Fiction: The Tenth Floor

By J.D. Mraz

I moved into my new apartment yesterday.
It’s on the tenth floor of this old cement building. The floors are drab and grey, but the insides are okay. The cabinets are all real wood. That’s what they said anyway.
It has a bedroom, a living room, a bathroom, and a kitchen.
It feels too big.
I haven’t met any of my neighbors yet. I saw a couple while I moved my boxes up the stairs, but they didn’t say anything.
There’s no elevator so it was a lot of walking.
No one offered to help.
I’m tired so I haven’t finished unpacking yet. Maybe tomorrow.

The phone rang today. I didn’t answer. I haven’t felt like answering it for a while.
But I did look at it, just to see who it could be. It’s been a long time since I got anything from anyone but, then again, who have I given anything back to since…
I was surprised to see it was from you. A voicemail too. I deleted it without listening.
Why did you call?
Maybe I should have just picked up the phone, if I really wanted to know. But maybe I didn’t.
I imagine you want something trivial, that’d be just like you. A brush, an old shirt, jeans, who knows. I know I don’t. I don’t think I even have a brush anymore. I think you took it with you.

The phone rang again today. I thought about answering, but I didn’t.
You left another voicemail. I deleted it again. I’m sorry.
I don’t know what you want. I thought you made it clear, but I guess not. Maybe when it’s on your terms it’s okay.
Can’t say I blame you.
I looked to see if I could guess why. But there’s not much here to look through. Only a few packed boxes with my name on them. Oh, but there is the one, I guess.
My head hurts.
Maybe I should take a walk.
But my legs still hurt from the move. Or at least I think that’s why.
It’s been a week and I haven’t done much since.
Maybe they hurt from sitting still.

I answered the phone today, but the words didn’t come. So, I guess someone else picked it up and I listened. I don’t know why they’d do that. People can be cruel.
It was definitely you. I still remember your voice at least. But I couldn’t find the words to reply. I don’t remember those very well to tell you the truth. Maybe they’re in one of the boxes. If I find the time, I’ll look for them.
I think you told me you were worried. But I made food today so I wouldn’t worry. You always liked my food.
You should worry about yourself.
Do you even know how to cook?

A bird hit my window today. It didn’t land on the balcony, so I don’t think it died.
It was a BluJay. I remember them dying a lot when we were kids. I’d find them by my grandma’s house, and I always felt bad.
The mosquitos killed them. Do you remember?

Do you ever feel bad about the things you’ve done? Do you ever sit up at night amidst the endless scroll and drone of another video hoping you can block it all out? I do.
I feel like I have tinnitus. It never stops ringing. Even with the fan you got for the room. It’s never loud enough.
Maybe you want the fan back.
I found it in the box. The one with your name on it. But you said you didn’t want any of it so I took it with me. I guess I could throw it away. It’s just clothes and a couple other things I don’t need. But I don’t know if it’s in me yet.
If I threw away all the things you loved, where would that leave me?

I went to check on the bird today. I only found feathers.
I guess it left.

I had a package delivered today. It was a new mattress. I don’t have a frame yet.
My bedroom is coming along nicely. It feels like a real place as long as I don’t leave the room.
So I don’t.
It feels silly but I think you were right about the TV. It was too big. I hate the way it looks sitting on the living room floor.
I watched a video last night about grief. They said it has steps. I’m not sure where to get started.
I don’t feel much like walking.

You haven’t called me back in a week now.
Did I do something wrong?
I promise I’ll pick up if you call again.
If you call, I promise I’ll answer
I promise I won’t ignore it.
Please don’t leave me alone.
I’m so tired of being alone.
Maybe there’s a video I could find for it.

I think I left you a voicemail last night.
I’m sorry for what I said. I don’t know what I could have said.
But I was angry.
I don’t know how much of it you understood, if you even heard it. I had someone deliver wine to the house and everything else is dark.
I see I called you a lot.
I was angry.
I put a few holes in the bedroom wall. I guess I ruined it all over again.
I sat on the balcony for three hours looking down and crying. The sun was setting when I went back inside. You never called back. I don’t know if you ever will.
I wish I could go back and do it all over again.
Erase your memory from before it all went wrong.
You used to tell me that when you did something stupid.
How many times did I tell you it was silly.
It doesn’t feel like it now.
I wish it were true.
But we don’t get to reset.
Not like in the games we used to play
Back when we were kids.

I live on the tenth floor, but I think it’s time to leave.

J.D. Mraz is a writer and photographer living in Pittsburgh, PA. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh for writing, J.D. spends his time watching classic films, playing old video games, and reading pulpy science fiction novels.