3:23 am: corner booth
She sat alone watching a couple drunk in love; or perhaps just drunk love. She ordered another whiskey and stared out the window. The shadows across the street reminded her of the first time she saw Thanatos.
It was her fourteenth birthday and her parents were arguing, again, in the other room. She could hear her mother yelling while her father’s tone was deeper, a little muffled, but still menacing. The small apartment left little room for escape so she climbed out to the fire escape for a cigarette. Slipping her headphones on, turning the volume up, she watched the darkness unfold on the streets below. In the shadow, across the street, he leaned against the wall, smoking a cigarette, looking up at her.
Her heart slowed with the eerie feeling of someone watching her, a stranger, calmly inhaling when she took a drag of her own cigarette. He took a few steps to stand under the street light. She exhaled slowly, not sure she was seeing as clearly as it seemed. He was tall, dressed in black slacks, a black dress jacket with white shirt, cuffs open and hanging loose accentuating his long fingers. His hair was short, black, a little messy. What she noticed most were his deep blue eyes. Unreal eyes like those in photographs of beautiful boys with microphones and smoke swirling. He didn’t have a beard, but not clean-shaven, and she wasn’t positive but felt he let her study him for several minutes before smiling and walking away.
She met Thanatos a year later. Visiting her cousins upstate, they took her to a party at a house near a lake. The drinks were beer or overly sweet combinations typically involving Coke and cheap spirits. A couple of older boys brought weed, acid and some pills with vague promises that it would make you feel good. Wandering around drunk and high, feeling the usual melancholy, not wanting company, never able to feel connected, she slipped down to the lake with one of the knives her uncle used to gut fish. She vaguely remembered cutting her wrist, slicing down following the trace of her vein. She felt the blood, warm and sticky, dripping around the circumference of her arm. She managed another cut on her other wrist, not as deep, and laid back staring up at the stars.
Her head swam, a mixture of alcohol and drugs, and she felt the pain from the cuts but didn’t move. Instead trying to focus on locating the big dipper, identify Orion’s belt, looking for the North Star. She laughed at her ridiculous dramatics and felt cold despite the warm summer night. The fireflies blinked silently, calling to their loves across the grass, and she heard the occasional splash from a fish or turtle. She smiled feeling life finally slipping away, so close to ending, the pain and darkness within finally about to be distinguished. Vaguely she wondered how long before someone found her. Would it be some fat housewife with her kids going for a morning swim? Maybe one of her cousins would notice her missing and go looking for her. Maybe she’d just rot here all summer, slowly decomposing into the earth until the rain washed her remains into the murky green lake.
She turned her head to the left, to look at the moon reflecting on the calm waters, and instead saw his blue eyes looking into hers. He was kneeling silently next to her. She didn’t know how long he was there, when he showed up, or where he came from. She recognized him from the shadows across the street outside her apartment and she let out a small cry. He gently touched her face, his eyes soft and kind, and took off his jacket to place under her head.
“Who are you?”
“Thanatos. And who are you my love?”
She saw lights blinking, heard voices and static sounds from radios. No, she thought. She looked at Thanatos and felt the black tar boil up into her chest threatening to crack each rib slowly. As she struggled to focus, consciousness barely holding on, she felt pressure on her wrists, being lifted, heard voices all around. Standing off to the side, Thanatos told one of the paramedics he had gone for his nightly walk and found the girl on the beach. They thanked him for most likely saving her life. As they loaded her into the ambulance she saw a black dog sitting across from the lake entrance, panting.
Two days later, at the hospital, her parents sat silently by her bed. Her mother cried. Her father clenched his jaw. She feigned sleep hoping they would disappear for a while to the cafeteria. When they finally left, she touched the bandages around her wrists and cried. The doctors said they could help relieve her from the depression but they didn’t understand the well deep inside that held the bubbling, dark, black sticky tar that gripped not only her psyche but her very core. It was a part of her, she understood that, something that would never disappear no matter how much they medicated or promised.
There was a soft knock on her door. Thanatos stood holding a large bouquet of calla lilies and white lavender. His blue eyes slightly clouded with contrition. He waited until she gave a slight wave with her hand calling him closer.
“I can’t let you go.”
She sighed, her mind snapping back to the present. She still didn’t understand why Thanatos couldn’t let her go.