One Day At a Time

One Day At A Time


Book cover one day at a time

"Time is hard to keep track of when you're living on the road. This story follows the tour of a rising band and coming to terms with their new fame. Their journey includes personal struggles, both within their relationships and within themselves."

The story follows an unnamed/unidentified character as they journey through the rockstar life. You'll read about backstage antics and the stardust that blinds those who live in the light. You'll see the struggle of trying to survive in a fast-paced world. You'll see the struggle of trying to feel like you belong. You'll also see the relief of finding those who make the struggling feel worth-while. Although incorporating many real-life experiences, this novel is totally a work of fiction.




You can purchase "One Day At A Time" by Ali Larsen on any of the sites listed below:

Paperback


Alternatively, if you live in the GTA, you can contact me to work out an in-person purchase. 

One Day At A Time
(Please note: I am choosing to share this preview with my loyal subscribers. I am doing this on the honor scale. Do not duplicate any part of this preview. Do not share it, unless you're sharing a link to this page. All content is copyright to Ali Larsen - this book does have an ISBN number and is registered.)

Chapter 1

A Lonely Introduction

There's a purple glow illuminating my work space. It's casting a shadow, though only slightly, over my shoulder. The way it's reflecting off the mirrored dresser lights up the whole room. Suddenly, I catch my reflection in the whiteboard calendar that sits beside the bed. I see the magnet on the date: September 30, 2015. I use a magnet to tell me what day it is because I'm too scatterbrained to circle the date, never remembering to circle the follow date or erase the last. Forgetting to move time ahead. This way, pulling the magnet is the easiest way to keep track of the hours rolling into days. Pushing the magnet into the empty squares that should be filled with assignments. I've got post-it notes on every corner, some scattered across the board. These are goals. Mocking me. Things I intend to accomplish this month. But, it's the end of the month and all the pieces of paper scatter the empty white squares. Reminders. The things I need to start doing, things I need to stop. All they remind me of are the constant failures I'm faced with each and every day. A slow progression into nothingness. Yeah. For that, they are doing a fantastic job.

I intended them to remind me of upcoming project deadlines. The occasional inspirational quote might inspire me to do something different. To make positive changes in my life. But, are they ever going to accomplish their goals? No. The same way I haven't been accomplishing my goals. Granted, I don't let the completed projects stick around to mock me. Once the assignment is finished and sent to the client, I smear the notes off the calendar. This way, I'm not looking at the finished workload. The finished projects mock me just as frequently as those that are unfinished. Reminding me of all the incomplete tasks that I keep looking over and ignoring. I ignore them because I won't be mocked by sloppily written to-do notes. Little squares of paper have no control over me - even if they are supposed to. Every time I glance at that calendar, those tasks mock me.

I think that's why I have his picture in the corner. Held on by a small blue magnet. This way, every time I glance at the calendar, my eyes can find something positive to focus on. His smile. There's nothing more sacred to me than his smile. It brightens the darkest of my days.

Of course, I could just look over to the other side of the bed. My eyes could find themselves glued to his sleeping form. He doesn't smile in his sleep. He never did. He looks contemplative and bothered. He gets a curl in his lips and his eyes wrinkle ever-so-slightly. It's like being asleep is more daunting to him than being awake. Something we have in common. Sleep reminds me of everything I no longer have, and those things I have that I no longer want. I find looking at him fills me with this rage I can't control. So I don't. I don't look at him. No. I look at the picture because it reminds me of a much more simple time. A time when we shared a bond that no one could break. A love that no one could imagine. We shared the world. It's not even him that I'm upset with most of the time, but the situation. We've gone through too much to go out without a bang. We've never been subtle. We've never been silent. But these days, the silences echo louder than the concert halls that line our memories of each other. I think, we were a mistake from the start. But we kept trying, despite the odds. We gave each other endless chances, even when they weren't deserved or earned. I think, it seems only natural we would end up here: at a dead end. Of course, we're both too stubborn to admit it isn't working. It hasn't worked since I moved back into this house. Maybe it stopped working a long time before that, and I just never opened my eyes. Maybe this is some fucked up cosmic path we're on. True love is a myth. Perfection. Simplicity. Maybe it's supposed to be complicated. Unsure. Fractions. Fractured. We're nothing but a fracture of everything we once were.

