. 2 .
“Oh, you know how I forget things like that, Shannon. You just have to tell me each time for me to remember. Honestly, it’s embarrassing.”
“Don’t worry about it, Mom,” said Shannon, “it’s probably not going to be so regular anymore.”
“Not so regular?” Claudia maintained her look of confusion, but stopped sipping her tea, despite keeping her grip on the cup handle while the cup sat on the saucer.
“Well, today’s brunch ended sort of weirdly. I’m not quite sure how it happened exactly, but I think it’s because Hannah and I have grown apart. I mean, her life is so different from mine now.”
“Oh, that’s just silly,” scoffed Claudia, “you two have been inseparable since grade school. You both work in the city in big, fancy offices. How different could your lives be?”
“I don’t know, Mom. I guess you have to experience things from my perspective.”
“Well, I’ve been friends with Lorianne Watts for fifty years, and you couldn’t have more different lives than ours.”
“Mom, when’s the last time you talked to Mrs. Watts?”
“Since she moved to Florida, you know, the long distance charges being so high.”
“I told you, Mom, you don’t have to pay long distance on the cell phone.”
“You know I can’t stand that thing, and the battery keeps dying.”
Shannon couldn’t keep up the conversation. She felt just as tired as she did before she took her nap, the tea having very little effect.
“Mom do you have any coffee?”
“Um, yes, I think I have some instant left.”
“No regular coffee?”
“No, I haven’t bothered with regular coffee since… well, you know.”
“Since Dad left?”
Claudia lightly slapped Shannon’s hand.
“Oh come on, Mother! It’s not like it’s bad luck to say it. ‘Dad left.’ Big deal! It’s been five years now, Mom. You have to get over it. And just buy some damn coffee!”
“Take it easy, Shannon! If it means so much to you for me to have coffee, I’ll just buy some and save the headache. Hand me my purse.”
Claudia started to get up. “Because I’m going to A&P to buy you some ‘damn coffee!’”
Shannon was not amused by this little imitation, but she composed herself, and was quite certain her mother hadn’t noticed. “That’s not necessary, Mom. I have coffee at home.”
Shannon stood and walked over to her mother, gave her a quick hug, and walked out the door. The air in Hoboken was no warmer that day, but now she had a jacket to brave the elements. She walked by a coffee house and thought about walking in for a quick cup, but she decided to wait until she got home.
Back in her apartment, she contemplated the coffee again, but decided to just go back to bed, even though it was now mid-afternoon. Her eyes were closing even as she walked around, and she landed in her bed as if it was only there by chance to catch her as she collapsed from exhaustion.
She did not return to flying, but rather another recurring fantasy came to her, the most morbid dread she had. She was on the train into New York, in the PATH tubes under the Hudson, when the wall of the tube cracked, causing water to fill the tube in a matter of seconds. The only air she had to breath was contained in her leaky car, and shared with the other faceless passengers. She would watch the ceiling of the car buckle and hear the groans of stressed steel and aluminum, crying for mercy under the enormous pressure.
Outside the car, she could see the tube breaking apart and turning into a coral reef before her eyes. The conduits would start forming crust and barnacles attached to them. Anemones grew on their upper edges until they could no longer be distinguished from the tube walls. The other passengers turned to shriveled corpses, mothers clutching their babies in death. The air became thinner, and Shannon could no longer breathe. She fell to the floor and began pulling herself to the door of the car. Slipping her weak fingers into the gap, she tried in vain to pry the door open. She could smell the rubber of the door decomposing, letting in more water. Her nose was pressed to the floor, and now submerged. Unable to move, the water continued to rise, covering her mouth, then her ears, and by the time her whole body was underwater, she exhaled one last bubble, which she watched rise to the surface at her right.
With one eye, she watched the bubble linger and rise with the water. Up it went inching towards the ceiling of the car, past the seat and the head of the motionless corpses, whose hats now floated alongside the bubble. Further up, past the station maps and the Spanish ads, and just before its inevitable destination, she woke up.
Her bedroom was now completely dark, the shades having been drawn and her alarm clock still hidden under the bed, where it had been kicked that morning. Or was it that morning, she wondered. Had she slept through the next day, and now it was Monday night and she missed a whole day of work. At that moment, she wished she had missed that day. Mondays at her office were insufferable. Unlike most places of employment, hers was full of enthusiastic workers, eagerly awaiting the work week to begin. The Monday opening bell is a cause for great excitement at the bank, signaling the liquidation and investment of money occurring on massive scales. The thought made some of the young brokers salivate, and the veterans smile. Capitalism at its fullest and most vibrant, straining at the leash for two days of perceived rest.
