Atwood – Autumn 1995
He knows the day is well under way before he even opens his eyes. He isn’t thinking about the day, but he is wondering what the hell that noise is? As usual, nothing is right about this situation. He doesn’t have to open his eyes to know that it’s happened again, he is not where he is supposed to be and he is not alone. One eye open, who the hell is the girl next to him? Christ, what is that fucking noise! Dazed, he finds his sweatshirt that is being held hostage by the largest cat he has ever seen. He realizes the clanking and hissing steam of the ancient radiator as the unfamiliar noise. He lumbers to the window, smears the condensation off for a closer look. Does he really have to look to know? Jefferson Street, it’s always Jefferson Street. As she begins to stir he recognizes her. Shit, it’s Viv from State Grounds.
Before she even opens her eyes, she knows he’s still there. He’s looking, not at her, but out the window. He’s always watching, always looking. “So I have taken a lot of strays home, but you’re a first.”
As embarrassment begins to set in, “Do you have any coffee in this place or is that something you only do on a professional case by case basis?”
“It’s in the kitchen by the stove, first cupboard on your right.”
Her apartment is one of the best in town. It’s located upstairs in one of the old buildings on State Street. Newly renovated, exposed brick walls, high ceilings, tall windows with wide windowsills. Although he sees her every day, he is ashamed that he knows hardly anything about her, yet she knows so much more about him. There is anonymity living in a large town, but since he moved back to his hometown he realizes that everyone knows everybody and everyone’s business. The first 6 months of moving back was like stepping back in time and basking in the glow of everyone’s memories of him. The whole, “hometown boy done good” routine was fun at first, everyone’s local hero, but after a while the shine began to wear off. If he could only believe in all the hype and what people “thought” they knew about him. Looking for the coffee he notices the books. They are everywhere. On windowsills, on the counter, stacked on the floor, many of them marked with papers and notes. Then there are the notepads, pages and pages of handwritten notes.
“Any luck?” she asks as she walks into the kitchen, opening the cupboard, realizing he has not gotten past the window.
“Sorry, what did you say?” He had been distracted by the view of Jefferson Street out the kitchen window.
“Never mind, I got it.”
Not knowing where to start, he decided to lead with awkward silence. Maybe a disarming long glance might prolong the pain of conversation. She was more attractive than he had noticed before. At State Grounds she was always friendly but too busy to be too interested in any one customer. She was comfortable in her own skin, an easy kind of beauty, no need to be who she wasn’t. Everybody’s all American Girl, no need for make-up; she chose comfort over fashion, nice ass. That he had noticed before. Jesus, here comes that beast of a cat again.
“What the hell do you feed that thing?”
“I see you have met Samson. He’s been around longer than most guys I’ve met. He can eat anything he wants.”
Handing him a steaming cup of coffee, she can’t help but think how different he seems in the light of day, awake, in her place. It had been comforting to have him in her bed, asleep and safe. At least it was Sunday, and there was no reason to rush out the door to work.
After another long glance, “Thank you for the coffee.”
“I would appreciate it if you kept this to yourself. I wouldn’t want it known around the coffee shop that I am now serving private brew on the side.”
“Your secret is safe with me.”
If she didn’t say something, it would never be said. “I take it early morning coffee with me isn’t the only secret you will be carrying around.”
Looking at her he thought, if only it were that easy, a secret, something to hide. Maybe the coffee had relaxed him enough to let his guard down.
“I have a feeling there is nothing easy about you. Do you want to know about last night?” There it was she threw him the rescue line, would he grab it?
As he refilled her cup with coffee he decided to let her in, “Where did you find me?”
She wondered when the day would come that he would begin to ask questions. If he would ever realize that she was familiar in some way. As the weeks had progressed, she was sure that it would happen at State Grounds, he would see her and remember. For months she had been waiting, wondering how it would happen and here it was. As rehearsed as she thought she would be, nothing had prepared her for the conversation she would now have to have with Atwood. How could she begin to tell this man standing before her that she had been his saving grace for months, how would he ever believe what she was about to tell him.
“Atwood, I think the question you need to ask is not where, but when was the first time I found you.
Suddenly he was becoming very aware of his surroundings. If he closed his eyes, there was a faint echo of a memory. Something just beyond what he could remember. It was like tuning an old radio, there was too much static around the edges, but you could still hear your favorite song somewhere in the background even though it was only interrupted notes. All he could do was focus on something other than her words. His eyes began to rest upon the notepads scattered around the apartment. What was she doing taking so many notes. To distract himself, he picked one of the notebooks up off the floor.
“Atwood, look at me, look at me, don’t look down, look at me!”
Why was she pleading with him, this couldn’t be top secret material, she worked at a coffee shop!
Before looking back at her, he decided to look at the notebook first to see what she was so protective of. As his eyes scanned the page, it was obvious there was so much he didn’t know, because the words staring back at him were his own. It was unmistakable, it was his writing. Pages and pages of his own words, written over and over again, “Find me, I am here.”
Viv was waiting. She felt her heart leaping out of her chest. This was just the beginning of a long explanation with few answers at the end. She knew him on a level that most others would never understand. Watching him at this very moment was torture for her. She could feel the intensity of his confusion and bewilderment all around her.
He should have known something like this was coming. Shit. Through the years he had learned to navigate through his nocturnal life. Night terrors when he was a kid, in college laughing it off when he would wake up on the roof of the frat house, waking up looking out windows. At times, even being able to explain it with stress, failed relationships, especially difficult cases he was prosecuting. But this was profound. This was something outside of himself, complex and unexplainable. And there is Viv, who for some reason has the ability to see into his soul, he can feel it, she knows him.
As a feeling of calm washes over him he looks at her, “I have a dog waiting at home that needs to be walked, are you interested?”
This certainly wasn’t the reaction she was waiting for, but why should she be surprised, nothing has been normal for months. “Sure, let’s go.”