The Long and Winding Road

He woke to the sound of traffic floating through his open window. He could feel each passing car deep within his skull. They were angry at each other for the inconvenience that comes with living in the suburbs and commuting to the city. And, whether they knew it, they were angry at him for his sins. Each honk of a horn reverberated off of the backs of his eyeballs, each squeal of the brakes sent a shudder up his spine.

The clock read 5:37. He was going to be late, and the lipstick-red block numbers grinned mockingly. He pulled off the sheets and got out of bed. You move slowly after this long in the business. She rustled slightly, unhappy with the disturbance, but continued to snore softly. He turned to study her face for a moment, hoping it would jog his brain and help pull her name from deep within his memory. But it didn’t. It never did.

He fumbled with his clothes, the smell of latex and whiskey filling his nose. Ah, so it was one of those nights. He much preferred the botanical scent of gin – it reminded him of where he grew up – and besides, gin never led him down the dark path like whiskey. He was lucky to have even made it home last night.

“Good morning.” He started at the sound of her voice, having expected to have to leave a note, as was his standard procedure. She was beautiful, and he imagined that in some other life she would’ve inspired a Beatles song. But if she was Patty Boyd, then he was Eleanor Rigby.

“Are you good?” he stumbled on the words, unsure she could even hear him. His voice was gravely, and would have offended his younger self. “Don’t,” she cut in pointedly. “I had fun.” He stood there, dumbfounded, his shirt in his hands as she eased out of his bed and into her dress. Its coral color perfectly complimented her honey skin, and he was surprised to feel a twinge of disappointment at her imminent departure. They looked at one another for a brief moment, and he considered asking if he could see her again. He probably would anyway: at the same dingy cocktail lounge, or maybe the karaoke bar uptown that served $2 you-call-its on Thursday nights. It was always the same people who seemed to frequent those places. It would be awkward unless they were a few drinks in; hell, it probably would be regardless. But she turned swiftly, gathered her belongings, and walked to the door. “Wait,” he stopped her. “Before you go. I…” She shook her head, and he watched another one walk out of his life.

The soft click of the door latch hit him like a kettle bell to the chest. He stood in the entryway, staring at the door, his bag in one hand – stencils, spray paint, playing cards, notebook with exercises written across its yellowed pages– his boom box in another. He absentmindedly focused on the rhythmic tick, tick, tick of the clock, counting down the remaining seconds of this existence. Finally, after what seemed like an hour, he opened the door to leave his claustrophobic apartment. His work was almost done, and to his surprise, his lips slowly turned up into a bittersweet smile. He walked out into the last leg in the journey toward his new life.

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