I’m not sure whose idea it was, but at dusk we’re both up here on the roof, twelve stories above the highway and the evening rush. The sun is setting and the autumn air is peppered with fading warmth. It’s nice, sitting in these cheap wooden chairs, our legs propped up on the ledge, watching the sun radiate off the mirrored glass of the buildings downtown. It’s a scene we’ve watched many times before, one we fell in love with when we were still falling for each other. A memory of those blissful early days.
“Did you have to bring the whiskey, Kev?” Lori says as I grab two ice cubes out of a plastic cup and drop them into my glass.
“I like to sip scotch while I watch the sunset,” I say. I give myself a heavier pour than I intended. “It’s relaxing.”
She shoots me that fleeting, smug glare of hers. “You drink too much.”
“I drink when I’m with you,” I say. She doesn’t respond, and I’m glad. I don’t want to fight. Not tonight.
We sit in silence for a while. This high up there’s not much noise from the traffic or the busy sidewalks. The gentle sighing of the wind is nearly enough to hide the bustle of the city below. The scotch is good. The sunset is beautiful. We aren’t fighting. It would be perfect except I know soon we will have to leave this moment and go back to the way things usually are. That’s how it goes. That’s how it always goes.
But for now, it’s nice.
An hour passes and leaves me with less scotch and a murky head. It’s dark. Neither of us has spoken or moved for a while. Ever since the sun went away behind the buildings I’ve had this sinking feeling in my chest. Something about this night—about this particular sunset—has a different feeling. Like a sort of finality.
I hear an oddly muffled noise beside me. I turn around and realize it came from Lori.
“What was that?” I say.
“I said we should go in. It’s getting cold.” Her voice is small and distant, like she’s in the next room with the door shut.
“I’m fine,” I say, and I look over at her. She seems blurry, hard to make out. I blink but it doesn’t make her any clearer. Is it the scotch? I don’t remember drinking that much. I definitely don’t feel drunk.
“I’m cold,” Lori says, and I see now that she’s not blurry—she’s disappearing. Vanishing. Fading into nothing. Her face, her hair—even her jacket. I can almost see the neon city lights shining through the skin of her neck.
“You’re—you’re fading away,” I say.
“No,” she says. “It’s you who’s fading away from me.” She takes her feet off the ledge, sits up straight, turns to me with that smug little glare again, only now her face is too faint for the look to have the effect on me it once had. “I noticed it a long time ago,” she says. “If you paid attention, you’d have noticed by now too. It’s getting worse. I can practically see through you right now, Kevin.”
I look away from her because I’m scared and I don’t want to believe it. I drain the last dregs of scotch, set my glass down beside me.
“You don’t even care,” Lori says. “You don’t even want to stop this.”
“And you do?” My voice is low and tired. She says nothing. I go on staring at the brilliant display of the city’s million little lights, feeling the wind on my face, waiting for something, though I can’t say what it is.
“If either of us really wanted to stop this,” I say to no one, to the wind, “then it wouldn’t be happening. And we would never fight. And…”
I finally look back just in time to see the last tress of brown hair drifting in the breeze. Now it’s only a few strands. Now but a tiny glint in the starlight.
I want to feel sad. I want to be so upset I shout into the night until every last stranger passing by down on the street knows my pain. But I can’t. Because I feel nothing. No loss, no grief, nothing. All I can do is go on sitting here alone. Maybe in some other world, some other existence, she’s still right there in her chair, and mine is the empty one. Does she feel relief? Acceptance? Indifference? Does she feel like me? I decide that I don’t really care right now. Not on such a nice night.
I get up, leave the scotch behind, and walk towards the stairs. I don’t even bother looking back at where she used to be before heading through the door and down the stairs to an empty bed and the rest of my life.
—Andrew Vrana lives in Dallas, where he studies emerging media in the hopes that he will eventually be paid for getting on Facebook all day. You can find him and more of his fiction at andrewvrana.wordpress.com.