Sheaves of crumpled paper. Too many empty bottles.
There is something he is trying to remember.
The bed sheets are all twisted up on her side of the bed.
He scratches himself impolitely, listening for sounds of her elsewhere in the apartment. It would be like her to wake up early to get in her morning yoga. Or to be in the kitchen, brewing coffee and buttering their morning toast.
He listens. The apartment is silent. There is something he is trying to remember.
Morning garbage truck passes outside, malevolent, insensitive.
He calls her name and listens patiently. Expectant.
He sits up, calls her name again. Impatiently.
The spreading emptiness of the apartment swallows him. She is gone.
He gets out of bed. Puts on wrinkled pants and shirt from the floor.
He stands there in the middle of his disheveled bedroom, trying not to notice the sight of himself in the dresser mirror. Paunchy. Unkempt. The morning after look he has adopted now for weeks or months.
He stumbles to the bathroom for a long, heavy piss. Interrupting every time he hears a sound at the front door. Imagined. He finishes his business, which takes more concentration than it probably should.
There is something he is trying to remember. Standing at the bathroom sink, staring at his morning breath face, wondering what she ever saw in him in the first place. He was disgusting. His apartment was disgusting. His whole miserable life was disgusting.
He brushes his teeth, having squeezed the last life from the toothpaste tube. It doesn’t help. He has morning breath face. He is a morning breath man living a morning breath life.
And there is something he is trying to remember. Something she told him last night. Something she wanted him to write down. But he didn’t. He never did. He couldn’t be bothered. Always trusting that she would be there the morning after to wake him with sweet kisses, to caress him back to life, to remind him.
But she was gone now. He had known it would happen. Still, it hurt and surprised. He hadn’t heard her go. She hadn’t even said goodbye.
He tried to remember the details of their last night together but even that was fading now. Even that was becoming far away.
In the bedroom, the piles of pages scratched out and empty. False starts and hesitations. His laptop still open on the desk but the screen dark. The battery died. A post-it note on the screen, written in her neat, efficient hand. Goodbye. I tried. With a fancy, little heart at the end.
He held the note. Pondered its meaning. The familiar fear seeping up. The silent apartment wrapping him. Even the garbage truck taking its leave.
There was something he was trying to remember but she was gone.
A writer’s life.