The Heat Went on Forever
I rose with a start from my pillow and rested my hand on Anna’s bosom who lay beside me. Her chest raised, lowered, slow and gentle. Her skin was warm and slightly damp with perspiration through her tee shirt. She was there. She was there.
There was no light in the apartment but a glowing heat that beamed through the closed curtains and filled the room with an eerie pale glow. I looked at my watch.
The dusk was being eaten already. I had slept too long. Outside, the sound of a woman’s voice penetrated the strange bright silence. I pushed away the sheets loosely cocooning my unclothed body and rose to my feet, opened the window. The air was dry and hot. I squinted from the brightness.
On the ground three floors below, a woman stumbled and staggered down the center of the street. Her steps drunken and erratic. Twice she fell to her knees. When she did, she picked herself up like a marionette lifted by invisible strings and turned and walked the other way.
Back and forth, back and forth.
Molly, she shouted. Molly! she shouted. Her voice was loud and raspy.
Behind me, Anna stirred and groaned.
“Christ,” she said under her breath.
Anna pushed herself upright and stumbled from the bed. Naked from the waist down, her bare legs wobbled as she made her way toward me. She pushed me aside and hung her head out the window.
“Hey,” she called.
The woman stopped and looked up.
“Shut the fuck up!”
“Please, I need—” the woman shouted, her words slurring and trailing into incomprehension.
“Nobody gives a shit about you getting one last fix!”
The woman fell to the ground and shrieked.
Anna shut the window.
She paused, rested against the pane and turned her head to face me. I saw her eyes right then and there; eyes tired and sad, filled with small flecks of luster from the growing light surrounding her body.
She and I had spent the day tangled in each other. We had gone on for hours, neither breaking for food nor drink, draining ourselves, pushing ourselves, until the act of sex itself had become painful and ugly. And even still, she raw and dry and I limp and weak, we took to writhing in feigned ecstasy—the last lie we would ever tell each other: our flesh speaking more boldly than words ever had. After that, fatigue took us both by force.
“I don’t think she was looking for drugs,” I said.
“That’s the bitch who dropped her daughter off the balcony yesterday,” she said, “while the little girl was asleep. Now she’s pacing all over looking for her like—”
She paused a moment, picked at a dried clump of something in her pubic hair.
“Shit, Neal,” she said. “You didn’t wake me up.”
“I know,” I said. “I’m sorry. I must have forgotten to set an alarm.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
She turned and looked out the window. Then something caught my attention, and I looked past her: outside, small birds were fluttering to and from the window ledge, carrying sticks and bits of trash and laying them in a neat pile. They suddenly took off and flew away.
“I don’t want to see this.”
“I’m sorry,” I said again.
“Okay,” she said. “Okay, I think there’s still enough time. It’s under the mattress.”
I walked to the bed and ran my fingers between the mattress and the box spring. I pulled out the Browning HP-35.
“Do you have it?” she asked.
“Okay, hurry and do this quick.”
I pointed the barrel at her.
“Is it already loaded?”
“Please,” she said, “just make it fast.”
“Forgive me,” I said.
“There’s nothing to forgive,” she said then looked out the window, squinting for the brightness growing brighter. “I’m scared, and I don’t want to be scared anymore.”
As I squeezed the trigger, the light grew, disintegrating the windows and dissolving the walls. Outside, the briefest sound of chaos surged through the air—shrieks of pain, shouts of rage, breaking glass and wood, a crash of the world caving into itself. Screaming women and children. Crying men. Bestial, almost inhuman noises. And even from our height, it all sounded so loud. I felt fire in my blood and bones, and Anna screamed as everything went blank.
There was only the white heat. The heat went on forever.