I told her, ‘I’m sick, get in the car.’
‘I’m drunk,’ she said, ‘if you wanna notice.’ And she was. Her eyes struggling to focus on anything that was really there in the kitchen. They seemed hopelessly aloof to all the mess we’d made, to the white rum spill and cake all stabbed by cigarettes and chunks of glass.
‘I’m sick, babe.’
‘Den’?’ she said.
I told her to get me to the hospital, that she had to drive. And she drove just fine, giving way at the correct signs in the gentle rain. It was before twelve but it was a Saturday in March, so people were still spilling on the shining streets.
‘I was going to, if you weren’t –’ she started as the cassette in the tape deck turned over and started playing.
‘Just –’ I tried to finish.
‘They won’t give a shit, if that’s what’s – if you weren’t going to chuck them out, I was going to chuck them out and –’
‘Don’t say,’ I said. I was trying to stay still and I didn’t want to talk.
‘I’m driving. I’m driving,’ she said.
‘Drive, and – Jenny?’
She didn’t turn and look. She didn’t want any more questions and their answers. Twenty, thirty minutes earlier I’d thrown my friends out of the house. ‘Get the fuck out,’ I’d said. We were moving house, had people there to say goodbye to the place, a villa duplex which had had too many parties, too many songs, and too many arguments. We’d shifted out furniture and art and junk and invited everyone over. Stewart had asked why we’d taken the pictures out of their frames and I’d said they’d never had anything in them in the first place cause Jenny liked them like that and he’d said blah, and I said we’d just run out of boxes and he’d and we’d –
And for some reason we’d started shoving each other.
At the hospital I told them I was sick. ‘I’m sick,’ I announced amongst the glistening machinery and fluorescents. ‘Help! Someone! I’m very, very sick!’
‘I’m dying. I need a goddamned medication!’
I was in a room with my wife and a bed and a cardboard cup of water. Jenny’d snuck in a bottle of vermouth and took sips from the bottle when it became apparent no-one was coming to see me anytime soon. She winced and wiped at her mouth. The place had all the smells and the hungry sounds of the broken bones of a Saturday night. The eye level stink of heavy disinfectants. Wheels on hard linoleum, serious coded conversations between medical practitioners and bad art in chrome frames. I sent away one nurse because she was pregnant. I said I wasn’t well and she might want to get someone who wasn’t so precarious. I just didn’t like the idea of something so small listening in. My wife said, ‘Honey,’ and the nurse said I wasn’t sick and departed for the bloodied and cursed.
I started up crying again and a man in a security uniform was positioned outside the curtain rail and I was badly affronted. I started shouting at his shoes, calling them cunts; the laces, the bit of flaked rubber. No-one was willing to take me seriously and I started banging on about this and that and that, that I needed help. Lord knows what it sounded like in there, and eventually a police officer came and sat with me and told me I was just drunk. I swore at him, stood and tripped through the curtain. My wife came after me whispering. I sat in a nearby wheelchair. She pushed it and we got out of there when we realised there wasn’t a pill for all this, only time and I’ve never liked time. Not when it moved so slow.
The Mazda was just outside and I was pretty grateful it hadn’t been towed. It was parked at an angle across two spaces. We got the car to the river, only banging the bumper once on the gate on the way through to the recreational area overlooking the rocks and old slow water. I was quite impressed with her and told her so.
‘Honey,’ she said. She sounded whispery and afraid. ‘So messed-up tonight?’
‘It wasn’t my idea.’
‘You’re still crying.’
‘I’m still crying,’ I said. And I was. I hadn’t stopped, really, since I’d tossed my friends out the back door. I was good with crying, could let go at any moment and the world knew a new river.
‘We’ll stay here tonight,’ she said.
I nodded. I was glad she’d said it. It must have been 1am by then and I was surprised by weight of the glow coming off the full moon. It felt heavy, as if the silver shifting in my wife’s hair and on our skin and in the trees was a real metal, not just a word we give to light when the day has passed beyond us.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Coventry is a Wellington-based writer who completed the MA at the International Institute of Modern Letters in 2010. His first novel, The Invisible Mile, was shortlisted for the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards and in the same year won the Hubert Church Award for Fiction. The novel has been translated into five languages, published in the UK and Commonwealth by Picador, and in North America by Europa Editions.