Bad Religion

I went searching for Frank. Again.

It is 3am. Sometime in July? I can’t remember. Every month feels like July.

I close the door of our small apartment and give in to its haunting. Everything sounds like the promise of him. The dripping of the tap. The wind escaping through the crack of the door. The whir of the clothes spinning on the washing line outside.

I was at our bar tonight, the one that we printed an invisible mark of ownership on. Just like our park, our seat at the movies — the one with the slight tear in the red pleather — and our grocery store, on the corner of 4th and Republic.

I look out the window and confront the memory of The Last Time. I was sitting on the hand-painted swing outside. He took a seat on the ice cold lawn, surrounded by the strawberries he planted, and whispered ‘we are all mortals aren’t we? Any moment this could go’, and went inside to make a cup of coffee. He would never drink it.

‘We don’t have any milk’, he yelled. ‘I’m going out to get some. I’ll be back in…’

His last words were muffled by the sound of his Lincoln Town Car starting up. The words trapped in the space between there and here, as I have become trapped between then and now.

I have become used to unfinished things. I have become used to the promises he makes, every time he texts, emails, calls, DMs, or likes my pictures on Instagram. Those promises fill the silences in the long spaces in-between our every interaction. They all feel like ellipses, and my every day feels like an abbreviation.

I hold onto the quiet desperation that pervades my days, careful to let it not spill over into loss. I cannot go there yet.

The apartment looks like a tornado just flew around this room. ‘Excuse the mess’, I used to tell all guests brave enough to enter. But nobody comes around anymore. And I rarely leave, unless I am out looking for Frank, or engaging in the mundane tasks required of the act of living. ‘Being alive’, what a strange concept. What a trip. ‘We are all mortals aren’t we?’

I cannot look at the cup of coffee he brewed, still left on the kitchen sink. It’s a relic of a past life; one lived in a haze of domestic paradise. Mango, peaches and limes lie discarded on wooden bowls. They should have gone mouldy and sour long ago, but everything in here seem to lie in wait. Every part of this house is hoping for, hinging on and anxiously awaiting his return.

I was out at ‘The Pyramid’ tonight, a small hipster haunt that we recklessly frequented, even though we occupied it with a strange mix of unease and satisfaction, and our bank accounts wheezed every time we walked in. I met our group of friends there, the same ones who jokingly made ‘Where’s Wally’ shirts with Frank’s face on them last month. It was not funny. I still laughed. It tasted bitter and salty.

Some of them still excited at the mere mention of his name, while others jadedly roll their eyes and order another round. Kimberley says she saw him at an album launch. Kenny says he texted her an image of his plane ticket, promising that he would attend her birthday party. Tyler always shows me the Snapchats the exchanged, and reminds me that Frank really loves me. I believe it. I constantly renew my membership to this one man cult. Cramming dreams into a Styrofoam cup, and sipping on it painfully slowly. Hoping it doesn’t run out. Knowing it will.

If only they knew how he lovingly chastised some of them in secret. How he called them Super Rich Kids and mocked their Supergas, Polo sweatshirts and kombucha smoothies. He was always sieving realities, taking the measure of things, considering the weight of the world. I moved between being in awe of his razer-sharp critique, and switching on another episode of the Kardashians. Kim is my reprieve, as another sermon begins. Like, literally.

I went to church last Sunday, the hard pews biting into my limbs, the prayer book feeling heavy in my hands. I sang in spurts, as tiny fragments of songs escaping my lips at random. I almost laughed as someone next to me bellowed ‘seek and ye shall find’. No one always turns on their location, I wanted to yell. No one always wants to be found.

Frank never trusted religion. I never trusted him. Fully, anyway.

Frank. I say his name often. To remind myself that I didn’t make him up. I turn his name around in my mouth, feeling its journey from my throat to my lips, relishing in the way it rests on my tongue. I see glimpses of him on the street. In everyone. In everything. The other day, as I played James Blake and engaged in the rare act of cleaning, I thought I saw him peeking through the blinds. I rushed to the window, and found nothing more than my cellphone. I turned it on in hope. Nothing.

He is my home screen wallpaper, every now and then. Every now and then. I should change it, but my heart is unwilling.

Last week, he called me from a payphone. “Where are you?” I whispered, unable to hide the hopefulness in my voice, its tone an acute betrayal of my simmering anger.

“Somewhere”, he answered.

“I’ve been thinking about you”, I said.

“I’ve been thinking about forever”, he responded, then hung up.

I’m searching for Frank in the bottom of a double shot of Jameson’s. It’s 4am, and I am at The Pyramid. Again. I suppose I am clinging to the hope that he will show up. I am yearning for him to suddenly appear, just as suddenly as he left.

My daily movements now navigate a tiny circuit of our geography. I visit all the places he could be. All the places he still haunts. I watch many movies with my pants catching on the tear in the seat, accompanied by one medium popcorn, and one Coca Cola.

The bartender’s pained smile is a reminder of the way I have looked for the past three years. Like something broken, discarded and disregarded. I leave, unable to prolong the Image of Hopelessness and the pageantry of it all. I am unable to stay within the constant stares and whispers that declare that my life, and Frank’s, has become the stuff of intertwined legend and mythology. I heard some people have started taking bets about when (and if) he will return. They have pinned their hard-earned money on my future, and I, in turn, have pinned my hopes on someone who has become more memory than man.

It is August now.