Too old for this. Same mistakes. Tell her again. And again.
The ceiling fan only blows the heat around. Pillow too flat. Sheets all a mess.
Too old and too stupid.
It got to the point where he couldn’t breathe anymore and there was no use staying in bed. She was tossing in bed, too, and he wanted to ask her if she was mad at him, but he didn’t want to to acknowledge that she had a reason for being angry. She clearly was, but wasn’t saying it, so maybe he could hope that she wasn’t.
It was all so stupid, and he couldn’t believe that he was here, tossing in his bed, over the same stupid shit yet again.
Every step of the way could be justified, but the end result was always the same, and somehow it was only he who ended up here so he had to face that it was him, entirely him.
He wanted to die. But not quite. Death would leave grieving, accusation, disappointment. Wounds that would fester in his children. It would make her wonder if she had been wrong to be so angry, and she didn’t deserve that doubt. She was right to be angry. Again.
He didn’t want to die but he wanted to stop living. To stop being. Cast a spell and erase himself from the world and from everyone.
Impossibilities, he knew. Peter got out of bed. He used the bathroom for the fifth time that evening, had a glass of water, took an Advil for a headache he wasn’t sure he had. Instead of going back to bed he went to the couch and turned the fan directly onto himself. When he couldn’t cool down he knew it wasn’t the heat. It wasn’t that hot tonight.
The idea came to him that he needed a walk, and so after debating it in his head for an hour or so–now well past midnight, with his alarm set to wake him in just over four hours–he got up and got dressed.
He left his phone but took some cash–maybe he could get a coffee somewhere–and stepped out into the night.
He lived on a quiet street. The night sky, dark blue and starless at midnight, peeked down at hime through the trees that shaded the pavement by day. There were sidewalks but only children used them, and rarely at that.
He had no destination in mind. East took him into the city, all other directions took him further into the suburbs. Because he was half-facing north, he took the sidewalk in that direction, and walked on.
The only sounds were his own. Fabric rustling, rubber soles on the pavement, breathing, blood in his ears. He probably did have a headache.
It was cooler outside but he was fairly out of shape and after a few blocks he had a slight mist of sweat developing. He reached the edge of his neighborhood, a logical place to turn and head east to the gas station or west to the all night diner, or even turn back home. But he kept walking.
His thoughts were more interested in what he was doing than what he had done. And that was a welcome relief. Because he didn’t want to think about that anymore, at least not tonight.
He noted the names of the streets as he passed them with an increasing curiosity. He didn’t recognize most of them, even though he wasn’t far from home. He passed Henry Street and wondered what sorts of weird twists it must take to end up here.
The street he was on ended and he had to choose a new direction to go. Somewhere along the way, he realized, there must have been a slight curve that he didn’t notice, because up ahead he saw the highway passing over this neighborhood at an angle.
Curious, and perhaps lost, he went to the highway and passed under it. He had never been on this side of the highway, not in a car or on foot. He must have passed the city line somewhere, too. Street signs here were a different color.
He kept walking.
How far would he go? How far had he gone? He wasn’t even thinking about it anymore. His legs just kept moving. They carried him through this neighborhood and into another, and then another. Some areas were nicer than others, some were quieter than others. At times he saw someone looking out their window or sitting on a porch, startled by the stranger walking down their street late at night. At least a few of them took mental pictures to report to the police later, if anything happened.
But nothing would. Peter just kept walking. And in time the sky above began to grow lighter, and then the sun was up, and he was still walking.
He found a gas station and relieved himself, bought a sandwich, and kept on walking. This part of the county–he was far from the city now–was coming to life, a life paced very differently from the one he knew. Different sets of sounds, different voices.
He kept walking, past this neighborhood and into another. Across the county line and into the next one. The houses grew and shrank according to rhythms of development not apparent to a casual observer, but a general trend was that the distances between them was, on average, growing larger. Soon town stopped being a euphemism for suburb and he was walking through a small town whose resident rarely if ever went downtown. Who couldn’t even see the buildings from here.
He bought another sandwich for lunch and ate it while he kept walking. With the sun starting its descent he passed a railroad track and entered into the country. A long gray ribbon of battered asphalt stretched out through a field.
He kept walking. By now he was dimly aware of pain in his legs but he kept walking. As long as he kept walking his mind didn’t think about his wife and children worrying about where he had gone without his phone or wallet.
The sky turned a rich purple as dark fell. Now there were stars up above. He wished he’d learned about the constellations when he was younger. But back then he only saw stars on camping trips, and nobody around him knew anything about them, either.
And he walked through the night, and the morning, and the day and the night and the morning again. Again and again. And again and again until he disappeared and was swallowed whole by the vastness and the emptiness and himself.