Even though we can’t turn back time, we’re at least capable of closing our eyes and imagining what could have been. When I got home last night, I felt nothing. It was a different kind of emptiness. I felt so useless, so weak, so incapable. I couldn’t get the images out of my mind — Arthur. Inside my apartment, Sven and Natalie’s stuff were all gone. I was back to being alone. Once my bedroom door closed shut behind me, I remained motionless. I stared at the bathroom tile and waited for my senses to come back. My coat was drenched, my hair completely wet. My nose was stuffed and my glands were slightly swollen. I tried to breathe or swallow, but the lingering taste of wood ash made my throat itch and burn the more I pushed myself to do so. I wasn’t even that close to the fire. I was out of the house before it even spread, yet somehow it feels as if the smoke leeched onto me, seeping through every cell in my body.
When I finally managed to make it to the bathroom. I stripped off my clothes and stepped inside the bathtub. My hand fell on the faucet and switched it on. An initial stream of cold water poured down on me I almost cried out. I eagerly waited for the lukewarm drops to emerge and once they did, I started to calm down. I stood there with my head tilted down and felt the warm stream thickening. The rising steam brought heat to my aching face which put me more at ease. I closed my eyes, parted my lips and inhaled deeply. I pictured Arthur starting his boat and breaking it free. I pictured him embracing his freedom as he drove it in full force into the Atlantic. My mind swirled as water trickled down my back and the heat soaked into my skin. Every muscle in my body was cramped. I let my hands guide me downward until I reached the depth of the tub. I lied my back on the acrylic surface and waited until it was completely filled with water. Once it did, I turned the water off and steadily drifted into sleep.
The wind hits me by surprise as soon as I step out into the Financial District. It’s strong but doesn’t seem to be causing me any discomfort. A dark navy hue covers the sky in its entirety. It’s nighttime.
The buildings surrounding me look abstract — distorted. They’re pretty wide at the bottom and weirdly thinner at the top. On my right, I can see the Twin Towers, bright and standing tall. However, it’s the leaning tower on my left side that seems to be at the center of it all. It is completely dark, the tip of it vanishing into the fog. Black garbage bags are stacked on top of each other on both sides of the street, as far as the eye can see. I walk among them, occasionally passing through the steam rising from the pavement and the flying pages of newspaper. I seem to be walking with purpose toward the tower, but I’m not sure why. When I finally reach it, I look up and see the top half of it fully submerged in the fog. The large glass windows surrounding the building’s doors are darkly tinted. Looking into one of them, I finally see my reflection. I’m wearing a fitted white dress shirt and black dress pants. My hair is longer and parted to the side. My face is clean shaven. I try pulling the door handle but it’s locked. Next to it stands a slick metal post displaying the tower’s directory touch screen. I push the button prompting the doorman and announce myself. It takes him a moment to walk to the door and open it.
“You’re here for the Amphidromia.” he says.
I don’t know what that means, but I proceed in walking in anyway. Walking through the double doors and passing the lobby, I notice the building’s remarkable historical structures and slick new renderings. Black and golden accents dominate the area. Not intending to stall, I keep walking to the elevators. I take the only vacant one and it automatically sends me up to the 68th floor. I check myself in the stained Renaissance-styled mirror covering the back of the elevator until I reach the top floor. When the doors open, I step into a busy corridor full of people, all dressed up in black Medieval outfits. I look for the apartment door and spot a frowning blond waiter undoing his tuxedo apron and leaping toward me. He takes it off and throws it on top of a chair. Without any hesitation, I rush to grab it and put it on. As I secure the back strings, I glance in his direction and catch him staring right at me as he lights up a cigarette and walks out to the balcony. I take a deep breath before furtively diving into the crowd of wealthy people. I reach for a tray with wine glasses located nearby and pretend to be one of the waiters.
