Chris rode the train for several hours, until he remembered that Mia was to have visited the doctor the day before, and he never even thought to ask her about the appointment. Making his way through the shiny, steel maze of turnstiles and dividers which funnelled pedestrian traffic into or away from larger, open “corrals” where passengers awaited their respective trains; Chris suddenly thought, “I feel like one of Dad’s milk cows…” As soon as the thought ran through his head, another thought followed in hot pursuit: “I haven’t thought of home for a long time…”
Putting both thoughts aside, with their ambiguity of emotions, Chris began to climb the stairs out of the tunnels and emerged into a rapidly darkening sky, just a couple of blocks from his apartment building. Steeling himself for the unpleasant questions that were certain to come from Mia, Chris approached his building and stopped for a moment just outside the doors. Taking a deep breath and exhaling in a long, sustained release of air and tension, he stepped towards the door.
Noticing his actions, the doorman said, “Want a cigarette? You might need one…”
Perplexed, Chris responded, “N-n-no thanks… at least not yet.”
Chris made his way through the lobby, up the stairs, and stopped again in front of the apartment door to remove the key from his pocket. As he looked down to put the key into the lock, he noticed something just sticking out from under the door. Continuing to both unlock the door and to look down, he found the unknown object to be the other key to the apartment, as the door swung open. He bent over, picked it up, and then surveyed the interior of the apartment, listening and looking intently.
“Mia?” He said weakly. “Mia!” He once again said, but more strongly this time.
Walking through the foyer of the apartment, he sensed complete silence before he even stepped into the remaining rooms. Chris felt rather than saw, at first, that Mia was gone. He noticed the message light on the base for their phone on a side table in the living room. Pushing the button, he heard his own voice requesting… no, it was not a request… it was a demand… that Mia bring a new shirt to him at the restaurant earlier in the day. The apartment was clean, he noticed, and when he walked into the bedroom, the cleanliness felt more like cold sterility. Chris openned the closets and dresser drawers, but they were all empty. Going into the baby’s room… or what they had decided would be it’s room… he found a letter sitting atop a new dresser they had purchased a month before. Hanging on one of the knobs was a tiny, pink dress. Lifting the letter, he found two small, black, patent leather shoes with white socks, topped with white lace; tucked into the shoes.
Chris swallowed and then openned the letter…
I am having a little girl, not that you have cared to ask. I have decided to call her Hope. However, she is the only thing that will tie you and me together. I am going home. Dad and Mom have told me they will help me have the baby and then get myself on my feet. This isn’t the life I want, and you aren’t the man I thought you to be. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I don’t think its too much to ask that my husband love me and sleep with me, and only me.
I will be seeing an attorney and filing for a divorce. Don’t worry, I don’t want any of your money for myself, but you are responsible for supporting Hope, too. You will hear from my attorney when I can get everything together.
Have a nice life, Chris…
At first, Chris felt numb and a little sick to his stomach. Absent-mindedly he placed the letter and envelope back on the dresser, on top of the shoes, then turned and walked out of the room, closing the door behind him. Going to his bedroom, he began to remove his clothing. He then took a cold shower, and put on a pair of jeans, oxford shirt, and a pair of deck shoes. Going to the coat closet in the foyer, he pulled out a jacket, and left the apartment, but not before removing his wedding ring and throwing it into the apartment.
As he walked down the stairs, his numbness was replaced with a growing anger. With each step downward, Chris descended into an emotional darkness which brought a greater seperation from his former life. Walking out of the building, he surveyed the cityscape. The city was clothed in various shades of gray. Although the lights of the city were on, their luminence only added to the grayness, rather than provide a cheery respite to the night sky.
As he stood just outside the door, he noticed the doorman standing to the side. Turning, he asked, “You still got that cigarette? I could use one right now.”
“Just ran out…” the doorman answered.
“Of course. That figures.” Shrugging his shoulders, Chris turned to the left, and muttererd, “Your loss, Mia…” He then turned into the nearest bar.
“Deloresh….” the voice sounded to her to be that of Chris Dresden.
“Hello? Uh… yes?” Delores responded
“DELORESHHHHHH….. Where are you Deloresh?” The voice continued, cutting off her hesitant response.
“Uh, I’m at home… Who is this? Chris?” She asked.
“Of courshitsChrish… Chrish Drezhdun… Where are you?” He slurred.