No, she thought, let Tuesday come next. The hounds have the taste of blood fresh in their mouths, and no longer thirst with such vigor. She went to her door, hoping to see the Monday New York Times already waiting in the hall, slightly yellowed from sitting there all day. But the hall was empty. Turning back into her living room, she turned on the light to look at the clock. 9:30, it read. She had slept a mere six hours. Another death lapsed in time.
“Well, I guess I’ll be up all night,” she muttered to herself. She turned on the television and absently flipped through the channels, looking for something to start her long night of inactivity. Sunken ships on the Discovery Channel would have been interesting, but not after that dream. “The Sopranos” was an episode she had seen at least twice before. Poor Joe Pantoliano getting his head chopped off in the bathtub. Shannon though about her father, who knew “Joey Pants” back when he was a little kid hanging around the neighborhood. Every time he came on television or showed up in a movie, Shannon’s father would point him out, as if she didn’t recognize him herself.
Auguste Lambert, or “Big Gus”, as he was known around the neighborhood, was born in Montreal, but moved to Hoboken when he was five and his father transferred to New York. After he divorced Claudia, he returned to Canada despite not remembering his brief childhood there. He still called Shannon regularly, with his rough Quebecois accent becoming more pronounced with each call. After two years, he sounded exactly like how Shannon remembered her grandfather, who died when she was twelve.
“Your dad sounds like a lumberjack,” Hannah would say when Shannon would play her messages. “I see him carrying a big axe and wearing bright red flannel.”
Shannon realized she just repeated this rejoinder aloud, to no one in the room besides Tony Soprano carrying the infamous bowling bag. She stared at the ceiling, questioning her sanity after speaking repeatedly to nobody. She let her mouth hang open as her tongue clicked against her pallet, making noise just to fill the room.
Back on the television screen, Tony was still trying to dispose of Joey Pants one piece at a time and Shannon reached for the remote control again. After flipping through more movies she had seen before, or wished to never see, she pushed the power button and threw the remote onto the couch—but the TV remained on. She pointed it right at the receiver, she thought, but she walked up to the set and pushed its power button, but the same old movie kept playing, seeming only louder now. Feeling defeated she tried watching it for a few moments, but it was some comedy which tanked at the theatres last year, and she had no intention of watching something that nobody else had. She tried the power button again, but still it played. She let out a gruff sigh and kneeled in front of the entertainment center, thrust her hand underneath it, and felt around for the power strip.
She could feel wires all tangled, but with no destination. She laid her head on the floor to get a look at the mess, and she could see the power strip pushed back against the wall. Getting back up, she tried pulling the whole cabinet away from the wall, but it wouldn’t move. The movie kept getting louder, now deafening. She ran to the kitchen to grab the broom, ran back and jammed the stick behind the entertainment center to try fishing the power strip out. After a couple of misses, she got the stick through some wires on the far end of the strip, and managed to drag it out. She tried pressing the switch with her big toe, and she saw the light go off inside the translucent red switch, but the TV kept blaring. She unplugged all the wires from the strip, but the din continued. In a fit of frustration, she started hitting the set from all directions with the broomstick, but it only grew louder.
Looking down at the coffee table, she saw a gun which she did not remember leaving there. Deciding not to question fate, she aimed it at the TV screen and fired.
With a bang, she found herself in bed again, the orange sunrise starting to filter through the blinds. Monday was here, she could feel it. Hanging over the side of the bed, she saw her alarm clock innocently waiting underneath. Picking it up with her left hand while rubbing her eyes with her right, she saw that it was already 7:30am, and she had approximately five minutes to get down to the train station. Her 6:00 alarm was never set, apparently, which she did not find surprising, considering that she never expected to sleep all Sunday. She wasn’t even sure whether she visited her mother, or had brunch with Hannah, for that matter.
Their friendship may be intact, she thought, but she knew that the uncomfortable brunch took place. She could still smell the maple syrup that spilled on her purse, there to spite her for eternity or at least until she bought a new one. At least it didn’t get on her shoes, she thought. She saw them sitting safely in the corner, free of sticky residue, but waiting to be worn for work that day.
Resigning to the fact that she was going to be late, she took a long, hot shower and took her time choosing between her five suits for this dreaded Monday. She would still make the opening bell, and most likely nobody would notice she was late until then. Comforted by this thought, she picked the taupe suit with the inlaid turquoise buttons. It was hopelessly out of style, but she felt most comfortable in it, and she didn’t want anything else that day to keep her from serenity.