Written by: Aliyah Curry
Every morning I have the urge to kill myself, but I haven’t, so hello; my name is Vashti, a name that means “beautiful,” even though the one I want to most, doesn’t acknowledge it.
This morning I woke to the window sill bearing fruits of soil dust and ants wet with dew. I do not remember opening it, but perhaps in a drunken fit vomited outside the panes instead of rushing to the toilet. Peering outside, I contemplate jumping down the five stories. At the bottom lie mangled tree roots, huge and jutting up; I do not want to end up a distorted figure in pain, so it is not an option. A glance to the left confirms my thoughts: on top of browning shrubs is a congealing concoction of puke, liquor, and the result of binge eating. I sweep the dirt from the sill into my palm and shake it into the humid air.
The tastes of the night before punch my tongue, triggered: wine, followed by pasta, followed by lips, followed by tongue, followed by semen, followed by blood, then tears and hot breath, skin, fingernails after the door is slammed shut, cherries and ice cream, then vodka, sloshing up my nose and slapping my cheeks like angry waves. My stomach jerks me towards the bathroom, but nothing comes up. I brush my tongue with the flavor of mint until it is numb.
There are crusts of bad sleep in the corners of my eyes that I rub away, listening to the satisfying crunch and roll of my eyes watering until kohl cocoons their lids. Not only are they now sore, but so are my bruised cheekbones and something like a knot, but softer, on the side of my forehead. The steam of a hot shower should soothe, but it stings, like every nerve is bristling on edge of another attack. I long to be numb.
I could turn the water to scalding and claw the heat bumps until the blood is a balm, but then the water is frigid, and I am too stunned to relish in the stupor it would bring. I stumble out and collapse on the tile, knowing that I should not be surprised, I have not paid the gas bill because I have not yet decided if I will force myself through another day.
I am lightheaded and starting to shiver; at the same time, my stomach growls and my arm begins to bleed. I know I should eat- the electricity will cut off next, and the fridge should be emptied. I crawl from tile to carpet to tile. I open the refrigerator to darkness and the smell of milk. The cold hurts my teeth, but relieves my throat so that I begin to gulp, milk dripping like paint down my neck and chest, as though I am swallowing the elixir of death.
It is not that easy.
I am still alive, heaving cold smoke from my sloshing stomach. I cannot lift myself up, but manage to drag the dish towel from the oven handle to dry off.
How many days would I have to lie here to start to rot? I would look it up, but my phone is in the bedroom, a long crawl away, and probably dead.
What else is in the fridge? Something cooked with tomatoes and onions, a gob of cheese starting to mold on top of a chicken breast, takeout from last week I can’t remember where from. I should have something solid- a slice of bread. I take a deep breath, but stand too quickly, and must steady myself against the counter to reach the loaf on top of the microwave.
I cannot finish the slice- too bland. So I spread on butter, but then must toast it, so I retrieve a pan from the dishwasher, add more butter, then an egg, then the tomato and onion mixture, then more bread, then I’m scalding my mouth on this sandwich and putting it out with milk, then sinking back to the floor.
I wake up to the stove light cut off. Equilibrium regained, I make my way to the main power- dead. I call the leasing office and leave a voicemail to greet them in the morning. I almost don’t; what if I don’t want the power back on? But the click on the answering machine snaps me into my personnel manner and I automatically leave the message. I state it as an emergency with a promise to pay, then sink back into sleep wherever it was my body landed, dreaming of doing pirouettes off cliffs, but instead of plummeting to land, I bounce onto a bed of clouds.
The maintenance man’s knocks are cushioned, yet strong enough to wake me. I croak out, “One second. Err, minute.” In my best crawl yet, I make it to a drawer for a slip. It’ll do. I grasp the door handle and pull myself up. “Hello?”
I open the door and am met with a cloud of vanilla.
“Not the fragrance I expected of a maintenance man.”
“Am I supposed to rub down in elbow grease before I come to work?”
He looked me up and down. We played this game every time.
“All I know is the maintenance man is supposed to fix what I ask him to.”
“And aren’t you supposed to let me in? Or how else would I fix…?”
I waved him in and shut the door. “I need the breaker turned back on.”
“Well, have you paid?”
“None of your business, but I left a promise to pay-”
“Power doesn’t work the same as rent, sweetheart.” We were getting closer.
“Then why are you here?”
“To make sure you called Georgia power this morning.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“You just said you don’t know what maintenance men do.”
“I don’t. Well, exactly-”
“Now you’re contradicting yourself.”
This was the goal, to make him feel like he was in control.
“So now you know me?”
“I can get to know you.”
I tossed my head back and scoffed, reclining in a corner of the couch. “You say that to every single woman you're assigned to.”
“You’re going to have to quit these assumptions.” But he was chuckling flirtatiously. Hmm.
We had the same brown skin, similar feature of plump lips, his lined by thick facial hair, which was my biggest weakness. His toned arms crossed in front of his chest. He most likely went to the gym every day and took pride in his appearance. He sat comfortably next to me. I rose slightly.
“Aren’t you supposed to be working?”
“On what again?”
He nudged my chest and I fell back dramatically, legs flying. He laid his body on mine, and began grunting almost immediately.
The first minute, I kept still, trying to gauge his style while adjusting to his width. In the second minute, I grinded my hips into his, allowing him more room to sink in. The third minute, and by the fifth, I was bucking against him; I pushed against his shoulders and gained control from beneath. His moans splashed the walls, drowning my ears, and by the end of ten minutes, he tried to kiss me. I playfully shoved him off. He licked his lips, almost nervous.
“There are paper towels in the kitchen.”
Pants shuffling around his ankles, he went and came back to clean his mess.
“I sure wish I could take a hot shower…”
He rose and did whatever it is maintenance men do.
“Think I could join you for that shower?”
“Maybe next time.”
He leaves with a tight smile.
As steaming water relieved my nerves, I wondered if I was a bad person for feeling nonchalant about what had just taken place. I was more pleased by the fact he wanted to kiss me, something my steady lover never made a move for. My health and wellness were on the backburner to playing eeny, meeny, miny, moe about whether to stop the tub and drown myself slowly. What would filling with warm water feel like? Could I just swallow until my insides burst like a dam? I imagined it feeling peaceful, being so warm inside.
I knew my lover would be coming soon from the orange glow of the sky coming through the blinds in my bedroom. Water dripping form my short curls marked my sheets; he would probably say something about me lying in bed straight from the shower again.
“Don’t you know you can get sick?”
Yes. I dreamed of lying for days in the bathtub while he was out of town, eventually developing pneumonia, and letting him find me when he returned so I could finally find out if he loved me. Would he cry and beg me to fight for my life? Would he care? Would he call me crazy and leave- again?
“Stop calling me your lover.”
He had told me before how he felt about the word, but it stuck in my head.
If he found me in peril, would he choose to save me? The maintenance man had left with a weary smile, like he had an urge to help me, knowing I’d refuse. Delusional, but still, I thought, if the maintenance man had wanted that for me, should the man who claimed my body each night not feel more?
It would be worth a try to find out.
I lifted the window, aimed for the hedges, and lept.
Aliyah Curry is a Southern bred writer, focusing on Black female sexuality and mental health. When she is not writing, she tells her stories through photography. Find her at aliyahdandrea.com.