It's growing harder to look at him, because I see everything we were. Then, I look around and see everything we aren't. I settle on pictures because they don't speak and can't ruin the mirage I'm desperately holding onto. Despite knowing I should just let go. I should move on. Let this be our final resting place. But, I can't. He's special to me. That doesn't settle my stomach. That doesn't fill my lungs with air. That doesn't clear my eyes of the strange substance now glazing over them. I fucking hate having to feel. But, he brings out every feeling I've got. That's one of the reasons I loved him so much. But I've started to consider that love isn't the only thing that matters. This journey can't be fuelled on love.

I reach out beside me, lifting up the submarine sandwich that's sitting on the table beside the bed. It's been there for about 6 hours now, beginning to harden. It might be easier to break the wall with it than try to break it with my teeth. But, I try because I'm momentarily hungry. It doesn't last long, those moments. I take a bite, toss the sub back onto it's wrapper and I'm done. I should have put it in the fridge, but I imagined I'd eat the damn thing by now. I should have known when he got home my appetite would be gone. That's how it works these days. I'm only hungry when I'm out of this house. Out of this hell we've created for ourselves. That's why I bought the sub earlier at lunch with Nicole. I should have eaten it then. I did eat half, brought the other half home. Once upon a time, the other half would have been enjoyed by the figure now moving in the bed beside me. I sigh, letting my displeasure be known in the air around us. I take the glass from the beside table and down what is left of it. The Jamaican rum leaves a warm glow throughout my body and sometimes, I like to feel like I'm letting go. As I put the glass back down on the night table, I realize my bite of the sub has littered the bed with crumbs. I just cleaned my side, so I shake my head. I continue, brushing off as many of the offending pieces of hardened bread as possible. My eyes slowly find themselves back on him, now laying on his back with his hand on his stomach. He looks more rested these days than he has in a while. He usually looks rested after sex. Interesting that we haven't been together in weeks. We only share this bed in theory. In practice, I'm having an out of body experience and have been for months.

I feel sick thinking about it, looking down at the computer screen in front of me. I don't know if it's the two shots of rum that were left in the glass or the Ativan that is slowly circling my bloodstream. I don't like to take pills with alcohol, but I make exceptions. Today, I needed something to break free of the anger that was overtaking me. He came home at one in the morning. He said nothing to me, just offered a smile and a brief wave. Then he climbed into bed and went to sleep. That would be fine, if it were occasional. But, this has been every night. Every single night. For at least the last 6 weeks. I know what that means, even if I don't want to acknowledge it. I shake my head, reaching for my phone. I've got a pile of unread messages from Nicole. She wanted to know if I'd go out tonight. She sent them hours ago and I just didn't pay attention. She ends her string of messages by saying I'm obviously busy. She joked that I might be finally spending well-needed time with Fox. Well, I'm certainly spending time with Fox. But it's not needed. Hell, it's not even wanted anymore. He's become a plague to my thoughts, lingering in the background of everything I think. I need a distraction from him. I need a distraction from life, in general.

I briefly spoke to Nicole about my concerns. She said I just needed to talk to Fox. That a rough patch didn't mean the end of everything we had worked on together. She doesn't know half the story. I spared her the gritty details that span our pathetic excuse for a relationship. I also know there's no talking to Fox about anything. He's closed off, at least from me. He'll pour his soul out to strangers at open mic night. But, he never talks to me. Because I'm the problem and it's hard to approach. Same. I try not to talk to him. I try not to talk in general. When I talk, it ends up being nonsense. It's nothing more than meaningless words because while my brain knows what it wants to say, my lips can't form the words. So, words blur together and sentences lose focus. It's hard to try and express your feelings when you don't exactly know what they are. So, I keep my thoughts tongue-in-cheek. Bruising the inside of my mouth from biting my lip so hard. I'm so used to the taste of blood that nothing tastes the way it used to. It all has this metallic undertone. It's interesting, if it weren't so sad. I only tell Nicole the basics. I'm afraid if I kept it all to myself, I'd go insane. I mean, I'm going insane. But it's slow. If I keep it all to myself, I might blow up. Then, Fox will accuse me of being over dramatic when I start crying. He'll storm out. I'll shut down. There's no point wasting both of our energy. The silence is liveable. I guess. At least, I'm used to living like this. There are some people who would call it repression. I just couldn't be bothered to call it anything.

