It was getting late. I told Jane that I had to get going. I knew that Sam was probably at home, drinking as usual, and even though he didn’t care where I was, I needed to go back home. Sam and I have an interesting relationship. We’re not married, but we live together. We’re not in love, but we understand one another. Some nights I don’t go home and I stay over at a friend’s house. Many nights Sam does the same. We don’t ask any questions, and everything in our lives is separate except for the bed we sleep in. I wasn’t always like this, but I learned to kill my expectations. I saw Jane pouring me another glass of wine. I said, “Ok, this is the last one. Really I gotta go.”
“Go where?” she asked.
“I have to go home.”
“Oh come on,” she said, “just relax, it’s not like you have work tomorrow morning.”
“I do have work, and plus I have some stuff to do at home.”
“Ok, ok, I’ll let you go…in twenty minutes.” She said and brought me a full glass of wine.
Jane is an artist. I have known her for years now and still have not figured out what specific field of art she specializes in. I also become perplexed every time I try to figure out her source of income and how she pays for her daily expenses. She doesn’t have many expenses though. I have rarely even seen her eat. Asides from the alcohol and cigarettes, I don’t think she consumes much at all. At times I wish I was similar to Jane. She defies every routine known as significant and lives strictly for herself and the interests that occupy her thoughts. That’s how I know she’s an artist, but then again, what do I know about art..? Jane lives in a neighborhood that is always dark, and seems to have no friendly relation with direct sunlight. The entire area feels tight and seems to have a lack of oxygen. Everything is old, from the cars to the houses. It seems as if everyone there is a smoker, and nothing whatsoever seems to bother Jane. I for one am always terrified when I go to visit her. I’m not used to the faces and the accents. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m just naturally scared of everything. But Jane’s neighborhood scares me more than anything else.
The thought of leaving her house, going home in a cab was a dreadful one. I drank my glass of wine as quickly as I could and said, “Jane can you call me a cab?” She put down her glass and placed her cigarette in the ashtray.
“What time is it?” said Jane.
“It’s eleven thirty.” She got up and walked toward the kitchen. I could feel the wine going to work in my body. I knew that once I stood up, I would feel how drunk I truly was. I don’t remember why I was so determined to go home. I didn’t have to. I guess I just wanted to get a good night’s sleep. See Sam…
Jane came back and said, “The cab will be here in fifteen, twenty minutes. I guess you have time for another drink.” She said and smiled at me like a devilish teenager.
“No, I’m fine. I have to get up early tomorrow.” Jane said nothing, shrugged her shoulders and poured herself another full glass of wine. Her house was small and had an amazing sense of silence. I watched her as she drank her wine and sparked another cigarette. I felt as if her eyes would zoom on every detail around her. I tried to follow her eyes but never realized exactly what she was looking at. She never stared at anything, she just closed in on it and observed. Perhaps, she did stare…
There was complete silence up until the cab had arrived and the doorbell rang. I got up, grabbed my coat and purse and stood there looking at Jane, who was still sitting down. She was smiling at me. “You know it’s not too late,” she said. “You should spend the night here. I know you worry about Sam, Stella. You can always lie to me and say you have stuff to do at home, but I’ll always know.” I couldn’t say anything. “Stella, believe me, there is so much you need to see, and it’s not at home. But I understand.” Her eyes were low, and I could see the wine flowing inside them. I still didn’t know what to say. I don’t know why, but I felt guilty and somewhat ashamed.
I said, “Really Jane, I should go. Maybe some other time, I promise.” Jane didn’t say anything else. She got up and walked me to the door. I put on my coat and looked at her. I had never seen her the way she was. Somehow I couldn’t tell whether it was the alcohol talking, or just same old Jane. I tried not to think about it. She hugged me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I said, “Try to get some sleep Jane. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
“Okay, good night,” she said as she opened the door and let me out. As I started walking, Jane muttered something that I couldn’t make out, but I didn’t bother turning around. I got into the cab and took one last look at Jane who was still standing in the doorway. She waved goodbye and closed the door.
As the cab drove through the inner streets of Jane’s neighborhood, I saw teenagers still out. I didn’t know what they were up to. I couldn’t stop thinking about what she might’ve muttered, or the way her eyes pierced through me.
“This is not a good place,” said the cab driver. He had a weird accent. I reckoned he was probably Arabic. “A lot of bad stuff happens here,” he said. “Look, these kids are out at this time. It is a shame. Only God knows what they doing.”
