Strictly speaking, I shouldn’t be here, at this apartment on the fifth floor. I came in unnoticed, except for Nickel the cat that sits every day near the front door and watches through the window as the traffic rumbles past below. He is fat, like an old man with jowls that wobble. His eyes are sunken and glitter with venom. He hisses as I creep past. If I dared, I would smack his pudgy nose with my finger tip and hiss back.
I step into light. The high sash windows throw sunshine all around this place with its scuffed white floorboards, crooked ceilings, its nooks and its curios. Jonquils sit in a polished copper vase on the coffee table and paintings of green landscapes and ladies in crimson dresses are scattered over the walls in ornate gilt frames. Books are stuffed any which way into tall shelves. A large book of gastronomy upside down. A slim volume of poems rests near a picture book of old sports cars. I stop to pat a statue of a hippopotamus, almost completely hidden from view in a small alcove.
But I’m not here for the books, or the paintings or the statues.
I’m here for you.
I walk into the bedroom, where we slept together once, entangled like tree roots deep within the earth. I smooth my hand across your pillow and for a moment rest my cheek against it, careful not to wrinkle the slip.
I look for signs of someone else. I have sharp eyes for this. A rumpled mat on the other side of the bed. Two damp towels. A stray glass.
A door buzzer sounds from down the corridor, not here, but I am reminded I don’t belong. The sting of my displacement coils and strikes like a snake inside me.
Where will I leave my message today? Something small so you’ll wonder if you left it yourself. You’ll dismiss it as an accident, a nothing. But the seed of me will sink deep into the earth of you. It will burrow down and wait. It will send out its tiny shoots of memory and loss and you’ll wonder why I’m there again in your mind, for no reason.
Perhaps, you’ll think, I should call. Just to see how things are. Could I return that book sometime maybe? We’ll both know why you rang. Later we’ll laugh about it.
I choose my place. I reach into the pocket of my coat and pull out a small needle. I dig carefully into my finger tip and pick until my skin is ragged. Until a drop of blood, the life of me, wells up.
Gently I place my finger on your white pillow slip and my blood soaks in, a single blossom, an offering.
I slip quietly from the apartment on the fifth floor. Out the door and away.
Nickel, the fat cat with his malevolent stare watches me as I leave.
I smack him with my fingertip on his pudgy nose.