I can feel him stirring in the bed beside me. I don't have to look over to confirm it. I save the document that is open on my computer and quickly switch open tabs. By the time he's looking over at the screen, I'm sitting on Facebook, browsing through my feed. I never log onto Facebook. But, I keep it open in case I need a quick escape from what I'm actually doing. I wouldn't want him to know that I Google “how to handle a failing relationship”. Then, he might know something was up. I briefly look over, faking a smile. He's got
himself propped up on his elbows, looking over half-dazed. I can't tell if that's because he just woke up himself, or if it's because he wasn't expecting me in the bed beside him. He looks pleasantly surprised, which is a nice change.
What are you doing?” He asks, groggily. He rubs his eyes, clearing the sleep that's formed over them.
Just, checking something.” I dismiss. It's not like he's actually interested. He hasn't been in a long time. But he's making small talk and that's something. I'll humor him for now. Usually, he'd ask what kept me up and I'd tell him that I couldn't sleep. We'd joke about the insomnia and he'd offer to brew some Sleepy Time tea to help clear my head. Usually. A long time has passed since that was a part of our normal interactions. He doesn't say anything though. This is our usual now. I close the laptop, sliding it to the end of the bed. He takes this as a confirmation, leaning into my space. His lips brush against mine and for a moment, I forget all the bullshit. I get lost in his lips whenever they're against mine. He's sloppy, because it's a been awhile. If I had to guess, he's not used to my lips anymore. But he persists, pulling me down on the bed. He positions himself above me, hovering like he's waiting. I'm not interested emotionally, but my body responds to his touch. I can't help it. Even when we're not talking, when all we do is fuck on occasion, he's good at what he does. His hands roam over my form, finding their way to more intimate places. He lets out a moan against my lips and I surrender to his touch.

I can feel the Ativan now, circling through my system. The bed has started to feel like it's caving in, sucking me into an alternate universe. Then, I'm falling. Endlessly falling. In reality, simply sinking into a cotton and fabric hell. The smell of sex is heavy in these sheets, but it's not a familiar scent anymore. It's something strange and unfamiliar. I've got to remind myself to get the laundry done tomorrow while hes gone. Rid myself of this awful smell. I remember a time I used to be fond of diving into a bed that smelled like this. A time when our bodies joining together happened around three times a day. I couldn't keep my hands off his well-defined body. Always touching his arms or his chest. Smacking his ass as he walked by. He'd turn around and laugh, grab me and kiss me with passion. We'd get caught having sex in public places because we couldn't wait until we got home. We indulged. We were young and in
love. We found each other irresistible. Oh, those were the days. I haven't had a sex drive in weeks. The more I realize what has changed between us, the more I don't care to indulge. When we finished, he rolled over and went back to sleep. I'm stuck aware, staring at a ceiling that is getting further and further away. If I died tonight, lost in a cotton abyss, would he miss me? Would he even notice I was no longer there?

I think about opening up the laptop, typing up these fleeting thoughts. I know myself. If I don't write them down as they cross my mind, they are lost to the ages. I like to take advantage of the feeling of floating and soar though a textual heaven. Instead, I'm trapped in cotton hell. It's funny how that works.

I miss the kid I used to know. That's what it boils down to.

I look back at the calendar on the wall beside me. It's distant from reality, fading as I stare too long. Those fucking white boxes. Empty. Boring. Not living up to their potential. Really, that calendar is more like me than I'd like to admit.