I wanted to say something, but I was scared. Every single house looked exactly like Jane’s. As soon as we entered a main street, I felt calm and for a moment closed my eyes. Suddenly the cab driver said, “I’m sorry miss, but do you mind if I have a smoke?”
“No, not at all,” I said. ,
“I am sorry, really, but it has been very tiring today,” he said as he rolled down his window. I said nothing and closed my eyes again. I was really tired, or maybe it was just the wine. I couldn’t wait to get home. The empty street made me calm, and I kept hoping that the cab driver wouldn’t speak to me. I always love to talk, with anyone and everyone, but at that point I missed the silence at Jane’s house and for a moment I wished that I hadn’t left. I wondered what Jane was doing. I pictured her drinking another glass of wine, finishing the bottle, smoking another cigarette and going to sleep. She had so much peace all to herself, and I wondered if she ever got lonely. Didn’t she ever feel the need to be with someone? Perhaps, someone who would take care of her and not let her drink so much. A man who would provide for her and buy things for her…
I opened my eyes just as the cab had gotten close to my apartment. The cab driver said, “This is very good neighborhood. A lot of good people live here.”
“Okay, have a good night miss. Take care,” he said. I paid the fare and got out.
“Maybe the cab driver is right,” I thought to myself as I walked into the lobby of my building. It was late and the concierge was asleep behind his desk. “I guess the cab driver was right. There’s no need for security here. This is a good neighborhood full of good people.”
Inside the elevator, I stared at myself in the mirror and it was obvious that I had been drinking. I rarely drink, because I hate myself the day after. I only drink with Jane. Even in the past two years that I’ve lived with Sam, I’ve only drank with him once. I usually sit beside him while he drinks and watches TV. I like to look at him and in a way study his actions. He drinks almost every night when he comes home from work. He works in an office. All I know is that he hates his job and never talks about it. So I’ve never asked him. One time, he came to the café, where I work, and surprised me. It was my birthday, and he had bought me a book. My manager let me leave work early and we walked in the park for hours and just talked. I don’t remember having many days like that, where I smiled and felt so simplistically happy.
I opened the door and walked in to the apartment. It was dark and Sam wasn’t home. I stood there at the door for a moment before I took off my shoes and turned on a light. Even in the depths of complete emptiness my apartment never has the same silence as Jane’s house. At times I wonder how Jane copes with so much silence. It becomes depressing after a while. Doesn’t she ever feel the urge to break it? What does she do with so much silence? Maybe she’s gotten used to it. Or maybe it’s because she’s an artist.
It was late. I didn’t feel like going to bed. I wanted to take a shower and wait for Sam to get home. I wondered where he was, and if he was happy, and if he was thinking about me. For a moment I wanted to be with him, wherever he was. I hoped that he had had a good day. It was nice to see him smile every once in a while, but it was rare, knowing that he hated his job. I try not to hate anything, because it slows me down. Even seeing Sam with such frustration in his eyes every evening after work makes me depressed and brings my thoughts down into a slow pace until they no longer move. Long ago I had tried to talk to him about his job, and through his eyes alone it was evident how he felt. Why can’t we all just be like Jane?
I was no longer drunk. Taking a shower made me feel light, and I came out of the bathroom hoping to see that Sam had arrived. But he hadn’t. I thought about Jane living in a bad neighborhood. I thought about the taxi driver, and where he might live, and if it was a good area with good people. Lying in bed, letting my thoughts float freely from branch to branch, I fell asleep. At times I wish I could have full awareness of the moment that my mind retires to sleep. It would be nice to experience yourself falling into rest, seeing every second of your day pass by again and placing every moment of it onto the shelves of your memory.
I awoke and the lights were still on. I heard the bathroom door close, and smiled knowing that Sam had come home. I was glad that he was home. It didn’t matter what time it was. I didn’t even need to see him. He was home, and that’s all the comfort I needed. I closed my eyes and waited. Once he was in the room I could sense him looking at me. I could smell cigarettes as I heard him taking off his clothes. I didn’t bother opening my eyes. I could see everything; his every single movement, as he turned off the lights and got into bed ever so gently. Lying on his back, I could hear him breathe, and I wondered again why Jane was so lonesome with so much silence. At that point, I could feel myself changing. I could feel new desires wanting to be born.
Slowly, I reached over, put my arm on his chest and we fell asleep.