• J. Jamal

Snippet from "Cold as Ice"

Updated: Oct 13, 2020

October 12th, 2014

Audio Version: https://youtu.be/MWGpVPacnVw

“Hey babe...

Uh...I missed the trolley, so I’m gonna be late. Still waiting on the next one. I wore the hat you got me for my birthday, and I forgot it. So I had to go back...I don’t know them people like that, so I had to go back for it. I couldn’t afford to lose it. But yea, the trolley’s coming in a minute, so I’ll be home soon...I love you.” Click. Voicemail again. I know she’s not still helping her friend move, so why couldn’t she answer the phone? I wonder if her mom liked the Edible Arrangement I got her for her birthday. Oh well, disregard. The next trolley arrives, right on time, and I hop in. Finding a seat, in the back, as I’d done many times before. I’d hoped this stage of my life was over. After all, I’d just bought my first car a month prior. But after spending the previous day riding from Walmart to some random mechanic’s shop in the passengers seat of a tow truck, with that car hooked up behind us, I knew I’d have to prepare for a few more trolley rides. The gas and oil fumes from hours of watching, hoping, and waiting were still affecting me, my stomach still curled up in a knot. It was as if it voluntarily went on lockdown: nothing in, nothing out. I should’ve asked her to bring me some soup when she texted me to ask if I’d brought my lunch, but since the question threw me off a bit, I lied and said of course.

The light breeze rushing into the trolley every time the doors open helps me feel a bit better. It seems strange, when I was sick or hurting, the chill of the night always made me feel comforted. The breeze whispering sweet nothings in my ear seemed to set my mind at ease. Its chilly embrace making me yearn for the warmth and passion felt once that chill is melted away by the touch of the one that I loved. And this night, I’d love her even harder. Since Mother’s Day, we’d spent everyday together, with the exception of tow or three days that she returned home for family obligations. But last night was different. She didn’t come home. She spent all day helping one of her friends into a new place, and there was still work left to do. I figured telling her I wasn’t going to work that day because all the fumes had me feeling awful would’ve been enough to bring her home, but it wasn’t. Last night was the first night we spent in different beds, while living in the same city. Last night was my first night without that warm embrace.

The trolley arrived, right on time. Walking down the street, Petco Park fading into the background, I make my way into our building. There goes that chill again. I smiled at this point, because I knew I wouldn’t be cold for long. As soon as I open this door, she’s going to smile and walk towards me with her arms wide open, waiting for me like she has every other night. Or maybe I’d get lucky, and she’d already be in bed. I’d take off my jacket, crawl onto the bed, and kiss her cheek. Then she’ll roll onto her back, and pucker her lips for me. I’d laugh and kiss her, and you know where it goes from there. Where it’s always gone from there. Thank God we’re in the only apartment on this floor. I open the door, and I’m quickly enveloped in the darkness I knew so well. Lucky again.

I take off my jacket, tossing it onto our makeshift table/countertop, so I’d know where it is in the morning. Shoes off, shirt off, I climb onto the bed as I’d done many nights before. But this time, there’s nobody there. No, literally, there’s no body there, because the kiss that was meant for her cheek, went straight to the pillow. What the hell, I sighed as I climb out of bed and turn on the light. The darkness subsided, and could no longer hide the immaculately clean studio apartment she’d left for me. Nor could it hide the note she left on the tiny end table we previously had no use for. “I can’t do this anymore.... I look at you every morning and you’re so miserable, and I can’t see that anymore...” it read. In my defiance, the word no leaves my mouth about 7 times, going from a mumble to an all out war cry once I open the closet and see her half and some of mine cleaned out. I grab what she left, a giant Minnie Mouse doll she loved; because of my laugh, she called me her Mickey. So, it fit. “You keep Minnie. You’ll need her. I love you.” The doll drops to the floor, and I follow soon after, my mind only functioning well enough to let out another ear shattering cry. There goes that damn chill again.

Bursting back into the hall and back out of the buildings front door, I’ve finally composed myself enough to call her. Obviously, I get her voicemail again, but this time, I expected it. “So this is what you do?! What happened to forever? What happened to leaving’s not an option? And then you couldn’t even face me, you had to sneak out while I was at work?!” My voice echoed under the metal awning that covered the front door, but I didn’t care. If anybody stepped to me, they could get this work too. I had months, no, years worth of venom to spew, and anybody could get it. The more calls sent to voicemail, the madder I got. How dare you, I muttered. You couldn’t even face me. I’d made the mistake of expecting to be treated as I’d treated her, the mistake of looking for ME in someone else. If you’re telling me I was miserable, wouldn’t you think sneaking out of our relationship would bring about more misery? Once the anger subsided, the questions took over. Who helped her move? I had the car. Was that the first time that person had been in my house? If not, we’re those shoes that she “borrowed” that I found under the bed his? Did she plan to move out the day before, and I ruined it by telling her I was coming home instead of going to work? She really did try to convince me to go anyway. I asked myself so many questions, I didn’t notice I’d begun pacing down the street. Once I started, I couldn’t stop.

I walked the streets of San Diego until 3 am. Can’t realistically say I was looking for her since I had no possible idea where she was. I didn’t look around or take in my surroundings at all, and San Diego is beautiful at night. She could’ve been watching every step I took, and I’d never know. I wasn’t looking for her. I just couldn’t face that empty bed. That was a cold I was not eager to feel, a chill that would not easily go away. Every dream, every plan, every goal I created for us from the day I stepped foot in this city, and all I had to show for it was a stuffed animal. I couldn’t face that. I completely refused. I walked until my legs hated me for it, then had to turn around and walk back. Whatever it took to stay away from that building. As far as I was concerned, home no longer existed. It was tarnished like everything else. At Petco Park, there is a playground with metal park benches surrounding it, for parents to supervise their kids. The bench would serve a different purpose for me: rest and refuge from my wandering mind. I sat on the bench until the sun came up, a familiar chill flowing through my body. This would be the last night that I resisted this chill. The last time it caused me to shiver and long for relief. Instead of relief, my body would adjust, and eventually welcome this intense cold. For soon, it’d be as integral to my make up as the blood flowing through my veins.

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