The Morning After

I wake up, feeling drained of all my energy. I realize I'm laying on a phone and figure I forgot mine in the bed last night. So I pull it out from underneath me, letting out a content sigh. I don't remember much about last night. I think after Fox went to bed, I busied myself on my computer. I remember heading to the bathroom for a glass of water. Each of my steps felt like walking on clouds. It was like I was floating away from myself. I managed to find the edge of the bed and pull myself into the sheets. Languid. Defeated. It's all a blur from there. I press my hand into the bed to try and get balance. But I feel around and realize there is more than one phone. I'm on top of what feels like a phone graveyard. A pile of phones that don't belong to me. But that's not the only thing that's strange about this bed. It doesn't feel right. It smells worse. It's full. My hand finds the body laying beside mine. It's bare muscles, toned, and warm. There's a dent in the middle of his smooth chest. I let my hand slide over his torso, smiling to myself. I don't need to open my eyes to know who is beside me. That dent gives him away. It looks like he might have been in an accident. Maybe hurt himself on stage when he was in the middle of a back flip off one of the amps. But it's just the way his muscles define themselves. There is no cause. He has similar imprints at the base of his spine, back dimples. They are beautiful, much like the rest of him. There is something about his presence that brings a calmness to my soul. I think it's that beauty, how inviting and warm he is. Or, it's something else. Something I'm not quite ready to admit to myself.

Part of me wants to stay in the moment, even though I'm not quite sure what it is yet. I want to. But I don't. I pull myself out of the covers, away from that body. I open my eyes slowly and look around. It's hard to tell what time it is, since the room is mostly dark. There's a red hue over the entire room, but that's from a lamp that was left on in the corner of the room. There are no open windows, which might let in sound from the outside world. The curtains are black, blocking the sunlight from pouring in, if the morning hours have approached. I slide off the bed and land on my own two feet. I try to remember what happened last night as I look around the environment. There are bodies everywhere. Exposed skin stretches my eyesight like the ocean. As I'm walking across the crowded room, I'm kicking bottles. Some empty, some emptying onto the floor. Sticky puddles of alcohol and bodily fluids. I feel like I'm in the red light district in Amsterdam. I know I'm not, because I would have remembered boarding a plane. And the smell. It's hitting my nostrils like a brick of concrete. It's hard. It's rough. It's similar to those dressing rooms back stage that I know oh-so well. I step over people who are passed out on the floor. I'd be shocked, if this wasn't a common sight in the life I've lived. There are two bodies blocking the exit of the room I'm in. A young girl and an older guy who apparently fell asleep during their act of last night. It looks like I missed one hell of a show. Or maybe I didn't. Maybe I was right there in the middle. I remember nothing, so it's best not to make assumptions. I keep walking until I find a staircase. Prior to the first step I take, I never consider what I'm wearing. I finally check to make sure that I'm clothed. Not fully, but enough to walk into an unknown persons' house.

My feet make no sound as I head down the linoleum steps. A large door greets me at the bottom of the stairs. It's closed, but the windows on each side are letting the sunshine in. It's bright outside. If I had to guess, it's just a little past noon. I continue around the doorway that leads into the living room. There's more of everything down here. More people, more bottles. A whole lot more fluids. More smells. But, I don't care. I know my way around this house, regardless of how big it might be. I find the kitchen and the coffee pot, quickly brewing myself something strong. I pull out the coffee cup I usually use when I'm here. It's hidden behind a box of his favorite kind of cereal. He'd say “so no one uses it”. He wants me to feel welcome here. I do, sometimes. But, he's hardly ever here anyway. He lives in two worlds. One, a mansion filled with exposed skin and bodily fluids. This is his lifestyle. Parties, drugs, women and men and everything else that matches his celebrity status. But he lives a duel life, his second being one of discretion. Secrecy. That's the life I fit into. That's the life I'm comfortable in. Every once in a while, we like to join the ranks of all the rest, step outside ourselves. That's why he keeps this house, even though it's never felt like home.

