Stretch your arm out. There, a little further. See the bills sticking from his greasy pocket. Avoid the crumb-coated fingers, rising and falling with unbelievable calmness, in such stark contrast from his daytime neuroticism. No, it’s not even neuroticism anymore, you know that, so regain your composure. Remind yourself what tore your listless body out of the kitchen and dragged it all the way here. Remember what took all the fight out of you, then kindled it again.
Take the money with a swift jerk of your wrist. Breathe out; his eyes remain closed. Ignore your protesting heart. Ignore your nerves. Examine the numbers, and immediately begin making calculations in your head— this is easy, you’ve been calculating the world for an exciting nine years. You have died eight times; live this year. Leave your last heart crimson and bursting with blood. Glance at the silver-rimmed clock, then down at the floor, littered with bottles. Clench your fists and do not pick them up. Step away for the last time.
Trust no one. Leave only a single phone number written into your palm. Take a moment to sympathize with the world’s million fetuses, factory rejects, and the seats on roller coasters. Discard things with every step, and fill your walk instead with feigned lightness. Catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, then look away, just in case your own eyes become too much to bear. Let the buzz of the television steal your focus for a minute. When it reminds you of a dream you once had, shake your head and stop trying to remember it, but don’t you dare touch the remote control.
Trace your steps back to your kitchen to prepare a sandwich. Take out two slices of bread, and layer on the salami, the fried egg, the lettuce. Hurry up and skip the condiments. Cut it diagonally with the last clean knife, and be careful of the blade. Search the cabinet for a plastic bag, but if you cannot find one, just put the sandwich in the front pocket of your purse. Make sure all your meager belongings are secure in the bag, but force yourself to leave the photographs behind, because the bag just isn’t big enough.
Tie your windbreaker around your waist, then allow yourself one last look. Forget that you have loved him for as long as you can remember. Wait. No, wait just two seconds. Three. Linger and hate yourself. No one else will love you. No one will love you. Feel your bare feet frozen in front of your combat boots, and feel the familiar air fill and exit your lungs, like the unstoppable tide that moves through history, pulled by the moon, kept forever in the orbit of the earth.