"I don't even know who you are anymore"
As soon as he says it he reaches out to grab the words hanging in the air, to push them back into his mouth, to take it back. And it's completely false because he knows exactly who she is, always. But she's oblivious and drunk and she's leaning over the toilet and he holds her hair back, a quiet gesture of unlimited compassion, he fights the urge to make her
hate him, because she's hurting so much and he can't stop himself, he can't stop destroying her.
Presses his forehead into her shoulder blade and breathes in,
smoke, liquor, sweat, desperation.
"Am I ugly?", wiping vomit from her mouth and swaying her head back and forth as if she was trying
to keep him in frame despite how fast the world seemed to be spinning. She's got makeup trailing down her face like black little springs, sweatpants on and hair plastered to the side of head,
"You are more beautiful than anything I could create."
He carries her to bed with a bucket and sleeps
in the bathtub.
They never changed the locks which convinces him that breaking into his old lab
is perfectly acceptable. Microscopes and culture samples and the sterile comfort of a second home. But that was before, this whole places reeks of 'before' and there's a framed picture of June at the lake sitting on his old desk.
He works there at night now, coming in after they've all left and synthesizing, compressing
chemicals, the dream of building something[anything] capable of fixing all the mistakes, capable of retracting every single wrong second. The schematics of his own brain plotted out on a graph and he leaves his research there, open.
Everyone catches on eventually and they
stop locking the door altogether.
"This is my most favorite place in all the world."
They're sitting in a field in her home town and 4th of July fireworks ring off into the night like
a continuous sounding bell. Upscale neighborhoods and precisly trimmed yards, she hated everything about this place. See, she had never wanted before she met him, all her
Christmases were perfect and desire was foreign as gifts and private educations were
fed to her with a silver spoon. He had made her crave.
"Have you ever taken anyone else here?"
And he makes it sound curious but there's fear at the bottom of the words, fear that someone else
had touched this part of her heart.
"Only you, it wouldn't be my favorite place anymore if you hadn't been here."
He swallows hard and holds her to a symphony of crickets.
"Where are you?"
The ghost has been gone for seven days.
It's January and they both know that something
has broken between them. The days turn to a death march and she
abandons her notion of love like a puppy in the
alley. A terrible sort of 'giving up' that breaks his heart even more
than he thought possible. And nothing feels real anymore, she half expects
everything to dissolve at any second and to open her eyes to the man she
"I really love you. Did you know that?"
He still hasn't slept.
Sitting and staring at the wall all day, counting to 1,000
over and over again, just waiting for the night.
The ghost still hasn't appeared and he thinks that if it could break his heart anymore
that it would.
"Michael, it's Jacob, I've finished it. If anything goes wrong, there's a will in my desk."
The line goes dead.
"June, please. Be reasonable. It's raining, let's talk about this in the morning."
"You're a fucking robot. Say it, say that you love me."
"June, please. You're drunk."
And the words are in his brain but his throat is frozen, a solid block of ice freezing his lips shut.
"I fucking hate you. I hate you so much"
and she's grabbing her keys and stumbling
into her shoes and she really shouldn't be driving but he doesn't care. It's terrifying, he can't
make himself stop her because it's true, he really doesn't want her there right now and she's
walking out and it feels like a forever this time. As if the door closing will never
hear the scratch of her key again but he doesn't want that either. He doesn't want that at all and he
can't move. He can't just reach out and grab her and she leaves
with a click.
"What were you thinking, Michael? Encouraging him like that, and time travel? Really? Don't you think it's a little cruel, he's been through so much. He'd believe anything at this point."
"He needed to feel as though he was doing something, anything. I thought it might
keep him busy."
She paces, her mind spinning furiously.
"And how long has he been talking about this 'ghost'?"
The doctor sits down, he's exhausted by all of this. "Three weeks,
maybe? But it's not malicious, it was a comfort to him in a way. You have to understand,
he's mad with grief."
"Exactly, he's not rational. You took advantage of that, you sent him on a wild goose chase that centers fully on the past. He's not stable, and now he's about to take an unknown drug with no toxicity reports and talking about a will? And how do we really know..."
"Jacob wouldn't do that."
"And your son wouldn't have either, right?"
"My son didn't- it was an accident."
"He accidentally fell onto a razor blade then? Did he accidentally write that note? Who are you trying to convince here, Michael? I have no sympathy for you because you haven't changed a bit, you'll do anything to help yourself sleep at night. And does Jake sleep? Do I sleep?
Of course not, so how is it fair? How is any of this fair? He's all I fucking have and you drove him insane. There's a difference between being compassionate and complacent. Just let them do what they want, they'll work it out on their own, right? But we can't. We can't do this by ourselves."
"And where have you been this entire time? Have you been with him, have you been sitting at this table talking to him? No, when she died you left him too. This isn't my place, this isn't my problem. I shouldn't have to take care of a grown man."
"Fuck you, it's called friendship."
She spits the words at him.
"You're way out of line, Hannah."
"He's all I have."
The clock struggles against the four a.m. mark, throwing it's dim light into the complete darkness of
the silent room. The buzzer rips them both from sleep and he's wiping his eyes and June is stepping into shorts and then Hannah is there in the hall. A modern day gypsy, gliding over state lines, she follows flocks of birds and send letters
when she has the time.
"Dad disowned me."
There's more than a million little reasons why this would occur and they all fit together like a mosaic,
"What'd you do?"
"Slept with his girlfriend", she's shoveling food into her mouth as if she hadn't eaten in days.
It went on that way for a few weeks that way, June and Hannah and him, all bunking into their little studio apartment. He thinks back on them fondly, an aching in his gut like the memories of childhood, a dull pain for something comforting. She leaves without saying goodbye but
draws a picture of some birds on an old napkin with
a little ink heart on the bottom.
He still has it.
"It's my last night."
"Don't ignore me please" and his voice echoes into the empty and it sounds more pathetic than he wanted it to but he knows that this might be it. He might not make it back and he wants the ghost to appear, to drag him back into the memories and to hold him there for
But nothing happens.