Alexander stirs, hesitant to meet the golden light streaming in through the large bay windows and gracing his eyelids. He knows that the moment he opens his eyes, reality will hit him over the head with a brick. He knows that he’ll find himself in the tattered brown armchair that he’s imbued with his shape. He knows that the boxes scattered around him won’t have moved, or magically unpacked themselves. He knows that the empty bottle of Jameson on the floor next to him will remind him of how he failed last night. And he’s afraid of how comfortable he’ll feel in that failure.
Instead of opening his eyes, he imagines. Clouds of alcohol linger on his mind and they aid his fantasy. He lives in his quaint suburban home with a woman. The most beautiful woman he has ever known, with a smile stronger than sunshine. She loves him. He doesn’t quite know why, but she does, and she brings out the best in him. They unpack the boxes together. She laughs when he gets tape stuck on his back. He laughs when she picks up a box and its contents come tumbling out of the bottom. They make love on the bare oak floorboards in the afternoon sun. Alexander looks into her starry brown eyes and sees a dazzling future in them. A future filled with backyard barbecues, children’s laughter, outdoor movie nights under the stars, and yearly trips to southern Europe.
Alexander’s phone vibrates in his pocket. Salted whisky tears tickle the corners of his mouth. His eyelids struggle to open, held in place by crusted sadness and an unwillingness to greet the day. The light penetrates and feels like an intruder to Alexander. Cynthia would have considered it a friend. He checks his phone. Another missed call from his sister.
Alexander stands on shaky legs and trudges through the large, empty house to the bathroom, careful not to jostle any of the boxes with her name on them along the way. He grips the counter with brittle fingers as he relieves himself. His eyes avoid the mirror. He feels the fear of living another lost day creep into his mind, but he doesn’t know how to fight it. He doesn’t want to. He doesn’t care. He sits on the toilet and the cracks of his broken soul quake and further fracture at the knowledge that he can’t escape her memory.
He sees her sitting on the toilet, on her phone, the door to the bathroom open, for a half hour. He would joke, calling the bathroom “her office,” because she would often do work on her phone while she was there. He remembers all of the conversations they had with her on the toilet, pants around her dainty ankles, and him sitting on the floor in his suit. They would talk about their respective crushes on James McAvoy, about the men in Alexander’s office who didn’t understand him, and Cynthia’s troubles with her family, about science fiction, travelling, racism, or baked goods. Then, mid-sentence, Cynthia would play a song she’d recently heard and they would sit, her on her porcelain throne, he on the stained rental-apartment tiles, and listen in silence. Alexander remembered a time that he farted in the middle of one of their quiet song moments and they laughed for an hour. It was the last time he really laughed. The last time he really smiled was when he was last with her.
Alexander pours a coffee. He doesn’t know when he made the coffee, or how long he has been standing, staring out the kitchen window. He stirs two tablespoons of sugar into his cup and adds the spoon to the mountain of dishes. Cynthia had always told him he takes too much sugar in his coffee; that she would outlive him by an extra day for each unnecessary spoonful he would add. Alexander laughs at the thought of how wrong she was. Then he cries at having laughed. Then he laughs at the thought of how pathetic he must look. Then he cries because the coffee is cold.
Alexander turns on his computer with the intention of signing in to work remotely. He enters his password – her birthday – and clicks enter. Incorrect Login Information. That’s right. He was let go last week.
Alexander sits in his tattered brown armchair amongst the scattered boxes and looks out the bay window. Beside him is a full bottle of Jameson. He doesn’t remember how it got there, but is happy at the touch of the smooth glass. He imagines its warmth touching his lips, rushing through his shivering body and filling the cracks in his soul like a thick molasses. He doesn’t need a glass. He lifts the bottle, but is interrupted by a knock on his door. His daze is momentarily broken. His mind quickly scans the ever-thinning list of contacts, friends, and acquaintances; it doesn’t take him long. He can’t think of anyone who might be knocking and turns his attention back to his liquid friend. The knock returns, more desperate than before.
Alexander opens the door and is stunned.
“Hey bro… how are you?”
“I… I thought you were in Africa.”
“I was. I figured you might need me.”
Alexander feels his legs rattling. His breath is sharp. His heart is bursting. Tears are welling.
“I left you a bunch of messages telling you I was coming, but I’m guessing you didn’t get those. Are you okay, Alex?”
“There are too many boxes,” Alexander stutters between pained gasps, and falls into his sisters
“It’s okay, darling. I’m here. Shh. It’s okay. It’s okay.”
Andrei Preda is an artist based out of Toronto, Ontario. He is a graduate of the university of Windsor’s BFA Acting program. He has performed everything from Shakespeare to original works, both comedies and dramas, in theatres across the province such as 4th Line, Hart House, and the Secret Shakespeare Company to name a few. He has won the Subscriber’s choice for Best Leading Performance by a Male at Hart House Theatre, and was nominated for the Best Featured Male in a Play for Woman in Black by BroadwayWorld Toronto. He has worked with prominent Canadian playwrights Judith Thompson and Sky Gilbert. Currently transitioning from acting to writing, Andrei is a self-published author with a novel, an audio drama podcast, and several short stories in development.