By: Kelsey Howard
Chapter 1: The Shower
Every time she counted to seven now, she felt relief. It didn’t even matter the context, that number brought her a kind of peace she had trouble explaining to those that didn’t understand. It seemed like a regular morning, but it wouldn’t be by days’ end; it held more significance than yesterday, significance she was still accepting. She counted them out on her bedside table, like she did every morning, a ritual that gave her a kind of sick pleasure, mostly because it was terribly consistent, when nothing else really was anymore, honestly. Life was consistent, but inside her mind, everything was awash in change. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, she counted in her head. Seven pills, laying on the table, next to a tall glass of water she had filled the night before. Today, unlike the days that came previously, she actually planned to wash those pills down right before bed, as she had always planned. She turned 35 today, and this had always been her deadline. There were quite a few reasons for this, many of which she had trouble explaining, even to herself, but she knew them in her mind, and they spoke to her when she began to doubt her decision to end this path she was walking. 35, a number that seemed impossible, and yet here it was, an albatross around her neck, causing her stomach to churn, and the hairs on the back of her neck to stand up. He’d been 35 too, she thought to herself, realizing she’d stolen her play right from his playbook, and began to feel embarrassed about that fact. But she didn’t care why she had thought to make the deadline this day; it didn’t matter in the end, since she wouldn’t be here to dwell on the decision anymore, like she had so many of her past decisions, that had haunted her all her life. She was still sitting on the end of her bed when the alarm on her phone began to ring; she reached for it, checking the time. Seven a.m. She’d forgotten she’d even set it last night, didn’t really need to, she’d woken up ten minutes before it had gone off anyway, as she always did. Like every other morning, she let the pills sit there on the table as she went to shower, and she began her routine for the day ahead. She sensed that feeling in her stomach, the one that you get when you can sense something is off, something is lurking and lingering, pulling at you. She undressed and climbed into the shower; she hated that feeling, and the fact that it had haunted her for so many years of her life.
She turned on the water, and let it wash over her skin, allowing it to awaken her. She had always said that she felt more alive in the shower than she did anywhere else during her day, a sad realization when actually spoken out loud to other people. In the shower, however, she felt alive because she had the chance to be someone else; as she washed her hair and body, she imagined herself as the woman she was meant to be many years ago, when she graduated from college. She was meant to be successful, a writer, or an artist of some kind, independent, and happy. She was meant to be happy, she really was, once upon a time. She was meant to be on a book tour in Europe, with him, holding hands and whispering to each other as they meandered aimlessly down the empty midnight streets of Paris, Rome, or preferably London, their favorite city, the one they’d dreamt of visiting together. She wasn’t in any of those cities, and neither was he. Instead, she was standing in the shower of her disgusting apartment, in a small town she could barely remember the name of most days, and he was tucked away in the cold ground, where he could never be reached again. She was getting ready to go to a job that crushed her creative soul, and whatever was left of her spirit every time she was there. She had been meant for so much more, but years of trying had led her nowhere, except to be the woman that counted out seven pills every morning, and every night decided whether or not that would be the night she finally washed them down, preferably with a tall glass of his favorite whiskey, that she kept in the small cabinet next to the fridge. The shower was her refuge, the last place on Earth where she could still allow her mind to wander into the land of what if, and imagine how things could have been different. But as soon as the shower ended, so did her day dreams. She toweled off and got ready, preparing for her last day of work, although she hadn’t given her two weeks notice, she figured they’d eventually catch on to where she’d gone.
The odd thing about all of this was how she didn’t feel sad, or anxious; rather, she just felt slightly off, especially in her stomach, the feeling that manifested before her shower, and was simply not subsiding. Yet, relief seemed to also live inside of her somewhere, helping all of this seem much easier and like the right decision. She didn’t have to worry about it, since it wouldn’t be happening until tonight, so she decided just to get on with it and go to work, and live the last day of her life like she always did because honestly, why bother doing anything differently? She felt like she was going to be released, as if she had been tied to something and would finally be cut free tonight, when everything would permanently cut to black. No one at work knew it was her birthday, so she wouldn’t have to pretend at all today, which was actually the best birthday present in the world. Not having to fake anything; she could finally be exactly who she wished to be at her job, and it wouldn’t matter if she got in trouble, or fired, or any of that, because there would be no actual consequences, and that was wildly liberating to her. It actually made her happy, that sense of freedom, and a smile began to creep onto her face and lips as she thought of it. Happy birthday to me, she heard in her head, and she let out a small chuckle, as she locked up and walked to her car. Continue reading