I enter the main parlor and immediately fall upon a woman dressed in a provocative burgundy habit and veil. When she sees me look at her, she seductively spreads her legs revealing a mesh and lace garter belt. There seems to be a celebration going on, but I have no idea why. The apartment is gothic and obscure. It has distressed walls, ancient furniture and dark hardwood floors. The disheveled but opulent characteristics of the place make me guess a noble figure is involved, yet I can’t find out who it is. The parlor keeps getting more crowded as more guests arrive; they invade the entire space and gradually fill the apartment. Due to everyone suffocating me, I become quickly disoriented. I fight my way out of the parlor and stumble into a rounded room — some sort of turret to the main tower — with a spiral staircase. Lost and overwhelmed, I watch as the parlor slowly devolves in a frenzied celebratory chaos. I scan every inch of the space from a distance and spot a set of framed photographs on a large wooden console. I put my tray down and walk to inspect them. I’m shocked to see Matthew in most of them. In one of the photos, he’s standing on the left side of two women. He looks way younger than I remember him — thinner, his hair long and styled in popular 90s curtains. Somehow it’s the only photo I can vividly see — the rest is a blur. Behind me on a velvet red sofa, sit a few individuals. They’re holding gifts. A couple of people join them in tearing the packages apart, revealing baby clothes. Amidst all the laughter and hysteria, I decide to look for Matt. I know he’s there but I can’t find him. Suddenly, the rolling dark oak double doors open, causing the havoc to subside and everyone’s demeanor to settle. A man in what looks like a religious black robe walks into the parlor and announces the arrival of the Progical Son. As soon as he walks back inside, a wave of people wildly rushes after him to be the first to get inside the private room. Intrigued and desperate for the revelation, I wade into the crowd and fight my way up to the front. The tower starts to sway, the rocking dizziness causing people to lose balance and fall to the ground. The ceiling cracks and the candles’ flickering fastens. I’m struggling, but I’m too close to the door to give up. The man reappears and reaches for each side of the door. He starts closing it, so I viciously grab the people blocking my path and savagely push them away. I throw myself at the closing doors and behind the man’s head, I catch a glimpse of three individuals interacting with a taller gentleman holding a baby. I can’t see his face as his back is turned to me, but I recognize him as the man I saw in the earlier dream I had. Matt’s husband. The door slams shut right before my eyes and the entire room spins. The platform I’m standing on collapses, sending me into a black hole.
When Matt died, he took his mystery along with him. I’ve fought so hard to uncover his paradox without any luck, so now I rely on the dreams I have, analyzing every detail and looking for clues and explanations. I’ve started a side journal dedicated to him. But dreams are a tricky thing. They might seem real, but oftentimes they’re just a projection of our subconscious — our ideas, feelings and thoughts. They’re chaotic, shadowy and suspicious, but I refuse to believe they’re absolutely meaningless. Sometimes my mind drifts and I see flashes of him — visions. It sounds completely crazy, but his lingering presence keeps getting heavier and more imposing. When I look back at the people I’ve lost, my longing for them seems to have faded away. But with Matt, it’s different. He’s like a revenant, and the more I think about him, the more alive he seems. Maybe it’s all in my head and my devoted love for him is an illusion — an exciting pursuit of something that was once tangible but can no longer be possessed. Yet I still try to keep his memory alive, and I don’t know why.
I’ve always loved my privacy, but after bringing Sven in, I’ve become used to living with another human being. He was a good distraction and his warming presence was grounding. Now that him and Natalie have completely moved out, I’m dreading being alone in that apartment again. The guest bedroom is back serving as a dumping zone for my hoarding; useless magazines, expired mail and store coupons thrown in boxes. I still can’t bring myself to get rid of them, but know I have to. Looking in the box dedicated to junk mail, I again came across multiple envelopes destined to Damien and Clarisse, and finally summoned the energy to clean up and throw everything in the garbage.
I woke up early this morning, expecting to hear their movement and commotion around the apartment; the closing of the bathroom door, the footsteps on the wooden floor, the hot water dripping in the coffee machine. I sat on my couch, put my earphones on and shuffled through some of my ambient music selection. I watched the city gradually bathe in the sunrise. I noticed how the clouds turned four different shades of grey in the fifteen minutes it took for the sun to rise. I watched as they settled on a pale blueish color until they separated and shredded, revealing a bright pure blue sky. I wished I was somewhere else. But then I realized that no matter where I went, I’m guaranteed to feel the same.