The Four AM Drop

Nighthawk This short story is in response to this daily prompt.

“I have five minutes. I told him I was going out for cigarettes.”

“I haven’t told her.”

“But- you said- I don’t understand.”

“There hasn’t been a good time. She’s wrapped up in the details of the funeral.”

“I can’t- you can’t- this is outrageous! We’re supposed to leave in the morning! You gave me your word.”

“Catherine, it’s her father for Chrissakes. The poor thing just lost her father. Can you have a little bit of empathy?

Empathy?! Empathy?! How about you have a little empathy for me for once?!”

The server looked up and made eye contact with her. She knew she was being louder than what was acceptable, especially at this time of night, and she wondered how this might look in his eyes. It was nearly dawn. Her husband almost hadn’t noticed she had left in the middle of the night. He was a large, dense man and had a brain to match- as if he was made of wood with skin stretched over him, feeling nothing and obtaining no sense of intuition.The moment between she and the server dissipated as she rearranged herself, consciously taking the tension out of her neck, placing her elbows on the counter, trying to remain as casual as possible.

She and Duke had been seeing each other over the past three years. Her husband stiffly going to work, making passionless love to her on a predictable schedule, eating dry toast and never looking her directly in they eye- disinterested in what might be beyond her surface, or maybe content with the facade presented. Duke’s wife was beautiful, especially for her age, but she’d become distant and Catherine often wondered if she would become more beautiful with time as Duke’s wife had.

She knew Duke might be trading in the first wife for an updated, younger version, and it might someday happen to her, but taking that chance was better than staying in this stagnant life. The truth was, she didn’t know who’s baby it might have been. She’d convinced herself it must belong to Duke. How could a human life be formed out of the dust of such a loveless bed? And when she told Duke, there had been a brief flicker of light in his eyes before it turned to dread. She thought through it- if only his wife wasn’t in the picture. If only the roles were reversed and she was the man who had impregnated her precious young and slender lover, she would take her mistress by the waist and take her to a new city, maybe Chicago, and they would start their lives together, no questions asked. But she had told him six weeks ago and he had remained frozen.

The lines in his sleepless face were not a good sign, she thought. Nothing good happens in the middle of the night. They should have waited until dawn to reunite, waited for the dark monsters of anxiety and self reflection to crawl back into their tiny closets, waiting for darkness to fall again. Maybe then he would be ready to get on the train, like they planned, and get out of the city that had condemned them. They would run to the vast and colorful northern suburbs, leaving New York behind like a stain on hotel sheets. They’d find a small home and once she was comfortable and settled and there wasn’t any backing out of the mess they had made, she would fake the miscarriage that happened two weeks ago and show her allegiance to him, and he to her, by staying.

He opened his mouth and she felt the world crumbling around her.

“I can’t go through with this. I thought I could leave her. I thought we could move forward. I was wrong. I’ll give you the money you’ll need to…”

This was the end. Her chance to leave and start anew was slipping away as quickly as it had slipped in. A montage of memories ran through her head. The gala where he pressed her against a locked bathroom door, instantly running his hand up to her backside, pulling down her garter. The weekend they had managed to get away from their dreadful spouses and flee to the Hamptons, talking about their future and their plans for children, a house outside this city flogged with memories of who they used to be. Maybe they could go to Paris for their honeymoon. Duke had been fortunate throughout this bought of extreme recession and his family’s inheritance remained protected. He would take her away from her mediocre life with her mediocre husband. She recalled the moment she realized she was pregnant, she knew she had hooked him and secured this life for herself. And the moment she lost the baby, fearing it would all unravel if he found out.

She felt herself accepting a check. She took the shakily written note from Duke, it read “Dr. Janson, 45 W Turner St. New Jersey” and heard something from his mouth about Dr. Janson being a trusted doctor who took care of these matters and had long been a family friend. He got up briskly, knowing that her stunned face, frozen in this casual pose, staring at her fingertips, was not going to emit any more sound. He walked away without a touch, without a kiss.

