Every Monday morning is like a brand new year. On this day, the morning after Whim day, I woke up to a clean slate, the promise of sun rays, and the vile chirps of pigeons scouting for food on the rooftop.
I'd slept on the roof accidentally.
After the cab ride back, I opened the door to my descending stairway and the hall light was burnt out, perhaps from the day storm. After an impulsive shutter of fear, from predators, rapists, whatever, I climbed up the fire escape and maneuvered myself onto the bright roof. It was a move to merely pass the dark time.
That night, nothing was brilliant or beautiful about the view, except for the interesting chaos of the streets and the myriad of ethnicity spanning down the smokey block. I could see the varieties of cuisines, the differing markets per street. The sky was like a grey dome, sweeping over the urban span and binding these intricate particulars into tiny compartments of the same city world.
Everything that remained awake crawled passed me, and I sat still, with the intention of going inside when my dress dried. I soon fell asleep, despite the cool air and the stiff roof, which held no semblance of a bed.
Now the pigeons shuffled around like desperate hunters, sickly purring and spastically teetering between the various telephone lines. One landed on my chest, "vooo, vooo!" It's claws were prickly through my cotton dress. I sat up startled. I had pigeon poop on my leg, adjacent from the van accident gauge. It was a blemish on an otherwise clean promise of Monday. I shooed the flying rat away.
I'd had another vivid dream, and the premonitory nature of the thing lingered on my mind. I dreamt I was back in the unbeautifed neighborhood, presumably to attend another Catholic mass. The church was dark and empty. A woman in fantastically bright clothing sat in the front pew. There was one trickle of light coming in from the north side of the church, and it hit her directly on her hair. It was luminous, and I was quite arrested as I approached the lit woman.
It was Cait. But not the uninhibited, diaper-wearing friend I knew, but a domesticated version of Cait, with pinned and combed hair and freshly done makeup. Her legs were crossed daintily, her hands sat delicately in her lap. Her demeanor indicated a lifetime of accumulated grace. She was radiating, not just externally but with tangible joy from the inside out. It was the type of palpable joy I'd imagined would capitulate from birth right, from good genes and money. Boat people probably had it. It reminded me of the priest's sermon about following God's plan to obtain happiness.
She was a delicate version of herself. It was impossible. In my dream I kept reminding myself how impossible it was. The real Cait was probably waking up naked somewhere; drunk, or in her own urine, still at the beach or hankering from dehydration in empty corner.
The smell of tacos shuffled through the warm wind. I could hear Javier and his co-working family members opening and closing the back gate, and the smells of grease and tortilla shells elevated towards me from their revolving door. It made me remember that I hadn't eaten in several hours, and my stomach thundered at the thought. I carefully lowered myself down the brick wall to the fire escape stair. The wrought iron rattled while I climbed down. Javier was in the ally, tinkering under the hood of his car.
"Hola vesina..." He said it like I'd done something wrong and he was aware of it.
"Hola vesino." I was short with him, and shuffled fast towards the apartment.
The front door was slightly open, and I could not recall if I'd remembered to close it securely in my impetuous move towards the roof. Downstairs, the apartment door was wide open too. A light was on, which I was sure we'd remembered to turn off when we'd left for Whim Day.
"Cait? You here?" No one answered. I walked into the kitchen. A few cupboards were open, as though they'd been sifted through. Her bedroom was in shambles, but nothing was out of the ordinary about it. It was unusual for her to come home and then leave without writing a note or calling me. I had a few texts from Wheeler, but nothing from Cait. Had I left the door open, then any homeless wanderer could have possibly came in during the night, searching for food or money... We didn't have anything of value to be stolen.
One of the texts from Wheeler said, "Emergency! Where are you?" It was at 4 a.m. Another text at 4:45 said, "What's your address?"
"Curious," I thought. I responded with my address, and nothing else.
A few minutes later Wheeler texted me back and said, "be there in 10."
I couldn't imagine what the emergency could have been, but the nature of both Wheeler and Cait left the possibilities endless. I went into her room to pull some of the things we'd put away back into the living room. The posters were stacked haphazardly on the floor. I pulled them back out and set them against the living room wall. Her room was hot and dark, and the air smelled like sweet candy and sweat.
A gaping hole in her bookcase caught my attention. All of her organized Martha dvds were gone. Every last one of them. Only an outline of dust remained on the shelf. Perhaps other things were missing too, but it was impossible to tell in the chaos of her belongings. I couldn't imagine why she, or anyone else would take the collection out of the apartment. Who else would want them? I continued to search around for clues. A box of crackers were missing from the kitchen cupboard, and some crumbs were scattered on the counter and floor. Nothing else was missing, as far as I knew.
After a half hour passed, Wheeler knocked angrily on the front door.
"Paigebrook, you there? Let me in!"
I opened the door and he brushed passed me inside. He looked like he hadn't slept, and he paced through the apartment nervously, almost panting. His eyes were wide and red, and he was slightly shaking. He was wearing the same dress pants and shirt, which were both now wrinkled and dirty looking.
"Where is she? Is she here?" He riffled around through every part of our place; looking under her bed, behind the shower curtain, and in every closet in every room.
"Slow down Wheeler! What is going on? She's not here," I said.
"Fuck!" He screamed and hit his fist against the wall. "I lost her. I lost her in the water last night," He said.
"What do you mean, you lost her."
"We were on the sandbar, talking about Wiley and the accident. We floated on our backs for awhile. She started talking about professional swimmers. She was imitating all the different strokes; the breaststroke and the backstroke, the butterfly, even the fucking doggy paddle. She wanted to race me so we started swimming out further... She kept singing that Patsy Cline song, and I went underwater for a long breath and when I came back up I couldn't hear her singing anymore. She was just, gone. I couldn't find her! The water wasn't that deep, but the waves.. and it was dark, and I don't know, she was gone."
"Oh my God." I put my hands over my mouth and sat down, like I couldn't breath and stand up at the same time.
"She had just, disappeared. I called her name over and over and over again. I swam everywhere. I ran up and down the beach. She wasn't anywhere." He lit a cigarette and handed me one too. "Fuck!" he repeated.
"Well, we need to go look for her again!"
"I don't know what to do Paige... I'm freaking out. Should we call someone? What the fuck!" He was talking nervously, uncontrollably.
"I'm gonna get dressed, and we're going back to the beach. We'll look again, maybe she swam to shore and passed out."
"Should we call the police?"
"I don't even know her real last name.."
"Why the fuck not? You live with her!"
"We lease in my name.. I don't know. She'd gotten into trouble, she changed her name. I don't know the whole story. It never mattered to me!"
"Great. You just move in with someone, and you don't even know the girl's real name?"
It was ironic to me, because he didn't know my real name either, and he'd likely had sex with Cait in the water and he barely knew a thing about her. Living with her was arguably less intimate.
"I'm getting changed, and we're going to look for her." I finished my cigarette and changed into jeans. We turned off the light and walked upstairs.
"I won't lock the door, just in case she comes back." I said.
"Good idea," said Wheeler.
"You know it's funny, because when I came back to the apartment this morning, the light was on, and her Martha Stewart dvds were gone. It's the only thing she cares about."
"Well that's a sick thing to do, if she did this. I've been out of my god damn mind thinking she drowned or passed out in the water!" he lit another cigarette. This one was a black and mild.
"Let's just go look for her."
We hailed a cab back towards the beach. Traffic was thick and the uncovered sun made liquidy mirages on the forward pavement.
"I keep hearing her voice singing that damn song," said Wheeler.