When did we slip from sleep into death. I never saw you that way, alone in your car as it drove through town, taking you from one errand to another, but you stayed inside and didn’t step out. I should have paid more attention, or any attention at all. You deserved as much, but I spent the days confined by a broken spirit, unable to breathe, to walk with you, to take your hand or believe the peace could ever be healed.
The gift, a simple coloring book and crayons, on the face of it wasn’t much. It wasn’t even wrapped, just handed to the scruffy kid. He was prone to falling asleep in class, was known to complete his online homework late at night; he had to wait his turn for access to the one laptop in the family. Dinner, when there was dinner, was cooked by his big brother. Parents? No dad, and mom’s stories rarely matched the story the kids told. Any yet, the simple gesture, a gift, made it the best birthday the kid ever had.
I heard the footsteps again today, clicking high heals on a hardwood floor from the flat above mine. From the sound of them, I’m imagining a youngish woman, athletic, not too heavy. Maybe she’s blond, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ve heard the steps before. Not every day, but a couple times a week, usually in the mornings when I’m getting ready for work, and I imagine she’s getting ready too. Maybe she works downtown like I do. There I go again, getting ahead of myself. Sorry about that. I imagine we’ll meet some day, and it’s kind of driving me batty when I hear her pacing back and forth up there, although I’ve never seen her, and doubt I ever will. See, the thing is, I live on the top floor of this building and there is no flat above mine.
The chirps and whirs of the quantum drive interstellar craft reminded him of a forest full of songbirds. Each note an indicator of a system at work, power, waste reclamation, hydroponics, communications, and many others, a chirping serenity letting him know the health of his ship at all times.
Beneath all of the other sounds came the heart of the ship itself, the quantum drive, that engine capable of existing in more than one location at the same time and shifting him and the ship around him to any of those other places. The sound, mostly in the infrasound end of the spectrum, below even his attenuated sense of hearing, came more as a feeling in his chest, deep in his bones, abiding, a life around him. All the more disturbing then when he awoke one morning to silence.
When he put the blindfold on, he expected to be challenged a bit in finding his way around the flat, probably bump into furniture, lose things, that sort of thing. Not watching TV actually gave him the shakes, but it was only an experiment, and 48 hours wasn’t that long. At least 16 of that would be sleeping, so really, it was only for 32 hours. How hard could it be?
Cooking. That’s how hard it could be. He could feel the difference between lettuce and spinach, but had no way to know what meat he was getting out of the freezer until it was cooking and the aroma would tell him if this was ground beef, ground turkey, or that more expensive ground buffalo. Evening meals became a surprise, especially with all of the spices. He relied on his nose in the kitchen, but even then, his first cooked meal was so unexpected, it took him a few bites to realize just how much he enjoyed the odd mixture of flavors.
After the two days were over, he left on the blindfold. Just for another two days, he thought, but in the end, having lived differently, no longer so attached to the stuff and clutter of his life, he found that giving things up meant more than the things themselves. Yes, he received a lot of criticism, and even lost a few friends over the decision, but again, the giving up was more important than the relationship, and the procedure to have his eyes surgically removed went so well that he was able to donate the eyes to someone who wanted them. Poor souls.