Alex and Lynn didn’t live very far from the hospital and even if she had been allowed to see him she wasn’t ready to. So she decided to walk there. The chorus of Oakland——the burglar alarm's ceaseless ring, someone pushing a cart, a woman on a cell phone discussing the terms of her probations, a trucker easing onto his brakes, strange footsteps approaching—all the sang for her, the very music of the city somehow expressing the lowness she felt. What was the constant rush of the freeway if not the minute resistance of tire and pavement, multiplied by sixty cars a minuts. Such a tiny thing yet she could hear it from far below where she was a peon compare to the towering overpass.
She’d been feeling strangely sluggish all week. Though she’d awakened an hour ago, she was already exhausted.
She had reached one of those odd intersections. The askew kind, more of an x than a cross. The most striking thing about the spot was the number of freeways that zoomed overhead. It was a ceiling of freeways. The freeways receding made the open street feel more like a dingy gray room with no walls. Across the intersection and under the overpass was a parking lot. In the concrete in front of the fence someone had discarded a couch. In spray paint it said, TAKE A LOAD OFF, and there she stopped to think.
Had he done it on purpose? She tried to recall the timeline of the evening before—the night she’d had the dream. Alex had greeted the day with a glass of scotch. This was not a daily habit but it was more often than she would have liked. He claimed it was the news that made him drink. But Lynn knew it was the war. He hadn't been the same since he returned. If she asked him about his drinking he'd launch into a tirade about the power plant in Sacramento. Some people in Sacramento didn't want the power plant built at all, and some river group was even suing---bad for the fish or something. People had been protesting for years and they had been building the damn thing for years. It hardly seemed like “news” anymore. But Alex had a thing for rivers.
Lynn wore leggings, a short dress and a long hoodie but she was still chilly.
She didn’t remember him taking a normal dose of Vicodin. She didn’t even remember him complaining of any physical pain. But she did remember the depression. His eyes were black holes, sucking her into the existential nausea. He was going to have to help with the street team fundraising at the nonprofit he ran, The Fertile Crescent Wetlands Initiative. Canvassers always quit, though the night before the Fertile Crescent Wetlands Initiative had lost five of them. "I suppose taking a collection for our water bill is out of the question." Lynn had joked.
But it wasn’t about money, not really. It was about the nightmares he wouldn’t admit he was having. It was about the tension in his shoulders and the way he jumped when a car backfired. It was about the angry outbursts, never violent but never appropriate, that made him hate himself later. It was the world, that turned out not to be the paradise his childhood had promised.
Lynn couldn’t remember a time when she was young enough to be that naive. Maybe that’s why the dirty underpass spoke to her. The sidewalk with its infinite cracks, the pounding of a jackhammer from the city's never-ending battle to mend and create holes in the asphalt, were honest, fragmented and ugly like the world really was.
She couldn’t even guess how much he’d have to take to OD because he’d still been drinking when she went to bed. She went to sleep early, just to get the day over with. There was no hard evidence that he’d taken the Vicodin on purpose, but her gut was sure.
Lynn set out again for the hospital. The walk was good, it was an outlet for her anger. How could he be so selfish? They didn’t have the disposable income for the luxury of suicide. How were they going to pay for the ambulance? And if he died, did he really think anyone else would run some non-profit for saving the marshes of Iraq? Of course not, or he wouldn’t have needed to start one.
What she couldn’t admit was her anger about the dream. She’d been waiting for years for the dream to return, to deliver her back to that fearless world of color and light. She wanted to dwell in it, commit as much to memory as she could. But he had to stop breathing and now the dream was gone.
Lyn was several blocks from her friend and landlord’s newest business venture, the Sit N Spin. It was familiar ground, made most notable because of The House. She lingered there taking in its insane Majesty.
The building cried out for attention. For one thing, hundreds of wind chimes rang out in different textures and timbres: the wooden clank of long maple chimes, the light tinkle of tiny metal chimes, the hollow cheap ring of chimes designed more for decoration than sound. The chimes did not only hang from the wooden porch but from assorted plant hangers crudely attached in lines in random intervals. As if this were not enough where there were no chimes there were just as many pages torn from magazines. The weather-worn glossies affixed to the walls showed beautiful women, celebrities and models. Their eyes and mouths were covered in dark scribbles of ball point pen. Many were sun-bleached so that all remained of the shining airbrushed faces were monstrous black visages of squiggles and scratches. The lawn was unkempt and the windows were always closed to prying eyes.
The grass in front of the house was often covered in green tarps, which Lynn thought at first to be part of a renovation but upon reflection served no useful purpose.
She couldn't see the front porch, but she remember that it frequently offered books. Not a stack of books in purgatory before return to the library heaven. No, these books were open enough to balance them right side up with the covers showing, as if they were waiting---on display for someone to discover them.
Lynn and Alex often had a laugh about the house but that day a bird screeched above the grey facade and it looked imposing.
Well, things could be worse, she thought. At least she didn’t live there.