I don’t remember the last time I felt so empty.
I couldn’t do anything today. I probably had more work to pick up but I didn’t do that. Couldn’t manage to leave my room. Couldn’t sleep but it still took me half the day to leave my bed. Couldn’t even manage to cry. The energy just wasn’t there.
I don’t know what I’m feeling. Grief? Depression? A bit of both, and maybe something more? I felt like I was dead. Not like I wanted to die or like I was doomed to, but like I had already died so what was the point of trying? Nothing I did would change anything. I was alone, in the clutches of a psycho cult and without any friends or allies.
I guess that’s only part true. There’s Poe. I can only imagine what she’s been going through. She must have felt even more alone than I did if she went through the effort to reach out to me.
It was fairly late in the evening when she knocked on my door. She must have stood there for five minutes before I actually went to the door. I looked through the peephole, saw it was her, and paused. I don’t know if I would have let her in or not in the end had she not spoken.
“Messenger?” Her voice was muffled through the door, but still loud enough for me to make out clearly. “Um…I know we don’t know each other too well and we’re both feeling pretty bad, but, uh…well, Caper had some beer left over and I don’t want to waste it….” Another pause. “Please? I just…it hurts to remember him, but I don’t want to try to forget about him so soon. I want someone to remember him with.”
It probably only took me a few more seconds to open the door, but it felt like an eternity before I made the decision. Poe stood there, the remnants of a case of beer in one hand and a half-empty bottle of whiskey in the other. “I’m really not much of a drinker,” I told her.
“Neither am I,” she said. “Can I come in?”
She sat on the sofa. I sat down beside her. Neither of us spoke or looked at each other. Then she grabbed one of the beers and gave it a long stare. “I really don’t like beer. Caper said it was an acquired taste. I never understood why someone would drink something that tasted bad for the sake of making it taste good later.” She opened it, took a sip, and grimaced. “He also said that the more expensive beers weren’t as…well, I guess in his words he said ‘the cheap stuff tastes like shit.’ Of course, that’s what he always bought so I guess he wasn’t too discriminating.”
I opened a beer myself. “I still feel guilty every time I drink, honestly. Dad’s brother was an alcoholic so he never let me or Kyle—my brother, sorry—anywhere near the stuff. I…didn’t get invited to many parties so I never really had to worry about it, but Kyle was…more popular. One night he came home late and…I mean, he had been responsible about finding rides and everything, but I was just so angry at him that he would….” I stopped. “I’m sorry. I…shouldn’t be talking about these things. Who I was.”
She shook her head. Picked up the bottle of whiskey. “I don’t like beer, but I…like whiskey. The idea of it, at least. The smell. My father liked scotch. He had a big library, filled with all these leatherbound books, a big chair in the middle, and he would always sip some when he read. ‘An academic man needs his scotch,’ he’d say. ‘It’s all about presenting the right image.’ Sometimes he’d read me poetry while I sat on his lap, and I remember once he let me try a sip and…and I think I spit it out and said ‘yucky’ and he laughed and told me he shouldn’t have done that and to keep it a secret from my mother.” She looked at me. “I shouldn’t have been talking about that either. Now we’re even and we can stop talking about the past. Keep it a secret from Tempest.”
“…So how does whiskey remind you of scotch, exactly?”
Her lips turned up in the faintest hint of a smile. “Scotch is a type of whiskey. You really don’t know anything about alcohol, do you?”
I took a drink. “Well excuse me for not having a social life, I guess.”
“I’m not laughing. I never had much of one either.” She paused. “Do you mind if I talk about Caper?”
“Do you know anything about who he actually was?”
She shook her head. “I have some fun stories, though.”
She started talking. I started listening. We both started drinking. We’d get off on tangents but for the most part I don’t remember what we talked about. The important part is that, for a few hours, we were able to forget that Caper was gone for good.
We were a few minutes into the whiskey (note to self for future reference: the rhyme goes “beer before liquor,” not after) when Poe looked over at me and poked my cheek.
She did an admirable job keeping her face straight. “Forgive me. It looked soft and puffy and my self-control may have faltered a bit.”
“I am not drunk,” she insisted. “I am merely in a state of mild…okay, moderate inebriation.” She paused. “Perhaps the upper end of moderate, bordering on severe.”
“That’s a fancy way of saying drunk.”
“Not all of us lose our communicative skills when we imbibe,” she said. “Some, like myself, experience an increase in elocution.” Her words were slightly drawn out, placing emphasis on each syllable like she was stalling for time to figure out what exactly she was going to say next.
“Really. Is that why you soooound liiike thiiis?”
“If my diction has been altered, It is merely because I like how the words taste as I speak them and wish to savor them as long as possible.” She lay down across the couch, placing her head on my lap and looking up at me. “De—lec—ta—ble.” She smiled then, a real, honest one, and she seemed like a different person. “I’m so drunk right now.”
“Let’s get you home, then.”
She shook her head. “It’s so empty and lonely there. Please, Messi. Let me stay just a bit longer.”
I sighed. “Okay. Fine. I understand.”
She lapsed into silence. A few minutes later, she was asleep. I carefully slid her head off my lap so I wouldn’t wake her, grabbed a spare blanket to cover her, and got some rest myself. When I woke up the next day in the early afternoon with a terrible hangover, she was already gone.