Solitude has helped me more than I can imagine. I have gotten caught up on all the chores I’ve needed to do around the house. My bathroom is spotless, you wouldn’t believe it. I had a spare toothbrush, my now-ex left it behind. I used it to clean the toilet, and get the grit out from between the tiles. It’s worn down to nothing. My clothes are clean. My laundry has been reduced many, many times over. Remember when everyone was talking about getting rid of things that no longer inspired joy? I donated most of my clothes. Basics only. It is freeing. Living this way is pure bliss.
I work from home. It’s safe. No commute. No traffic. No red lights, flashing men, painted lanes. Just me. Me, my computer, and my collection. I can focus on work much better now. Everything is going according to schedule. If I wasn’t so relaxed, I would be frustrated that it took me so long to get things set up so…perfect.
My only problem now, if it even can be called a problem, is that there’s so much room. I rid myself of the queen-sized bed. Pulled in something that my former friends would have called “Spartan”. A thin flat mattress on the floor. Does wonders for my spine. My back hurts less now. Loveseat gone. All I need is a desk, a stool, my computer, my bed, my work clothes, my collection. I suppose I can use that room increasing the collection.
Everything is so tidy. I wash my hands more, it’s true. No fingerprints on my glass. No fingerprints on my spoon. None on my bowl. Eating healthier. I’ve always had a good immune system. The time to myself has led to eating better, as I grow my own food. My scraps go to compost the small garden. Almost sustainable. Almost. I need to collect rain water for it to be complete. I have time for that. I have time for so much.
My work is simple. Inserting data into spreadsheets. At home, it only takes a quarter of the time. I get paid a salary. Every month, income. Then rent deducted. Bills for water, electricity. Internet is no longer capped. More data than I can use. The nights seem longer. The numbers, like always, mean nothing to me. I like it this way. I can focus more on my love.
Three months ago, I started my collection.
It was a normal, warm, January morning. I was thinking about killing myself while on my way to work. The bus rolled along like always. I wondered what it would be like to break the window and leap from the aqueduct. Would my neck snap before I hit the ground? Would I black out from the fall? No, I probably would hit the ground and live with a broken spine and irreparable damage done to my hands. I was glad, then, that I was on the bus and not throwing myself off. It got to my stop. I pushed the button, like I had many times before. I got out when the doors opened. I walked to the building, opened the door, went to work. People were dying elsewhere in the world, and I would not be one of them. Not then, not ever, far as I was concerned. I’d survived so far, may as well stick it out. The elevator was empty. So I thought. It took a handful of seconds, and then opened on the wrong floor. There was no signage telling me which floor it was. I looked around. It clearly wasn’t my place of work. I figured that someone was waiting for the elevator. However, no one got on. I went to press the button when I saw it, the first part of my collection. About the size of a cabbage. I stepped out of the elevator. The doors closed behind me. The lights were on, though of a more orange tinge than my office’s. I couldn’t believe it when I approached. Nobody would leave something like that laying around. I remember the smell, it was distinct. It made me think of wood paneling from my childhood home, mixed with that ocean smell and a hint of the elder. I couldn’t take it to work with me. I couldn’t leave it there, either. It was too valuable. I slipped it into my bag, went down the stairs, and out the lobby. I forgot about the groceries. My partner was still at work when I got home. I stopped by some special stores. Spent more money than I normally would have, all on materials. I’ve done some construction in my life, mostly relating to theatre arts. Set building and props were fine, but this was almost out of my experience. Almost. I built what I needed to start my collection. The internet helped with the detailed parts. I set the first part in a cardboard box, and set it in the back of the closet. My partner didn’t need to know about this. I figured he wouldn’t understand its importance. He never did. We ordered pizza that night, and I didn’t mention anything.
I didn’t even mention the night terrors that plagued me. I was quiet about them for weeks.
The dreams would start slow and always end up the same. Sometimes I was underwater. Sometimes I was in a desert. Sometimes, it was a swamp. The tendrils would appear, leafy or fleshy. Growing beyond my sight, but I knew they were there, creeping behind me. I kept walking to safety. Out of the elements that could kill me, to fertile ground. I saw my face mirrored before me in the glass. My eyes, but not my eyes, blinking. Bubbles rising from the face that was both mine and a stranger’s. The tendrils would start the process of rising through my feet, twisting my joints, my veins, my muscles. I felt them infecting me with otherworldly poison. I would feel numb static flow instead of blood. Each heartbeat felt to be my last as the flowers? bloomed within. I could at times feel their pain in response. More. They wanted more. The sky would crack open above me like an egg, and its interior spilled down my face. Blessed, was I, to catch a glimpse of the truest of worlds. I would wake in a cold sweat, occasionally having messed myself. A quick shower, then I would return to bed. It became a habit.
My collection grew the day my partner found the box. He was going through the closet while I was at work. I received several calls and texts. I couldn’t answer any of them. I couldn’t tell him how important it was to me. I never expected him to open it. This was the middle of February. It was still warm out. The bus was stuck in traffic, and at that point, it seemed faster to walk home. I did. I walked over the aqueduct, and saw a house that I had never noticed before. Its yard was overgrown. Chipped paint covered worm-eaten wood and dusty stone. The door swung inwards, despite the unusual lack of wind. The elderly scent wafted thirty feet and alerted something dark in my mind. Another piece to add was inside. Its owner did not want to part with it, I could tell. It was still in their hands when I confiscated it. The owner’s smile didn’t change. This one was smaller, the size of a fist, drained of color.
I returned home to see my partner, laying on his side in the bathroom. Vomit pooled around him like Saturn’s rings. The starter piece of my collection was out of the cardboard, on our kitchen table. Thankfully, he hadn’t tried to open the receptacle. I let my partner lay in his former lunch. He said nothing. I said nothing in return. I got to work for my second piece. I made a container of the same sort, filled it with the chemicals, and sealed second within. He left while I was setting up.
I forgot about him for a few weeks. I spent every day looking for a new item to add to the collection. My night terrors had lessened. Though, I suppose the tone shifted. I kept having the same dreams, but woke up calm. I would still need to shower. My brain felt like it was on fire. I would bleed while brushing my teeth, but not from my gums. I kept brushing until he showed up at my door. My former partner. He looked worse for wear. Skin looked slack, like someone else was wearing him as a suit. Hair had fallen out around his crown. He hadn’t slept in weeks, I was well rested for once in my life. I could smell the wood paneling again. I let him in. I could taste it in the air, inside him. It had infiltrated his body, and was looking to be free. Another piece was ready to be added.
Now I am alone. There’s been a quarantine. Nobody is at work. It makes sense that I would get rid of a lumpy old bed, of a two-person couch, of such old, worthless things. Makes sense that my partner wouldn’t be at work, or be anywhere in public. He didn’t get out much in the first place. I only wonder if he felt it inside. Was he aware of being infected with a work of art? Did it hurt more before or after I brought the hammer down? Everything is clean, and perfect, and the compost is going well for my garden. Each night I look out to see the stars growing a bit more dim. I smile at my collection, and I see my bubbling face reflected in the glass. It never smiles back.