I don't have a home, just walls that house my belongings. I'm too used to longing for an escape. That does things to a person. Strange things. I often wake up in different places, as different people. It doesn't even phase me anymore. On a morning like this, the only thing I care about is a strong cup of coffee. I love that his coffee pot brews instantly, pouring the liquid into my mug until it hits the brim. I don't bother taking my creamer out of the fridge. I don't know if it's still good anymore. It's been weeks since we've been here, after all. I don't need sugar either. I'm not against sweet or smooth. I'm just not in the mood. I just need the blunt force that is black coffee. I need to wake up a little, maybe clear my head. At the very least, I hope to counter this gradually increasing headache that promises to rip my head wide open. I put my hands on the counter, wrapping them around my coffee cup. I hear footsteps coming from behind me. I consider turning around, to see if it's someone I know. But I don't. Because the larger part of me just doesn't care. There's a chance, with a party this size, I only know one person: the host. No one else matters anyways. The footsteps approach slowly, stopping at the entrance of the kitchen. I can tell they don't know that I'm already aware of their presence. They might be afraid of scaring me, so there's a caution in their approach. I feel hands rest on my shoulders, slowly moving down my sides. The same hands press into my stomach as the arms attached wrap around my waist. This is a
surprise. He leans down and I can feel his breath on the back of my neck. He brushes my hair aside with his nose, pressing his plump lips into my spine. Soft, gentle and endless like the ocean. His lips are inviting, the way the rest of his body is. I smile, removing my hands from my coffee cup. I let myself turn around, slowly. He adjusts, so his hands press into my back and I'm met with his smile. He leans down and his lips hover above mine. I could never forget the grace in the way they press to my own. A simple kiss, at first. He's testing his limits, but pushing just past them. He knows I don't approve, but that I can't resist him for long. Before I know it, I'm against the counter. We're wrapping around each other like a pretzel, never meant to be taken apart. He smiles against my lips and I moan into his mouth. Our hands roam each others bodies, his exposed completely.

By the time his lips move from mine, the coffee on the counter behind me is cold. It's too hot in this room for that to happen so suddenly. But it wasn't sudden. Time disappears when I'm with him. Five minutes into 5 months. Each second is a lifetime. Or so it feels. Right now, right here, I need that. He grounds me when I'm floating off too far. That's when it all comes rushing back. Last night. Him.

I left Fox's, leaving him to dream whatever makes him more content than reality. I didn't bother pulling out my laptop. I went to get a glass of water, but my feet kept me going forward. The weightless steps I took to my bed weren't to my own, but to his. With him. Following, like I often find myself doing whenever he's around. I just went for a walk, to try and clear my head. I must have ended up at a bar, maybe pulled off the street into a house party. In this neighborhood, there are always house parties. It doesn't matter if you know anyone inside or not, they pull you in. You only roam the streets this late at night to find somewhere better to be. I must have found that better place. Or at least, wrapped in his arms, I feel like I did.

Maybe the better place found me.

The Silence Is Killing Me

I'm in the kitchen, making dinner. Fox is leaning against the
entrance to the kitchen, watching me, like I care. He's wearing faded denim jeans, hanging on his protruding hips. He's not trying to cock them the way that he is, but it's his default stance. His arms are crossed over his chest, wrinkling the ageing sweatshirt he's wearing. He doesn't ask me where I went last night. I get the feeling he's waiting for me to offer the information, but I won't. I doubt he cares anyway. It may be curiosity, but it's not concern. He stopped caring a long time ago. I'm not delusional enough to think otherwise. He's got his eyes glued to the kitchen floor, like he's waiting for something to move the tiles and break him out of this world. I didn't expect him home until well after dinner, but I thought it would be nice to make him something to eat anyway. I used to do that whenever he was coming home from tour. I'd have a feast made for him, knowing how tour food causes malnutrition. I'd go all-out, but, it's been a while since I've cared, too. I'm barely putting effort into this meal. I'm just boiling water, making pasta. I'm watching the bubbles floating up when it's finally time to add the noodles. I choose the flat ones, because they pair the best with shrimp, in my opinion. The shrimp is already cooked, placed aside from the burner on the counter. I'm just waiting now.

Life has become a waiting game.

