He went back down the path into town, but felt like a ghost. All the noise around him was outside of him and muted. Everything was separate and far away.
The black cat stepped out of the alley in front of him.
They both stopped, staring at each other.
He stooped, and held out his hand. The cat took a few steps forward, and he scratched the side of its face, then stroked his thumb over its forehead.
He stood up and it walked forward and rubbed itself against his leg.
He kept walking down the sidewalk and reached his house. He stood on the sidewalk, staring up the walkway toward his door. He looked up at the ugly tree, the moonlight illuminating it as brightly as in the day.
He sighed, taking a few more steps but then almost tripped. The cat had followed him.
He stared down at it for several moments.
“Stay here,” he said.
He unlocked the door and went inside. The house was dark, and he didn’t turn on any lights. He took a deep breath, then walked over to the dining room. Moonlight streamed in through the window. He set his violin on top of the piano, then ran his hand over it, leaving streaks in the dust again. He looked down at the silent keys, then at the empty bench, and finally at the bare spot on the wall.
Taking a deep breath he walked over to the kitchen and fumbled around in the cupboard, then pulled out a can of tuna. Opening it, he dumped it in a dish and walked back to the door.
The cat had stayed waiting on the porch. He set the bowl down in front of it. The black cat eyed the tuna, then sniffed it, then began to eat.
Nicholas knelt down, gently feeling around the cat’s neck, and found the edge of the collar. He loosened it. The cat drew back a little bit but was too engrossed in the food. Nicholas took the collar off and scratched the cats neck, and then stood up. He looked at the collar in his hand, and then looked over at the tree in his front yard.
He walked back inside, tossing the collar into the living room.
He went to the closet, and carefully took her painting out. He moved it as carefully and as gently as if he were holding her. Walking back to the dining room, he hung it back up next to the piano.
He stood back, and stared at it. The light of the moon made it feel ghostly.
He hung his head, overwhelmed, and grabbed his violin case and threw it across the room, cursing.
He walked over to the bathroom, reached out into the dark, and wrapped his hand around the bottle of pills. Going back to the living room, he sat on his couch, staring down at the bottle in the moonlight.
Taking the cap off, he set the open bottle on the coffee table and then picked up the bottle of bourbon nearby and poured into the glass he kept next to the couch.
Glancing down next to the pills he saw the journal. He could see the page, and though he could barely make out the writing in the moonlight, he knew exactly what question was written at the bottom of the page with no answer.
What was one thing you accepted today?
He leaned forward, and picked up the bottle of pills.
He sat, staring at the glass and the bottle.
Then he closed his eyes.
He opened his eyes, staring at them, ready. Then he saw something on the floor. He couldn’t make it out, so he kicked with his foot and moved it into the moonlight.
He stared at it, then bowed his head, trying to grappled with the torrent of thoughts and emotions today had been. The colors were running, and he let them pass. At the end, the canvas was blank.
He tipped the bottle of pills and let two fall in his mouth and held them there. He lifted his bourbon to swallow them, then saw the collar again.
Don’t judge the depth of the ocean while only standing on its shore.
He felt like the collar had floated up from the depths and now landed on the shore of his couch.
He stood up, and walked slowly to the kitchen. In front of the sink, he spit out the pills, then slowly, every minuscule movement a deliberate action, he dumped the pills down the drain, then the whiskey. Then he turned on the disposal.
He stood. Staring down at the rumbling sink, the entire counter shaking. Then he turned it off and stood in the kitchen, losing track of time until he heard a noise at the door.
He walked over and opened it. The black cat sat there, next to an empty bowl. Nicholas stepped out of the way and let the cat come into his house, then shut the door.
He walked over to the couch and sat, staring vacantly until his eyes again came to rest on the journal again. And suddenly he realized he had an answer for the last question that currently sat blank.
He had an answer.
He began to cry, bowing his head. Something landed on the couch next to him, and he felt the cat pressing its head against him. He opened up his arms and let it climb onto his lap as tears continued down his face.