All of the houses are empty.
I see lights drifting out of windows
momentarily lost in the darkness
before spilling on vacant streets.
There is no one. Anywhere.
No one is watching heroes fighting,
on the muted TV.
Electricity is being drained away—
Barry Manilow quietly singing
to empty rooms bathed in dimmed lights—
like a ghost fighting against the pull
of crossing over.
An open door pulls
me through its threshold.
It rests, almost carelessly forgotten
to be closed, but there is a sense
of urgency hanging in the air.
Decorative cushions neatly line
the beige couch. A TV Guide sleeps on the floor,
pages pillowed like a tarnished halo,
a nest for the remote and coasters
pushed off the coffee table.
Mixed in with them—a bra, boxers,
and several used condoms.
Did these people know they were
going to vanish? In a rush,
they left the door open to strip
off their clothes and clear the coffee table
so they could melt into each other.
But then why the condoms?
In a narrow hallway pictures
of a golden retriever—
playing fetch with a slobbery, red ball,
burying an old shoe, devoid of an owner.
Second door on the left, and I find it.
The bathroom. It’s clean—
almost like it was never used.
I leave the door open—who’s going to see?
The stream splashing into the bowl
echoes, enunciating the solitude.
A glint from the ring on my hand
brings fog to my eyes. A smile
that seems forever ago spreads,
tingling painfully through my body—
the pins and needles of a sleeping foot.
The bathroom floor is bare,
no plush rugs to comfort feet
stepping out of the shower onto cold tiles.
I’m reaching for the toilet paper
when I hear footsteps in the hall.
Stunned and unsure, I sit there, hand
limply holding the tissue. She’s in the door.
I’ve never met her, but there she is
staring at my crotch.
I wasn’t expecting anyone.
The world was gone. Her eyes
travelled up my body, until they
met my own. There weren’t any sparks.
Just a dull ache.
Her voice was quiet, and a little hoarse.
When she spoke, it was
a gear rusted too long.
“Can I use the toilet?”
My fingers fumble over the zipper
and the swirl and gurgle
of the toilet bowl cuts through the silence.
My mouth opens, but my voice left—
left with everything else.
I step outside as she closes the door,
water faintly splashing.