He lifts himself off the wall and heads back into the living room. Not a word, but his silence speaks louder than anything he could waste his time saying. Is it so bad that I want him to call me out? To show the signs of jealousy, irritation, because at least that means he noticed I was gone... I want him to grab my shoulders, shake me and ask me where I've been. Demand an answer. Care. For all I know, he just woke up. I didn't bother going upstairs when I got home. That's where he was, from what I know. I came in and headed for the kitchen. Though, not because I'm hungry. I ate already, while I was still out. We ordered pizza for the 10 of us that lingered around. The “after party crew” is what he called us. I just laughed. I hardly know what else to say when he's being ridiculous. He asked me to stay, too. He said I didn't have to come home to this. I told him I had to. Fox would get suspicious otherwise. He knew I was lying, that Fox isn't really here anymore. But, he lets me get away with my excuses. At least for now. He's made it pretty clear that he's not going to wait around forever. But, that's his call. I just want to make this
nightmare go away.

I sigh as I grab my coffee cup, realizing that it's empty now. I fill the cup and add two spoons of sugar into the mug. Then I head to the fridge and add my creamer. A delightful smell of cinnamon rolls and coffee fills the air around the mug. Then I go to stir it, realizing a second too late that I didn't grab the spoon. Instead, I grabbed the fork that I had been using to pry the shrimp. Fuck. Garlic butter coffee was not high on my list of things to try. I'm happy to wake up in a sweat-filled room filled with naked bodies and rock stars any day of the week. But, garlic shrimp coffee? No. Oh well. I'm not going to dump the entire coffee down the drain. I'll try it. Who knows? I might like the taste of garlic butter coffee. Doubtful, but stranger things have happened in my life, I'm sure. Fuck this fork. I throw it into the sink, punishing it for being in the way. It's not the fork at fault, but my brain. I didn't realize. I can't punish the fork. I still need it to push the shrimp into the bowls when the pasta is finished bowling. It does the job I need it to do. It does. It's not at fault because I tried to make it do something it wasn't designed for, like stirring sugar.

I realize most of my frustration is because of Fox. He's now sitting in the living room playing on his game station. He's got the headset on, too. I can hear him laughing and chatting with all of his online friends. He can talk to them, without any problems. He can smile and laugh and have a good time. I don't know when I stopped being his friend and became his enemy. I don't know why I bothered coming home. Well, here. This has never felt like a home. It's too big, too empty. I would say it was inspired by love, but, I don't want to turn such a beautiful emotion into a joke. Once upon a time, there was love here. But I think we lost it along the way. This love is nothing more than a chemical imbalance. If I wanted that, I could buy drugs. Drugs don't give me as much drama. But, the effects are longer lasting. More fun. I don't worry too much about the side effects, because I never let the drugs wear off.
Fox, it's done.” I call out as I finish portioning our meal. I can hear his muffled conversation with whoever he's talking to online. I place both plates on the kitchen table. I expect he'll grab his and head back to his gaming. I'll sit here, watching him from across this vacant house. To my surprise, he pulls out the chair and sits down at the table. I don't know what to say to him, so I opt for nothing. I know
he's not interested in talking either. We occasionally look at one another, offering fake smiles. They have to be fake, because nothing in this house is real anymore.
You added something.” He comments, looking up from his plate. I raise my eyebrow, surprised that he noticed. He usually doesn't. Or, wouldn't. I let the butterflies in my stomach flutter as I smile.
I just added a dash of lemon juice.” I clarify. He nods, like he approves of this change. It's a small exchange, but it's more than usual. That's nice.

I remember when he wasn't so self-involved, when I actually mattered to him. When this relationship was valued by both of us, instead of something we just put up with. I don't remember when it changed. I don't know if I would have noticed, either. When something goes through constant changes, it's hard to pinpoint the one that mattered.

Back when we met, we were young and impulsive. I met him after a show in Las Vegas. He was playing with his band. At the time, they were only a local buzz. But, I had gone to Vegas with my boyfriend Jason. Jason had gone out of his way to see this particular band. I had gone with him to show my support, and because I didn't trust him in Vegas. I remember thinking how adorable Fox was. How out of his element, too. He was too young to know much about the lifestyle he was getting himself into. But he wanted it with such a passion that I was impressed. So was Jason, who made sure that Fox became a star. But that was only the first time we met. The first time we exchanged pleasantries. The first time I noticed the way he smiled. The first time he captured my heart. Then I didn't see him again until years later. It was the night of October 17, 2009 at a venue in New York City. He joked that fate had brought us back into each others' lives. I never believed in fate, but I believed in his smile. I packed my bags that night and hopped onto the tour bus. The band has just started the East leg of a cross-country tour. So, I tagged along until the end, moving into Fox's Los Angeles home. It was a brutal tour, but we loved every second of it.

