The rain falls lightly over your shoulders that night; there’s a bitter breeze that’s blowing through your hair and biting your cheeks. You slide your hands into your pockets and force yourself to keep moving, but you’re still shaking slightly. Your phone lies dead at the bottom of your jacket pocket. Broken after you threw it down across the street ten minutes earlier.
Your limbs feel like concrete as you turn the corner, and the apartment vanishes behind you. You imagine that you can still hear their voices, but the wind picks up and the water sloshes against your shoes, and any sign of them disappears into the night. Your turn towards the direction of the corner store ten minutes away – the only place you can think of going.
The street is void of life, not even a single vehicle. The world shrinks and grows outside of your control, leaving you nauseous under the streetlights. You breathe out deliberately, watching the air billow out in front of you.
The sharp light of the corner store is uncomfortable and surreal, sharp and painful to the eyes. You avert your gaze for a moment, and walk in. It is silent apart from the quiet, inaudible mumbling of late night news from the direction of the television near the cashier. You pass through the neatly coloured rows and rows of plastic-packaged products; your stomach gnaws hungrily but you head directly towards the drinks. You grab the first cheap cold beer you see and head towards the counter.
“That’ll be 2.75.”
You throw almost all the money you have left onto the counter.
“Have a good night,” you say methodically. You give the cashier a little smile – late shifts, after all – and walk out of the store, nursing the beer in your hands as you walk away from the stark light of the convenience store.
A few corners later and you’re next to an abandoned parking lot. A single flickering street light stands feebly a dozen feet away. You open the can and sit down on the edge of the curb; it’s wet and cold but you barely register it. The rain dampens your hair as you finish the beer, the bitter taste washing down your throat. You toss the can into the trash bin next to you ten minutes later and you sit there in the silence, staring aimlessly at the dark street before you. The low, dingy apartment buildings not far away are completely dark, the windows staring back indifferently. You take a deep breath and get to your feet, jeans and shirt and hair – everything, damp and cold now. You turn back towards the direction you came from almost an hour before, then dig your nails resolutely into your palms and look away.
You let yourself continue walking down the street as familiar surroundings fade into foreign, intimidating ones. Before long you’re in a completely strange neighbourhood, each step a new one; the weariness and heaviness of your body is forgotten as you’re forced to stay alert in the cold.
You find yourself stopping next to an old payphone at the corner of the street. For a long time you let the rain fall and the internal conflict grows; your knuckles hurt, clenching around the singular coin in your pocket. You step forward under the small roof of the booth and place your hand around the phone handle; cold and metallic against your palm. A few seconds later and you unhook the phone, placing it against your ear and listening to the dial tone drone on and on. In a split second, before you can regret it, you shove the coin into the payphone. Your movements feel robotic as you dial the number and the phone begins to ring. You feel miles detached from your body as it rings and rings and rings, endlessly, in your ear.
You’ve reached my voicemail. You know who I am, if you’re calling me. There’s a laugh. Leave a message and I’ll get back to you.
You violently hang up the payphone and immediately turn away, walking away from it.
That was a bad idea.
You know it, you don’t know why you did it.
In your mind a million different conversations play, conversations from past and present and future that never happened and will never happen.
In your mind there are faces and there are scenes, disjointed, fragmented mosaic glass in your head.
Your shoes are soaked as you walk right through icy, muddy puddles on the side of the road. You begin to jog now, letting the air lash at your face and your hair. The wind seems to grow to a howl, the rain seems to fall faster and faster.
The night grows, enveloping you within it.
Everything merges into one, a deep dark shade of indigo.
The stars descend slowly and inevitably from above, landing, burning away at your skin. They blind your eyes.
You feel the ground fall out beneath your feet, but you don’t stop running. You feel the skies swallow you whole, but you don’t stop running. You don’t stop running until there is no space between you and the night sky beyond you, and it’s all burning and burning and burning into nothing, and into everything.