A love story that transcends life and death
“Every love story is a ghost story.” David Foster Wallace
Bang Bang Bang.
“Alright, alright already!”
Max is never quite sure if the banging is on his door or the walls in his apartment, which seem to grow smaller and smaller as more clutter accumulates in the corners of every one of his three rooms. It’s mainly boxes and books piling up with an unseemly rapacious speed. Even though some may consider the unsightly brown colors running with the monotone covers of the hardcover books sans dusk jacket, Max has developed a predilection for the bland musings of the growing amoebas in his apartment on par with pornography.
“Can I help you?”
“Can you help me?! Can you help me!? Turn down the music kid. It’s three o’clock in the morning! Some people like to have a halfway decent workday following a decent night of sleep!”
“Oh. The music. Sorry Marv, I'll turn it down. I’m really sorry I should’ve realized I had it on, I must’ve….forgot. Mindless I know. Won’t happen again.”
A pitiful look of disappointment and despair cross Max’s forgetful face. Marv stares at him for a little longer than needed. As though Marv’s attempt at a peaceful night’s sleep were all for naught, he bends and breaks to the will of Max’s dreary sojourned look of pathetic acquiescence.
“Hey it’s alright kid, just turn it down please? You have some nice neighbors and we would appreciate it, alright? Goodnight kid.”
As Marv leaves and Max closes the door a look of small victory passes over Max’s face. Max grows increasingly bored with his neighbors and doing these small acts of youthful, albeit lackluster, revolt is a small point of pride for him. This one just happened to involve a speaker placed directly next to Marv and Marie’s bedroom wall. He only knows that because he took a stroll through their apartment when he first moved in precisely for this purpose.
“Okay….create a bite—here.. okay then uhm.. yeah wrap this side like—this. okay now oh this is surprisingly simple. Just push this through this and oh wow that was way too easy.”
“Honey, what are you doing?”
“Just playing with some rope. What’re you doing up?”
“Oh ya know, same time every night.”
“Right, how are you feeling?”
“Oh just sort of, empty.”
Meredith wakes up and walk around every night around the same time. About three o’clock in the morning, maybe more towards 3:05. And with Max being the way he is he’s usually up until now anyway. It’s sweet, in a weird kind of way.
When she’s gone he misses her intensely. Having the ability to see her at this time in the night gives him comfort that nothing else can. It’s a warming comfort that swoops down on him like a warm breeze in the last dying embers of falls transition to winter. It’s the kind of comfort only some people can achieve for the significant others they feel are ‘the one,’ while most others are wishing for a better past or a way out of the dying marriage that they dug themselves six feet into. Sorry kids.
He never quite knows where she goes when she has to leave but he doesn’t ask because the frailty of things in his life are so great that he is scared to realize how brittle their relationship is and finds no need to crack the surface. The little bit of tension that they can experience with each other is enough for him to be satisfied for the next 24 hours. She leaves every night at 4 and he thinks that she just works the graveyard shift in some minimum wage, minimum effort job but he has no interest in finding out.
She walked into his life one night and never truly left. While she’s pale and speaks very slowly, some may say deliberately but it sounds rather like an impediment, he follows and hangs on every word as if it’s the cliff he’s doomed to fall off of without extreme focus and concentration on his grip. What he doesn’t realize is that one by one, his fingers are faltering, quickly. Her dark brown hair falls just above the dimples on her lower back and he can’t help but to stare every night to see if it changes, he pays attention to what he thinks matters and wants to always remember, where every hair lies, where every freckle is on her body, what color her eyes are. Green, but after studying them he realizes that they’re slowly fading into the night, as if she leaves a little bit where she comes from or goes to. The darkness in his apartment is a necessity for her, and he doesn’t complain, he just wants to be around her. For the few moments when she’s next to him he takes a second to grab onto every memory he can, even though they are fleeting, he has acquired enough to last him a lifetime if she decided to never come back to him. A thought he’s never entertained.
They’ve stayed up talking night after night for 4 weeks and without the burden of doubt. It’s too early for doubts in their relationship. The pangs of anxiety hasn’t yet reached his person, why should it? The connection between them hasn’t been divided by jealousy, envy, anger, or sorrow. It hasn’t been slowly worked through, conditioned into a social anxiety of monogamous worry. It’s blissful and anti-existential.
“I have to go Max.”
“I’ll be here.”
And she’s gone.
The time shift from 3 to 4 is increasingly aggravating. Not because he’s not alone but because it feels more along the lines of ten minutes. It’s the closest he’ll ever get to time travel and he’s going the wrong way. You need to go backwards, not forwards Max. Don’t be naïve and childlike, you need the retrospective force of age without the retrograde properties of it, physically anyway.