Sometimes, when the bus was pulled to the side of the road, the two of us would climb out. We'd lean against the tour bus, sharing a cigarette. We'd watch as the smoke turned into clouds, floating up
towards the sky. Up. Up. As if they were heading towards the stars, or the moon. It felt like we were a part of something, him and I. Something that was bigger than ourselves. I'd look over at him, watching the world with wide eyes. He was so fascinated back then, by everything. I'd tell him he was beautiful in the moonlight. He'd laugh and say I was stealing his line. After all, wasn't it him who should be saying that to me? I'd laugh. We'd kiss. Then we'd head back onto the bus, holding hands and in our own world. Oh, those were the days. Now we're eating garlic butter shrimp at a silent dinner table with nothing but memories echoing in the background.

That Thing You Do

I've got my eyes shut tight, trying to encourage sleep to find me in the blackness of the night. I have no idea how long I've been laying here, awake and aware. I sigh as I let my eyes flutter open, turning my head to view the clock on the beside table. It's flashing the number 2:33, which means I've only been attempting sleep for an hour. It feels more like an eternity. Of course, Fox went to bed at 8:30, the same time he goes to bed every night that he's here. I dropped onto the bed at the same time as him, intending to go to bed with him. It's rare that we fall asleep together. Mostly because I don't sleep. He fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. I hoped I would do the same, but to no luck. By 10, I was restless and picked up his copy of Invisible Monsters. I've already read it more than 20 times, but I'm always open to reading it over. Every time I catch something new and it feels like a whole new book. It helps that I always read it in a different order from the last time. Of course, this time, I couldn't concentrate. I read the words, but it was like they were on another plain of existence. My mind was too busy racing with thoughts of this morning.

Fox used to stay up with me. We'd talk and laugh until the sun came up, before even considering bed as an option. But now, the choice is between going to sleep, or sitting awake in complete silence. Neither of us want to acknowledge everything this isn't. It seems like a better idea to deny it to each other, to ourselves. It's easier to stay silent. I fucking hate it. I thought I had finally fallen asleep around one in the morning, but the clock mocks me. I've been laying here in echoing silence for far too long. I wish my insomnia
was caused by an overactive lifestyle that keeps me manic and edgy. But it's not. Instead, it's sharing a bed with Fox. I can't sleep when I'm laying beside him. I slept just fine last night, when I found myself in someone elses' bed.

It was strangely comforting to wake up in a room filled with sweat and sex. A room filled with connections between like-minded people with common goals of experiencing something bigger than themselves. I miss that feeling. I miss waking up beside someone who notices when I get out of the bed. Someone who follows me because my absence is disappointing. I miss having someone who wants to touch me because they know it's me. Someone who wants the air around them filled with the sound of my voice, instead of my silence. I want that from someone. No, not someone. I don't want someone. It can't be anyone. I want him. I want those endless lips to be the ones mine meet every morning. They were. Once upon a time, they were. Oh, but that was so long ago. Who even remembers that?

