[November Breaks] THEN | 11 | Brett

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FRIDAY 17TH NOVEMBER 2017

Yesterday, I got home from work and packed a bag. I didn’t know where I was going and I didn’t care and it didn’t matter. Now I’m here and I still don’t care and it still doesn’t matter. But I’m here.

I can see the sea from this shitty window in this shitty guest house, or at least I could earlier, before it got dark. I can still hear it though and the damp salt air creeps through the gap where the window doesn’t close completely, working its way into my lungs like stone fingers.

I don’t remember much in a logical order after I got here. There was pacing and drinking and chewing scabs off my knuckles and I didn’t look at the clock even though it was looking at me. I must have slept because I woke up, but I don’t know when that was. I drank some more and puked so hard I burst a blood vessel in my eye and maybe I ate one of those packs of complementary shortbread biscuits or maybe I only ate half, and then it was today.

I had a shower, as hot as I could get it, closed my eyes under the water and let it burn my face and chest like stripping my skin off with lye. Then I cleaned my teeth like my life depended on it, like I was trying to scrub off the enamel with shitty guesthouse toothpaste and near-boiling water from the kettle. And I’m clean now in some ways that aren’t so important.

It’s dark and I feel like I’m in prison, even though I can walk out the door any time I want. Prison might be four walls, but it also might be madness and I keep saying the word prison over and over in my head so it doesn’t sound like a real thing at all anymore. I turned off my phone sometime after I got here and I don’t want to look at it. I’m meant to be back at work on Monday, or I said I would be, but I don’t want to deal with any of it.

Fuck.

I need to get out of here. I need to get out of everywhere.

I leave the guesthouse and walk past the coffee place on the corner that I want to go into when I’m a real person again. It’s called Alchemy and the name would make me smile if I could smile right now. I keep trying to because I want to make my lips bleed, but there are small tremors running through my face and nothing makes the shapes it’s supposed to. The thing Byron said about the brain haemorrhage keeps coming back to me, and I want to hit my head again to see what happens.

The streets are empty because the only people here in November are the people who live here and they have more sense than to be outside.

And then him. A shadow under a streetlight near the coffee place with the name, completely out of context and with no reason to be here that I can make sense of. My omen.

Was it him who stopped the other night? Maybe? It doesn’t matter. It’s him now. It’s definitely him. I know. He’s staring at the ground, lost in his head and the darkness pooling around his feet. All I can think is I need to feel something break inside me. Something else. Something more. And maybe he can do it. Not now, but when it happens.

And he looks up. “It’s you. The other guy was a car, right?”

This whole thing is so perfectly unintentional and I couldn’t have asked for better. The only sounds are small waves rippling against the harbour wall, the occasional sweep of distant traffic on the road inland, and our breathing. No footsteps. No voices. “Yeah, it’s me.”

“So you got home OK?”

“I guess so. I don’t remember much about it.” I look into the streetlight above him and it has a halo. A soft, artificial ember-glow halo.

“And now you’re here.”

“I am. I needed to be somewhere else.” There’s concrete under me, but I’m standing at the water’s edge, facing down a tidal wave, waiting for it to crash.

Here we are in one of those rare moments when time gets shocked into stillness. A few seconds stretch out into an eternity of high-definition slow motion, cause and consequence. It feels like an ending and a beginning and an entire turn of the wheel all at once. We shouldn’t both be here, but through a collision of accident and decision, we are. Watching ourselves and each other from outside and inside and before and after.

Or that might just be some bullshit about how I see it after what happened to my head and everything else that’s been going on. Still no brain haemorrhage that I’m aware of. Unless he’s still not here and I’m imagining him again. No. He’s here. I’m here. It’s real. We’re real.

“I don’t usually do things like this,” he says, “but do you want to go somewhere for a drink?”

“I do things like this all the time, but not tonight.” I am returning to myself. I don’t want this, the way I am now, to be the beginning of whatever we are. “It’s been a strange week. Tomorrow though. Meet me for a drink tomorrow night.”