Friday, February 21, 2014

Seems So Long Ago, Nancy


    I was not prepared to be with her when I tossed myself at her willingness to have me. She needed someone and I thought that someone was me. For a brief moment, she believed I was right. We were both wrong.
    The first month we were together, we were drunk every night, cooped up in our tenement apartment near the railroad tracks. We had both moved out of our parents' house before we knew how to take care of ourselves, much less each other. We would praise each other and argue endlessly, until there was nothing left to do, but embrace and kiss in the name of our imperfection. We sang along to songs we knew well, together. We taunted and foolishly played with each other and it felt great. We made love and when there was no love to be found between us, we would simply fuck each other to feel better.
    There were certain songs she insisted on hearing when she had had too much to drink for anyone's good. She would sit, head slouched near the speaker, listening to a Leonard Cohen song. Seems So Long Ago, Nancy. The lyrics still give me a chill when I hear them.

    She had nightmares sometimes when we slept together. She said she dreamed she was trapped, bound in a place or situation she did not want to be in, but she refused to go into anymore detail. I told her they were only nightmares and that always made her angry.
    We began seeing friends again, stepping out of our two person cocoon. We continued drinking. Her actions were reckless sometimes. My actions were too, sometimes. When we went to parties, she would flirt with other men, other women's girlfriends. I saw it, but thought little of it. I too was talking, sometimes flirtatiously, to other women, other men's girlfriends, enjoying the company of someone other than each other, knowing we would end up together at the end of the night.
    Until, eventually, we did not end up together.
    In cowardice, I watched her ride away in another man's car from a party. I called her phone eleven times that night and was always met with her absurd voice-mail. It began as a lion's growl before you heard her voice. She appreciated the nonsense of electrical connection. She never called me back that night.
    In the morning, she called me and asked why I had called so many times.
    "What happened last night?" I asked
    "What do you mean?"
    "You left without me. With someone else."
    "Yeah, I had to crash."
    "Who did you go home with?"
    "A friend. He was going home, so I went with him."
    She refused to tell me what happened that night, no matter how much I would push her to tell me. She would walk away from me whenever I asked about it and turned on that Goddamned Leonard Cohen song from the album Songs from a Room. Everything about it's sleeve and cover I know and recognize. All it took was her sinking her head into the speaker when the needle hit the groove. That was enough. It was enough for me to drop it. It was enough for me to forgive her. And she knew it was enough and she continued to take advantage of it for as long as she and I could take it.
    I became aware of it, but I was too late.

Seems So Long, Nancy
By Leonard Cohen

It seems so long ago,
Nancy was alone
looking ate the late late show
through a semi-precious stone.
In the house of honesty
her father was on trial,
in the house of mystery
there was no one at all,
there was no one at all.

It seems so long ago,
none of us were strong;
Nancy wore green stockings
and she slept with everyone.
She never said she's wait for us
although she was alone,
I think she fell in love for us
in nineteen sixty-one,
in nineteen sixty-one.

It seems so long ago,
Nancy was alone,
a forty-five beside her head,
an open telephone.
We told her she was beautiful,
we told her she was free,
but none of us would meet her in
the house of mystery,
the house of mystery.

And now you look around you,
see her everywhere,
many use her body,
many comb her hair.
In the hollow of the night
when you are cold and numb
you hear her talking freely then,
she's happy that you've come,
she's happy that you've come.

    We both worked long hours at our jobs when we were weren't figuring out ourselves and each other. Service jobs. Construction jobs. Odd jobs. Any jobs we could find, and that did not help, but sometimes we found solace in complaining about our jobs to each other.
No time for the things you love.
No time for those you are stuck with.
Choosing no time for something to find time for something new.
Ignoring obvious flaws in your existence.
Walking away without saying goodbye,
when someone believes they deserve a goodbye.

