Chapter 17

(2007)

 

When I arrived at home, Amy was cooking dinner. She did not seem to notice me coming in, so I went into the kitchen to say hello. She did not look up.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Nothing much. I just told someone that I was in love with them, and they stomped all over my heart. No big deal.”

I went to the cabinet out of habit to pour a drink and found it empty. It occurred to me that this could be harder than I expected. I needed some relief.

“You don’t want to be in a relationship with me, Amy.”

“I’m already in a relationship with you, James.”

“You know what I mean.”

She went quiet and stirred the chili on the stove.

“Look, I need to make a call,” I said.

I grabbed a pack of cigarettes and my lighter, went outside, and started looking for my phone contacts for George. I found it, but I hesitated. It was around dinner time; I didn’t want to disturb him. Instead, I lit a cigarette and took a few drags, hoping for some sort of relief. I hadn’t smoked all day, and the buzz came on strong, but it didn’t last. It wasn’t the same. I thought of the pills and realized that I hadn’t thrown them away with the booze. My arm had pretty much healed, and I was no longer in any pain from the accident, but it was medicine. How could medicine be bad? I thought, but even in my thinking, I could see the flaw. These were the same pills that got me into the hospital just days before. I finished up my cigarette and stamped it out on the sidewalk, then walked inside. Amy was not in the kitchen. I found the bottle of pills, and there were only a few left. Not enough to do any significant damage. I thought hard for a moment about what it would feel to take them. It would take the edge off my discomfort; give me some relief.

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Chapter 13

(2007)

 

Weeks had gone by, and I’d called every shelter in town. Although many knew Amy, none had seen her. I wondered if she were even in San Francisco anymore. I missed her greatly. I missed our mornings together at the kitchen table sipping coffee and reading the paper when she would sometimes pull a part of me out, examine it coarsely, and give it back to me with the hands of a child whose innocence had been taken by a man’s brutal hand. I missed having a purpose in sheltering her from whatever storms were chasing her.

Christmas was bearing down on me, and I could scarcely handle the weight of it. Every holiday jingle, Christmas light, and decorated tree reminded me that I would never wake up early on Christmas morning to fix Laura a cup of hot cocoa with a peppermint stick and that somewhere Amy might be alone, in danger, or hungry.

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