The milk in the carton was sour. He went through to the lounge and put his coffee on the table. It was after eight and his cleaner had just taken over the kitchen to clean up the mess. He sat for a long time listening to the rain on the window, sipping his drink and staring into space. He had been awake since six, but hadn’t wanted to get out of bed until the cleaner had knocked at the front door.
He was alone now, struggling, trying to work out his next move. After he left Her apartment he had waited for a time in the car, a hand on his pounding heart. He had wanted to go back up, to explain everything, but the shock and the pain in his chest made him so angry all he could do was drive away, almost knocking over a man standing on the sidewalk waiting to cross the road. That was just over three days ago. To Him it seemed like it had only just happened.
Three days. They were stacked against him like the dirty dishes in the sink. On Tuesday, exactly one day after everything had fallen apart, he had called her mobile, getting no answer. The sound of her phone ringing, simply mechanical, made him feel like he had been turned inside out. He had put down the phone without a word, and regretted it instantly. Maybe she was waiting for his call. Maybe she wasn’t near the phone. Maybe he only had to wait for her to pick up the phone.
He dialled again, his hand shaking. “Hey, this is me.” No answer. He had so expected her to pick up the phone that the repeated tone threw him completely. As always, when unsure of himself he tried to be funny.
“So. You don’t want to answer. There are only three possible explanations for this: either, one, you are not there; two, you are there but don’t want to speak to me; or three, you are there, desperately want to speak to me, but are trapped under something heavy in your office and can’t reach the phone.”
Then it seemed to him that his tone was all wrong, although he was only speaking to himself. She knew he could be funny. He had to prove to her that he could be serious; honest. He had slammed down the phone, cursing his own stupidity.
Since then he had tried to avoid the phone. It made him angry to think that even though he had left a few missed calls she still wouldn’t call him. It seemed to show how little she felt for him. How little she trusted him. Staring out at the driving rain, he brought the cup to his lips, his mind drifting back over the time they had spent together. How could she believe, after the times they’d had, that all he wanted was to play games and treat her like shit? He sipped at his coffee. He was ready to forget the whole thing.
He stood up and walked around the lounge. He switched to BBC news and watched. There was a shot of the bombings in Gaza with an Arab man screaming into the camera. He switched it off.
He put on his green jacket, pulled up the hood and went out into the rain. He didn’t know where he was going and he didn’t care as long as it got him away from the house and his thoughts.
At nine o’clock he was back in front of the window, looking out at the dead morning light, a cold cup of coffee in his hands.
He stood up and walked around the house, switched on the TV without turning up the sound. He watched the images for a while. Then he walked over to the long mirror hanging on his bedroom wall. He looked at himself. He hadn’t shaved for days. He closed his eyes. Then he opened them again, squinting at the reflection.
“You look about ready to jump,” he said, smiling nervously. Then, exhaling noisily he went to the computer and opened a new email. Her recorded address. It looked vulnerable, far away.
“Hey, this is Me.”
“Like they say in the films – I’m losing altitude. No, don’t worry, I’m not gonna crack a joke. I just wanted … I have to see you, my love. It may seem impossible from where you are, but that morning, the way things looked, it was all wrong. I just wanted to find out … oh, hell.”
He pushed the screen away, as though he might see her there, reduced, looking back at him.
“Listen, it’s too complicated to explain over email. We have to – I have to see you.”
He pressed the send button and looked across at the TV screen. A young woman was talking into the camera, looking out at him and smiling, but he couldn’t hear her voice.