every night the backyard of the hookah lounge
next door used to fill up with the usual crowd
loudly enjoying the world and its splendors
long past midnight.
my curtain rod had fallen from its holder
and the thought of fixing it was beyond impossible.
they must have been shouting and laughing
as they always did no matter how many times the man
next door begged from his window to let him sleep
the longer they carried on into the very early morning
but when i remember that night
i remember the silence
and the ceiling fan overhead
its blades caked with dust after months of disuse
that i couldn’t begin to think about cleaning.
the lamp whose bulb had burned out weeks ago
i couldn’t imagine replacing
without finding myself paralyzed.
more than anything i remember the headache,
a headache i didn’t know could exist
and the bottle of over-the-counter pain medication
on my bedside table.
that is the part that instantly rises up
when i think of that night.
a pain i didn’t know any one person could feel
and the word coddled repeating itself over and over.
a full body stomach emptying
all-encompassing torment
that to this day i can only associate
with the word agony.
i hadn’t known it could be this way
but in retrospect it had been building
up to this for so long
that somehow it seemed all but inevitable.
eventually even my thoughts faded away
it was just me next to a nearly full bottle of
over-the-counter pain medication.
that was all the world had ever been
and the idea of anything else was unfathomable.
i don’t remember falling asleep
i don’t remember waking up.
to this day i have no idea
if i slept at all.
the night bore on
the bottle sat on my table.
morning arrived
i’d somehow
managed to make it there.

not very long after i sat in an entirely different empty room
overlooking an entirely different view
while the world fell apart
and ambulance sirens blared continuously
as corpses began to mount
in the refrigerated trucks outside my apartment.
as i mourned and wept and grieved
and wondered what had happened outside
to make things go so terribly wrong
i couldn’t help but find the strangest inexplicable beauty
in the most mundane things.
the distortion of the sun’s rays through glass
the long, slow stretch of the two cats i’d come to know for a brief time
the laughter of an upstairs neighbor often heard but never seen.
had they always been so lovely?
i wasn’t sure,
but the longer the world unraveled outside my room
the more i found myself aware of the
growing bewildered relief that no matter
how terrible the outside had become
i was still able to say
i’d somehow
managed to make it there.