The clock on my laptop snaps to 9:59AM. I grab the Prozac off my cluttered desk and quickly walk over to my living room window. My third-floor apartment overlooks a row of shops on a quiet street. A few scraps of paper skitter about in the breeze. An itch creeps up my face and I scratch at my week old beard. I should really shave. Another thought comes chasing at its heels. What for? It’s not like I’m expecting company. And I’m certainly not going to repeat the terror of going outside from two years ago. The streets had turned into a treacherous stormy sea, drowning me. I screamed and screamed but no one heard a thing. People just pointed and cackled.
I keep my eyes on the street corner. At thirty-three, I don’t know how my life has come to this. It wasn’t very long ago when I used be placing bets with my office buddies at Balls & Beers; our favorite sports bar. Now, I wait for her. Wait to die.
She comes into view and I lean closer to the window, flattening my nose against it. A slice of sunlight wedges itself into my soul. My eyes trail her as she slows down before the florist and stops in the middle of the kaleidoscope of blossoms spilling out into the sidewalk. In another life, she could have been a forest nymph. In that life, I could walk out my front door without my heart galloping out of my chest and strike up a conversation with her. Now, I feel like jumping out of my skin just at the thought of twisting my door knob.
She tucks a curl behind her ear and bends to inhale a gerbera. Do gerberas have a scent? Mrs. Salim ambles out of the dark interior and she straightens with a smile. I uncap the bottle in my hand as I fill in the conversation between them.
Hello, Aunty Salim. How are you? How’s your knee?
I’m fine Rose, dear. These old things are creaky but working. Your usual, today?
Some lovely orchids just came in…
No thanks, Aunty. Just the roses, please. Yellow if you have them.
From the day she appeared at the florist, a year ago, I’ve varied these imaginary dialogues but she always chooses the roses. I wonder what they’re for? A receptionist desk? A grave? I pop a pill into my mouth and chuck the bottle away. Mrs. Salim disappears into the shop and my Rose shifts her weight from one foot to another. In my head, I see us holding hands in an open field as I point out the constellations to her. Before long she’d realize I’m just making up names and her tinkling laughter would fill up all the spaces inside me. I’d pull her towards me, resting my chin on her head. My fingers would slip under her blouse to brush her soft skin, working its way higher.
Suddenly she whips her head around. I stiffen and follow the direction of her gaze. A fiery arrow lances me. A guy with thinning hair though he doesn’t look much older than me, jogs towards her. My Rose gives him a quick kiss on the lips and keeps her hands looped around his arm. My fists harden into balls. Of course.
Mrs. Salim comes out with a bouquet. Pink roses. The man pays and Rose hugs the bouquet to her, sniffing with her eyes closed. I watch the pantomime below me, feeling something inside me shrivel up. With a wave to Mrs. Salim, Rose entwines her fingers with her boyfriend… husband? The words choke me. I can barely watch as they walk out of sight.
I turn away from the window and glower at my front door. My legs stride towards it and I pummel my fists against the hard wood with all my strength.