    In a night of sorrow, she drunkenly decided to swallow as many pills as she could find in the medicine cabinet. She made this decision after drinking as much hard liquor as she could manage. I was in the bedroom, sleeping.
    I woke up to the sound of a crash. Rubbing my eyes, I walked towards the bathroom, through the stark grey hallway. Through the ajar door frame bare light emitted unto the floor. I looked in and found her laying naked on the bathroom tile with foam bubbling out of her mouth. Her phone was in her hand and someone was on the line.
    "Hello?" I said cautiously into the phone.
    "Jed?" A voice asked back; It was her mother's voice.
    "Yes." I said quietly, checking her pulse at her neck.
    "Is she okay?" She asked, worried.
    "I don't know, but I will take care of her." I said impulsively, then looked down at what I was wearing; boxer briefs.
    She regained consciousness for a moment and mumbled that he did not love her. She was not talking about me. Then she said now he is gone. She coughed up more white foam, then rested her head back onto the floor, drifting back out of consciousness. The foam slowly started draining back into her mouth. I cradled the back of her head with my arm and lifted her towards me. Her eyes fluttered. I looked up at the light fixture and winced. Then I raised my arm above her head with a flat stiff palm. I slapped her across the face.
    "Wake up!" I yelled.
    Her legs and arms curled up to her torso, dragging against the polished black and white bathroom floor. The lights flickered for a moment in that cold and drafty apartment. I slapped her again.
    "You have to wake up!"
     She wrapped her warm body around my legs, semi-conscious again. She pressed her sweating pelvis against me. I pulled her closed to me. "You have to wake up." I said again, quieter.
    "I know." She muffled. She rest her head in my lap. "He's gone" She said again, then coughed up phlegm and foam. "I'm sorry." She whispered.
    I clenched her skin with my finger tips. "You need to throw up."
    Her entire body shuddered. "I can't."
    I scanned the room in its buzzing white light.The light was the only sound I heard. "Stick your hand down your throat." I said.
    "I can't."
    "I'm going to call an Ambulance."
    "No." She coughed. "Stick your hand down my throat." She gurgled, struggling to breath, then hacked up small bits of yellow phlegm. I stared at her illuminated face in the harsh overhead light, blank and spotted with pasty saliva. With unexpected lucidity she gazed into my eyes. "Jed, stick your fingers down my throat."
     And that is what I did. I tapered my fingers and forced them down her esophagus, as far as they would go, mining for the internal poison that needed to erupt. She gagged and her eyes bulged. I paused for a moment. "Are you okay?"
    "Mmph." she muffled with tears welling at the corners of her eyes. "Am fine."
    I cradled her head with my other arm.
    "Do it." she muffled, struggling to breath.
     I pushed my fingers deeper into her throat. She hacked up more phlegm, blood, foamy chunks of white pills, bile, and saliva on my hand and wrist. I slid my hand out of her mouth and pushed her head towards the toilet basin. She retched loud and violently for what seemed like an eternity. Staggered and strained gagging noises echoed against the porcelain. Things were coming out. Things were being evacuated. Things were being expressed. It was horrible.
    Finally, she stopped. She exhaled with a moan, then fell back slowly to the ground. Her eyes were closed as she took deep even breath.
    "What is going on on?" I asked stunned, but coming again to my senses.
    She was silent, except for her breathing, for a very long time. "Can you get me a towel?" She asked quietly.
    Without answering, I walked to our room and found a clean towel and a large thread bar t shirt. I sat back down next to her and raised the towel to her face. "I grabbed this shirt for you."
    She wiped the phlegm and saliva off her skin. I handed her the shirt and she clinically let it fall over her head and shoulder and hips.
    "Are you going to be okay?" I asked.
    Her closed eyes were puffy red and wet. "Can we not talk, please? Can we go to sleep?" In an dizzy and exasperated tone.
    "I hung up on your mom."
    She sighed.
    "You should probably call her back."
    She sighed again.
    "Let me take you to bed." I helped her to her feet and walked her down the hallway. Her legs buckled near the doorway to the bedroom. I picked her up and cradled her in my arms.
    "No." She whispered.
     I walked through the doorway and laid her in the bed. "Go to sleep."
    "Are you going to bed?" She asked.
    "Not yet." I answered. "Go to sleep."
    I sat in a chair watching her sleep for a very long time. She would not die that night. It would not happen. I wouldn't let it happen.
    The first dim light of the eastern sun began to glow through the window. I walked over to the window and watched it rise over the skyline. Warm and welcome orange and red light cast faint shadows upon the streets and building of the city. The first train rumbled deep and solemn down the street. I knelt down beside her sleeping in bed. I placed the back of my hand against her cheek. "I have to go to work."
    She sighed.
    I went to work.
    That was not the end of it, but it was the beginning of the end.

Aaron C. Molden



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