“I told you… I’m at home!” She responded a little louder, as if the added volume would clear his alcohol-dimmed mind.
“CumdownhereDeloresh… I wanna sheee you… or even better…come to my housh.”
“What about your wife?” Delores asked.
“Shhhiiiiiiit… you don’ need ta worry ’bout her… Jush come over… Don’ worry ’bout NOthin’!” Chris commanded.
“Ok… but it might take me a little bit.” She cautioned.
“Ish alright… we got all night… HEY! That ryhmes! ” He cackled in laughter. “I orter write songs!”
“I’ll be there.” She said.
Within fifteen minutes, Delores was dressed and headed out the door. Before catching a cab, she stopped by a corner liquor store to buy a bottle of vodka and took a long swig of it in the cab. “I gotta catch up to Chris.” She reasoned with herself. When the cab pulled up in front of Chris’s building, Delores pulled the cash out of her purse, gave it to the cabby, and then approached the doorman.
“Hi. I’m here to see Chris… Dresden…” The doorman said the last name simultaneously.
“Yes Ma’am…” He said in a business-like manner, and let her in the door. “You and every other ho’ in the neighborhood…” He said under his breath as the door closed.
As Delores approached the door to Chris’s apartment, she noticed that it was slightly open and the door itself vibrated with the sound of loud music from inside. There was no reason for her to knock, because nobody would hear it anyway, so she pushed the door, it bumped against an obstruction and only openned partway. Sliding through the space, she turned to see a couple behind the door passionately wrestling with each other’s clothing, in an effort to break free from them.
Shouting in their direction, Delores said, “Get a room!”
Between mouthfuls of lips, the guy said, “They’re occupied…”
Shaking her head, she rushed out of the foyer and into the living room, which was brightly lit, yet filled with so much smoke that it was hard to see.
She made her way to a small group of people and shouted, “Have you seen Chris?”
“Who?” A girl shouted back. “Who’s Chris?” A guy nearby asked at the same time.
“Chris lives here… Do you know where he is?” She asked again.
“Hey Baby, why do you need Chris? Come on over here…. I’ll make you forget about Chris…” An unseen, male voice invited.
“If I wanted to talk to you, I would have called you first.” Delores responded.
“B-b-but you don’t know my number!” The voice responded.
“Eeeyeah… Doesn’t that just suck?” She said, walking away.
Working her way from group to group, Delores continued to search for Chris. Finally finding her way to a hallway and then to a door to what she thought might be a bedroom, she loudly knocked. No answer. She pounded again…
“WHAT…?” Came the angry response.
“Chris?” She shouted.
“Are you Chris?” A male voice asked.
“No…” A female voice responded with a giggle.
“Are YOU Chris?” Same male voice…
“Ahhh… NO…” A different female voice shouted.
“Ain’t no Chris in here! Now go away… We are busy!” Male voice again over simultaneous giggles.
“oKAY!” Delores shouted, and moved to the next door, which was the second bedroom, or which had been the baby room. This time, however, Delores openned the door slightly, although with great trepidation; a little concerned with what she would find inside.
The room was dark with the faint glow of a cigarette lighter coming from beside of a white baby crib. Seated on the floor was Chris with a glass pipe to his lips as the lighter heated the bulb end of the pipe. She could hear the sharp intake of air as he inhaled smoke from the heated rock-cocaine in the bulb. The room reaked from the exhaled smoke residue.
“Chris?” she said hesitantly. “Is that you?”
Holding the smoke in his lungs for a second, he exhaled and said, “Yeah, Baby…”
“Is this a party for one, or can I join?” She asked.
“Help y’self…” He answered.
Delores closed the door and waited for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. Then she made her way to where he was seated and stood above him, with her hips thrust forward and slightly askew. Chris put the pipe down on the carpet, and its heated bulb made a hissing sound as it melted the tufts of carpet. Reaching up to her hips, Chris pulled his face into her soft stomach, and said, “You feel nnnicccce.”
Delores put her hands behind his head and pulled his head close to her, and then slid down, keeping his head close to her body, until she was in a squatting position. Then she tilted his head up and kissed him. Dropping her hands down to his shirt, she grabbed the material tightly, just below the collar and fell backward, pulling him atop her.
BANG… BANG… BANG!
The pounding on the door made Delores flinch, but didn’t seem to even register with Chris. He continued what she had started as a voice on the other side of the door shouted, “DUDE! The cops are here!”