She held onto the check for a week, wrapped up and neatly tucked into her compact. She took it out once in the morning and once in the evening and held it to her nose, searching for any trace of lingering cologne. Finally, when the check only smelled like her powder, she cashed it. She went to Gimbel’s and bought Duke’s cologne. She wrapped it neatly in brown paper and tied it with twine. When she came home that evening, she made dinner for her completely ignorant husband and gave him the sweet, thoughtful gift.

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To My Future Little Ones on Their Eighteenth Birthdays,

To My Future Little Ones on Their Eighteenth Birthdays,

I have yet to birth or even conceive you so I feel like this is the right time for me to write an unbiased letter and let you know what to expect. I am almost 24 years old. I’m working through what I think is my quarter life crisis and I’m learning some seriously huge lessons. I would like to give you, my treasured little one, some perspective and advice that I wish someone had given me on my eighteenth birthday. Let us begin.

You’re about to enter toddlerhood all over again. Soon you will be birthed into this thing “adults” like to call the “real world”. It’s horrifying. You’re leaving this safe little cocoon and you’re ready to breathe on your own. You will have to explore the world with all of your senses. Give yourself the freedom to touch and push everything that you’re not supposed to and learn some hard lessons several times over until it sinks in.

Life feels like an uphill battle. I’m hoping that in five years I can write you another letter and let you know that it gets better and easier, but I’m not holding my breath. I think maybe you just get used to the constant state of flux.

You’re going to do some hard work in order to find your boundaries. You will try on lots of different hats. You will befriend lots of different people. You might change your life path and career path 20 times in one month. You might sleep with lots of people. My genuine hope for you is that you find your voice. Listen to your gut, listen to your instincts. This is your voice. Let it grow strong and practice speaking up for yourself and your boundaries.

Work hard to understand your visceral reactions to the things around you. Find what you love about yourself and what you want to work on.

Don’t be afraid to grow and change. I have been a multitude of people. Embrace the changes. Challenge yourself to find the core root of who you are and what you believe in, but don’t be afraid to evolve. Strive to remain on a path of continual learning and education. You will outgrow friendships and lovers. Do not take this as a sign that you are doing something wrong. When you are perpetually moving forward, you tend to leave the stagnant behind, it’s natural.

This “life” thing is a total mess and especially in these first few years of quasi-adulthood, don’t be discouraged when things don’t go as planned. Nobody knows what they’re doing and I’m 85% sure that the word “adult” is a completely made up term. The sooner you learn to let go and let the waves take you where they may, the happier you will be. There is a difference between banging your head against the wall and working through something. Your gut will know the answer. Know when to give up and move on, take what you can from each lesson and keep on that path of natural progression.

Pick your battles wisely. Don’t let anyone tell you that all they want is the easiest path for you. (Not even me.) The path of least resistance leads nowhere. Allow yourself to be refined through the fires that life gives you. How did the beautiful mountain ranges come to exist? Or the seaside cliffs of the Pacific? Through immense pressure and earthly pain, over time and throughout the years of nature taking its course. Work hard, be persistent, and know that something beautiful will come of it in the end.

Don’t focus on soul mates. It’s an unlikely possibility, statistically speaking.

If you ever find yourself asking “am I in love?” You’re not. You will know so immediately and it will hit you with such force, that there will be no room for doubt or error. If you find yourself questioning “is this person in love with me?” first seek out your own projections and insecurities, work through them, and if the question still remains, they probably don’t. Move on. And when you do find the person that is as equally enthralled by you as you are by them, have all of the hard conversations right up front. Ask all of the scary questions. If you can handle the answers or come to some kind of agreement, hang on tight. That person is worth it.

Most of all, frequently remind yourself that you are human. This time on Earth is limited. At the end of our lives, you will not remember the fact that you have thirty five cents to your name, but the creative ways in which you survived your early twenties. Give yourself room to breathe. Accept your high standards and your challenges and know that just the fact that you are thinking of where you want to go and who you want to be, are surefire signs that you, my sweet unfathomable angel, will be okay.

Best,
PW