Fox pulls me out of my thoughts when he stirs in the bed. He rolls over onto his side, draping one of his arms over me. His fingertips press into my stomach, like he's looking for solid ground. He smiles in his sleep and a sudden calm washes over me. Then it's gone when he mumbles her name with a sigh of content. He does this too often. I think I hear her name more than my own these days. Oh well. Nothing gold can stay, and this relationship has tarnished. There's no sense trying to spruce it up anymore. I sigh, pushing his hand off of my stomach. His skin against mine burns me, like acid to the bone. I pull myself off the bed, letting my feet make a thud as they hit the floorboards. He doesn't notice my absence, instead pressing his fingers into the mattress all the same. I grab the sweatshirt of mine that's draped over the end of the bed. It's navy blue and has “Columbia” written on the front of it. It's one of Jasons', but I never told Fox that. He might know, since I never went to Columbia and Jason was his mentor. But he doesn't call me on souvenirs of the past. When we moved into this house at the beginning of the year, we had a cleansing ritual in the backyard. It went against local fire regulations, but we did it anyway. He tossed everything from a former lover into that fire. I did the same. It was supposed to help us start over. Forget about our past mistakes. His infidelities and my insecurities. We were letting go, moving forward.
Or at least that was the intent. We were really just making excuses for ourselves. I had found this sweater a few weeks later, hiding it somewhere in the closet. As the bitter wind pulled in earlier this month, I gave in. I pulled the sweater out and Fox didn't say anything about it. I grab the jeans that are laying underneath and pull them up my thin, boney legs. I don't bother doing up the zipper, leaving them hanging open. I head out of the bedroom and the door closes behind me, having caught on the sleeve of my sweater. That's fine. I want the door to close behind me. I want every door to close behind me. I can bum around for a few years, living on the street or couch surfing. I've done it so many times. But, I've exhausted my resources too. Too many people turned their back because I chose to give Fox another chance. Little did I know. I laugh to myself out loud as I head towards the living room. I have no idea what I'm doing. Until I do. I pass the front door and notice the figure standing on the porch.

I watch him for a minute, nervously hovering his white knuckle above the door. Unsure. Then, he steps back from the door, looking up at the window above his head. He's standing on the steps, rocking on the heels of his feet. He's wearing a varsity sweatshirt, similar to the one I have on. His is black, with yellow writing. He's never enrolled or attended University, so the sweater isn't his. I figure it's probably Blake's, since he's trying to be discreet and blend in. He looks no more than 12 years old. The red on his cheeks and the glimmer in his eyes are illuminated by the lights that line the driveway. We're about a five minute drive from town, because Fox wanted to live on the outskirts. It's not impractical. He's still too famous to live in town. Instead, he choose this house with a security gate. I briefly wonder how he got past the gate without using the intercom, but then I remember who I'm talking about. He scaled the gate. He's used to this by now. He looks up at me, noticing that I'm watching him. I sigh, realizing I have to acknowledge him now. Or, at least humor his presence. He took the initiative to come here. That's earned a few minutes of my time at least. I slowly pull the door open and he steps forward. The cold air hits me and I forget the temperature at night. It's not cold, but there's a bite to the breeze as it passes easily through my sweater, grazing my skin and making every hair stand up on my arms. I wonder how long he's been standing outside, noticing that he's shaking.
What are you doing here?” I ask him, breathing the cold air into my
lungs. He shrugs, like that answers my question in some way. I shake my head, letting him know that it doesn't.
Um, you left.” He tries again. I suppress my laughter, because that's nothing new. I'm always leaving. It's my trademark move if you ask anyone who has ever known me. When it comes to the morning after, I leave so fast that I'm nothing but a memory. I just don't want anyone to get used to my presence, or miss me when I leave. Because it's inevitable that I will always leave. I can't seem to pull that Houdini act with this one though. It's like he's a black dog and he's caught my scent. He can follow me wherever I go now, no matter how many times I try to shake him off my tracks.


He's looking up at me with these sad puppy dog eyes. I'd say he's lucky I even saw him standing out here, but I always do. It's like I just know whenever he's around. I can see the glimmer of hope now, his eyes lighting up even more. The streetlights wouldn't need to be on to see this sparkle. He makes it obvious enough with the smile on his face. I want to ignore these big brown eyes, putting me on the spot. Asking silent questions that I don't have the answers for. But I can't. I never can when it comes to him. He wants me to come back. I know the look on his face right now. That's the thing about him. Even when I don't want him to, he persists. He shows passion and perseverance. He pushes in all the best ways. I don't know why he tries so hard. I don't think he knows either. If I were to ask him why he bothered showing up tonight, he'd dismiss the question. But, eventually, he'd break down and answer. Because he always does. And eventually, I'll break down and follow him. Because that's what I do. 
One Day At a Time One Day At a Time Reviewed by Ali Larsen on September 14, 2020 Rating: 5
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