I think I am growing fangs and my toes look like little worms. My mouth is dry and my lips keep getting trapped by my gums up around my prominent eye-teeth. I wiggle my worm-toes, the only part of my body I have found the courage to move so far this morning. A night of salt-and-lemon-less tequila has left me fearful of stirring. Without the ritual to slow me down, the Mexican water-replacement seemed frighteningly smooth. Fittingly, a mariachi band appears to be playing for chump-change between my temples. The back of my tongue tastes of bile, but off-handed, I don’t recall vomiting.
This won’t do.
I turn over and see that the dent on Marianne’s side of the bed is already beginning to revert back to its level, technically natural state. I wonder how long it will take my body to adjust and start sleeping in the direct centre of the mattress, just like it did in the days before her. I didn’t think the dent would forget quite so quickly.
I nurse my hangover as if it’s a wounded soldier – with respect but a firm hand. As much as it protests, I make my hangover stand up, shower, shave, feed itself. I dress my hangover in normal people clothes made of denim and cotton blends. We, my hangover and I, hydrate ourselves. Water. Orange juice. Coffee. Repeat. We pop pills. Advil, two. Tums, three. Vitamin – multi, one. We are decisive. Sunglasses. We face the day. I take my hangover for a walk.
I often wonder if other people find themselves quite as detached from their bodies as I do from mine. Once I asked Marianne whether she ever felt as though her body was a house that she lived in, a rental with a negotiable lease. She laughed that laugh of hers that she pretended was amused confusion but was really heavily soiled with cold malice. Marianne said that she felt everything – everything – like a river flowing through her veins, like an electrical surge, every experience just emanating into her physical form – her pores, and her fingernails, and her spine. Full-body engagement with life itself. And I know she was lying.
I take my rental-body down my street. The remains of the mushroom-coloured winter slush soak up the legs of my normal-people pants. I should get in the habit of cuffing them like a hipster. The general hazy plan I had for the day of walking about absorbing Vitamin D is abruptly interrupted by the honk of a car horn. My sore eyes blink and suddenly I am riding shotgun in my Aunt Barb’s little green sedan, barreling towards the promise of tea and Peak Freans with the sounds of Blue Oyster Cult floating from the stereo. I appreciate the posse of late-stage baby boomer women that I have at my disposal in this city – my three aunts – who take pride in watching over their only brother’s only son. Barb, for example, has no business rocking out to “Don’t Fear the Reaper” on my little street, save for the fact that she must have heard about Marianne’s departure and wanted to make sure I didn’t have my rental-head jammed in the oven Sylvia Plath style.
Aunt Barb’s house is filled with plaid furniture, an impressive record collection, and framed family pictures everywhere the eyes land – her daughters’ awkward stages immortalized and proudly displayed on every wall. I spot my own face on a living room side table. I’m probably in grade three. I make several appearances around the house, but this one stands out because in this one I have a black eye. I look at the photo, my official school portrait to prove I was once nine-years-old, and I can’t remember how on earth I got that shiner.
My hand moves the frame four inches to the left while my aunt is getting the tea. I don’t know why, I don’t recall my head telling my hand to do anything at all. Sometimes I just do these things in other people’s houses; turn a figurine’s face in the opposite direction, or put a cup under a table. In that golden speck of time pre-cohabitation, Marianne caught me on at least half-a-dozen separate occasions moving things in her old apartment – shifting a jar of pens from one side of her desk to the other, meticulously turning novels upside down on her bookcase. She seemed to find it quirky and endearing, and showed her two rows of very white teeth.
The Advil is beginning to wear off, and the tea my aunt brings me is welcome. She isn’t mentioning Marianne, the pachyderm in the room. They’d made potato salad together, and had conversations about Woody Allen, and recommended books to each other. Superficial matters, but tangible. I feel sorry for the families and friends of couples who’ve ruined things for themselves. They’ve invested time and effort in trying to get to know their loved one’s other half, and suddenly they can’t even ask, “How is Marianne?” without sounding like interfering busybodies. I wouldn’t mind, I think, if Barb asked about it. I might even tell her how I’m murdering my liver so that my heart won’t feel like the wrecked organ. Maybe not.
Later, my aunt drops me off, driving away with Neil Young seeping out of a not-quite-closed window, and I take my body up my stairs and into my apartment. The place still smells like Marianne lives here, like brown sugar and incense. The room is cold though, and everything is dulled enough that I know she hasn’t been back to return her keys or pick up her blue rain coat.
My rental-mouth moves of its own accord sometimes, making words with my to-let-tongue. Words like “I’m not sure” and “I’m not ready”. And she didn’t laugh her cruel laugh under the guise of confusion – that day she didn’t laugh, she left.
Vodka tonight, I think.
Marg Craig is a writer originally from Canada’s beautiful East Coast. She now lives in Toronto with her camera, her laptop, and a growing collection of vintage clothing.