Her, Me and 24B
I packed up our lives for good and decided against the overly empathetic suggestions of therapy for Daisy. The truth is, we were twenty three and just couldn’t afford the luxury of a professional playing Freud with our minds. I took her far away from that place instead. We drove South to Georgia, where she could have all the sunshine she wanted, and her long brown hair could regain it’s auburn highlights.
The building was three stories, flaking a shade of grey yellow paint, and cracking with age, but it was what I could afford on a grocery clerk’s salary. An oversized bronze key opened our front door. Apartment 24B was small, with rough textured walls and a dead cockroach outside it’s first floor door. The smell wasn’t awful, something like bleach and cigarettes. At least the latter was familiar. “It’s not much right now,” I said, “but it’s all ours”. She smiled and kissed my cheek. I took a breath and felt all my apprehension melt away. And she proceeded to throw her shoes at the wall and flung herself towards the small window into the weak sun rays that actually made their way into our empty living room.
As the weeks passed, the sun never fully made it’s way to the first floor. I hung up cheap red curtains and Daisy yelled that we didn’t need them, that this place was dark enough. I thought it made the place feel homey, and not like a stranger that we were forced to be friendly with. She once jokingly called it a glorified prison cell, but at least it was our prison cell, I thought. Our luckiest addition to it was an old record player that fit in nicely on top of our stack of stolen newspapers, that sufficed as a table in the living room. A lumpy mattress on the floor 2 was a big upgrade from our sleeping bags, but made the room feel smaller than it already was. Daisy called the mattress cursed because of her nightmares. Her screams rose in the dark like a banshee that was being stabbed. And although she never told me what happened in her head after we turned out the lights, I knew it wasn’t the mattress. Later I bought her a small nightlight in the shape of star and plugged it into the outlet beside the bed. The orange glow was comforting in that closet of a room.
This was the first time either of us had lived away from home, and to me, we weren’t bound anymore to the chains of the sad streets we grew up on. I had known Daisy since we were kids, running around the poverty ridden streets of Detroit in hand-me-down tshirts. She never did get along with her father, but so many more things were hidden behind the walls of that old house. It was months later when they found her in her father’s basement, bruised, malnourished and wide eyed. He was dragged away in handcuffs, and she ran to me in the July heat. Her wide green eyes and crooked smile came stumbling into the sunlight, like it was the first time she’d seen it. Even in that horrid state of suffering, she was beautiful.
We enjoyed the distant sound of the train at nine pm every night, and talked about what shade of blue we would paint the walls, even though we weren’t allowed. Daisy loved poetry, and once in awhile she’d sit on the green countertop and put on a recital under the fluorescent lights. The cramped kitchen became a stage.
In the Fall Daisy started at the college. She quickly made friends and sometimes she wouldn’t come home until two am. I hated the silence in the apartment when I was alone. It felt different at night. The smell of bleach seemed stronger, the walls creaked for no reason, and the fluorescent lights made any eye contact that wasn’t with the floor unbearable. I almost rather 3 preferred the darkness. I hated being left alone to soak in every flaw in the space, but I hated her being with other people even more.
And she hated Winter. I’d ask her to stay home and she’d say everyday it felt like the apartment was shrinking and getting darker. She would pull the curtains apart so hard sometimes she nearly ripped them off the wall. She would grow agitated and restless and sometimes pace up and down the narrow hallway, always ending up by the window at dawn to catch the most sun that ever reached inside. One day the Winter storms brought the worst. The electricity had gone out, as it would sometimes, and I found her on the floor in the closet. She was crying and writing on the walls with a black marker, words that didn’t make sense. “What are you doing?!” I yelped at her. I hated when I could hear my voice break. It felt like I, myself, was breaking too. She looked up at me with big green eyes and cried a little harder. “I don’t... like the dark,” was all she said. I helped her to bed and held her as she flinched every time the walls creaked or our neighbor's footsteps stomped above us.
Like the rain that would come and go, the next day she would be fine. I asked her to stay in. I asked her to stay because she would go. She would go and leave behind a silence that flooded the apartment. It was supposed to be a place that was ours, where she was safe and we were together. So she’d stay in and we’d play one of our three records. She would look around at the blank walls, like she was memorizing every crack. It made my muscles tense a little more each night. I wanted to paint the dull walls more than ever.
One morning in the Spring I woke up unusually early, just before the sun was up. The bed was cold on her side. I walked out into the living room, expecting to find her on the couch, waiting for that morning light to peek through the only window. But the curtains were closed and 4 the couch was empty. And the record player was gone, and those newspapers were scattered across the carpet. My heart felt as though it might explode, and there was a note on the counter, written in black marker. I blamed the cigarette smell on why I couldn’t breath as I read.
Why would you lock me up again?
I looked around at those blank walls, they stretched closer and closer to me every moment, like they were going to grab me and pull me into someplace even darker. And sadly, it was only then that I realized what this place was for her. And what I had done to her.