Don’t be naïve, get back to work. Get the black box.
“Heh lube. Okay when is the last time I used this thing. Shit, log says 5/19. 40 days ago? Really? Hmm, times flies. Okay put some solvent here… and now in and out. Heh, nice. Okay now, where’s the little pad? Yup got it, push it on down the barrel, clean clean, clean. If only my apartment was clean. Now grab the lube, heh, anddd done. Easy-peazy.”
Put it away for now.
You see the problem with Max might be mild to some but to him, and others, it’s crippling. There’s a perfectionist inside of him that is odd and encapsulating as much as it is confusing. The bland blend of brown and earthy colors along his walls falls in perfect alignment to the stone wall on the outskirts of his childhood home. The one that fostered a fascination with the stone facade of houses from his rural home. The only problem is he lives in the city in a small apartment that is exclusively paid by his inheritance from his parents will.
With the freedom to do anything, he does nothing. But he knows a thing or two about the technicalities of the FDA approved medicines, he can tell you what obscure stipulations fall in a 47 page E-user-agreement, he can also tell you intricacies of the embalming process. In other words, he has a lot of time on his hands. So it only makes sense when he falls passionately in love with Meredith and devotes his time to find ways to become closer to her. But when you have an hour once per midnight you have to diversify your time.
“Okay I only need a few grams but maybe if I add two or three more I can play it safe. A little Amitriptyline here some Oxazepam here. And bingo bango. I should be good tomorrow for the big day. She’ll be so happy. God, I can’t wait to see her face.”
The problem with having a lot of time for destructive habits is you get pretty good at them. One thing leads to another and you can find yourself capable of limitless potential. But usually it’s only self-inflicted, hopefully, preferably.
“When she comes back she’ll finally see that we can be together. I can’t take the wait. Maybe I’ll take one of these bad boys now and pass out until she gets back.”
21 hours of sleep should usually be had by sloths and koalas alone, but like I said the destructive habits can be obtained with those who have enough time. Sleeping alone and peaceful, Max appreciates the dreams of her. The pale luminescence she has glows ever-brighter in his slumber. The curves accentuated just enough to be seen when the moonlight reflects off the lake they walk alongside, hand and hand, heart and heart beating simultaneously, matching each other’s steps and rhythm. The stroll leads from one thing to another and next thing he knows he’s waking up with a mess plastered on his stomach and Meredith laughing in the corner.
“Hey cutie-pie. I think you got a little something on you.”
“Is it 3 already?? I have something to show you.”
“Oh God what did you do.” Smiles fade so quickly.
“Just come on.”
As she trails behind him a sinking feeling of dread, or something else, becomes apparent to her. She’s not sure what it is but there is a dark tone about the entire episode she finds herself drawn into. Meredith is increasingly aware of the fear forcing its way onto her person. She picked the wrong guy for the job, it’s hard to find a reliable man to awaken a sleeping heart in a world so drawn to meticulously wrecking itself on binges and intemperateness with no real sense of sacrifice of self to another.
“What is that? Max. Max. Tell me what that is.”
“Come on Meredith, you know what it is.”
“I…don’t know why you’re showing me this. And spread out so perfectly like that.”
“You don’t see why? We can finally be together.”
“But we are together, right now. Isn’t that enough?”
“No. It doesn’t last long enough. I want more. I want to be with you more. I don’t understand. I thought you’d be happy. I thought you’d want this. I thought you wanted us.”
“I do, I do! But I don’t see why you have to go and complicate things. We had it so good. We had something that could grow. Flourish. Why Max. Why are you doing this.”
“I just want to be happy with you. I… wait, had? What do you mean had?”
“I can’t stay here. Not after this. I have to go.”
“Meredith wait! You can’t go! Not now. I need you. I need us. I need something!”
“You have everything you need here.”
And with that a light goes out for Max and another turns on. If he can’t finally be with someone that meant something to him what’s the point of continuing to go on. What’s the point of finding someone else that will never fill that void. Why even bother, why? Everything is set up perfectly already, it’s a matter of choice. And as he reaches for the last bit of self-indulgence he mutters a soliloquy to purge himself of her…or to find himself closer.
“And in the end I never could have what wasn’t there, she was like a luminous light that faltered through the darkened world, my world. I was only aware of her because I knew what she once was--not is. And in transcendence I hope to meet her again, for one kiss to settle my lips, to embrace with her like I’ve never felt before. To really meet her. Oh please, let her be there, let here come back, let me see her soon.”