The phone was ringing as soon as I entered the loft. I knew it was Maureen checking up on me, even though I just left her apartment. It was the first time I've been back to the loft since… well since we had to call the ambulance.
Nine days ago, one hundred and sixty three hours, nine thousand seven hundred and eighty minutes ago… everything was perfect and then it all changed. The machine finally picked up and I heard his voice with mine yell "Speak!" into the recorder. I tuned out Maureen's ramblings and looked around the room. Everything was exactly as we had left it.
His half drunken beer bottle still sat at the edge of the table. My cup of tea, with the bag still resting inside was now ice cold and black. The day's mail was scattered on the table, unopened and ignored. The Village Voice, was on the floor coved with the traces of blood that started it all.
He had been coughing. A slight cold, nothing to worry about, he told me. As he was drinking his beer and reading his paper, a hard, rough cough shook the room. I turned to look at him, to see if he was ok, and I noticed his face was as bright red as the paper now in front of him.
I called for an ambulance right away. I helped him down the stairs as he held a white towel to his mouth, not even protesting me. The ambulance came and took us away.
My hand drifts to the beer bottle, but then I pull it away as soon as contact is made. If I move it, will it mean he's really gone? I look around the rest of the loft. He is everywhere. His guitar stands tall against the wall, leaning against it's case. Cassette tapes, missing covers and labels, probably filled with his voice are piled nearby, waiting to be organized or listened to again. His bedroom door remains half closed. It is the only thing I can change. I walk over to it and pull it closed completely.
I escape from him by going into my room. My room was a sanctuary from him, from his touch, his voice, his scent. I walk in and realize he's there too. The first thing I see is the old Well Hungarians shirt he gave me when we first met. In my corner there are film canisters, waiting to be organized and labeled, with his image and laugh and voice and him on them. He is everywhere.
The phone rings again and I run to answer it.
"Maureen?" I whisper. "I can't do this."
"Come back here, sweetie."
"I can't…. he is everywhere…"
"Just come back here."
I nod silently as I hang up the phone, grab my backpack and head out the door.
Leaving the half-empty beer bottle on the table. Leaving the half-empty loft behind.