New Winslow S5E42
Once he could breathe again, Noah thought there’d be no way he could go back to sleep. Not after that whole scene in the hall. He’d made sure to lock the door though. Not to keep them out, but because he didn’t want to end up back out in the hallway. He never wanted to leave his apartment again, if he was completely honest with himself, as he’d finally laid down on the worn couch in the middle of his living room. He didn’t know what time it was by that point, but there was a slight brightness in the clouds outside his window that told him it was more early morning than late at night.
He was so ashamed. Of everything that had happened, of course. But also because of how he’d let his guard down so easily as soon as things seemed to be normal again at home. He didn’t expect Olivia to forget everything he’d done, even (or maybe especially) the things he couldn’t quite remember himself. But he’d been getting too comfortable with the idea that he could move on. But he wasn’t entitled to that kind of chance, was he? At least not entirely. And he couldn’t even be mad at Liv or Andrew for assuming he’d been drunk. They’d found him passed out in front of his front door. Of course they’d immediately jump to a relapse. They’d be stupid not to.
He didn’t want to drink right now. Or, he did, but he hated himself for it. He didn’t want to. Instead, he wanted to just not exist. Just for a little while. And not in a way that would cause anybody else any pain. He couldn’t do this, couldn’t just pretend he was normal.
What had he been thinking? God, he was making business plans with Liv and Andrew. They just bought a building. Liv wasn’t going to want to do this now, not when he’d even unintentionally shaken her confidence in him again.
Maybe he should have just stayed in Worcester when he got out of rehab. Found an apartment in the city, found a job that would cover the mortgage here and his rent there. It’d be tight, but doable. And it was still possible if that was the best decision for all of them.
Noah blinked awake to sunlight streaming in the living room window a while later. Apparently, he had finally dozed off on the couch at some point in his swirling, desperate thoughts. And of course this time, now that the door was locked, he’d managed to stay where he was the whole time.
His throat was dry as he sat up, neck aching at the movement. His hand was still throbbing and smeared with dried blood, but it looked like the bleeding had stopped. He had some tweezers in his bathroom, but he wasn’t sure he had any bandages. Either way, those glass shards had to come out and he might as well do it now.
Noah walked into the bathroom, flipping on the light. He caught sight of himself in the mirror and paused. Even with puffy eyes and lines on his face from the couch, he looked better than he had in a long time. His face wasn’t quite so gaunt and the dark circles under his eyes were less vivid. Maybe yesterday he would have felt a flicker of undeserved pride at this fact, but right now he just wanted to get the glass out of his hand and go back to sleep.
The tweezers were buried in his creaky old medicine cabinet. The cabinet door swung open, revealing rust along the hinges, the brownish red on the dull white of forty-year-old paint. He had a few things in this cabinet. Not much, just a toothbrush, a mostly empty tube of toothpaste, some floss he should use more often, and the orange vial of antidepressants he’d started while in rehab. He’d seen the same bottle in Liv’s kitchen, but hadn’t asked her about them. Maybe he should have.
The tweezers were next to the medicine. He picked them up, then rinsed his hand and turned his cut palm up in the harsh light. There was one shard still visible, and he tried to clasp it in the tweezers. The tiny bolt of pain surprised him and he flinched, nearly dropping the tweezers into the sink. But the glass was still there, so he had to keep going.
About ten minutes later, he was pretty sure he’d gotten all the bits of glass out. There were three tiny slivers sitting in his sink, along with a few drops of blood that had come out when he reopened the cuts. He’d been correct in assuming he had no bandages in his apartment, so he pressed a paper towel to the wound and went back out to the couch.
Noah had no idea what time it was, but he didn’t really care. Now that Christmas was over, he didn’t have a job anymore. So he didn’t need to be anywhere today unless he decided to go to a meeting. Which he knew he should, but really didn’t want to.
Instead of deciding right now, he laid back down, staring up at the plaster ceiling. His brain felt wrung out as he stared dully upward. It was like it didn’t even have the strength or room to be unfairly outraged or rightfully ashamed right now. He was just numb.
He reached up to the radio on the small table and flipped it on. After a few seconds of scanning the band without looking, he left it on an old country station. The sunlight was still coming in strong through the open shades, but he didn’t have it in him to get up and close it. Instead, he just closed his eyes and tried not to think for a little while.
Noah woke up again later to the sound of knocking on his door. Who was knocking? He wondered for a second why they didn’t walk in after knocking. But then he remembered what had happened. And the fact that his door was locked. And if he didn’t open it, they would have even more reason to think he was drinking alone up here.
“Hang on,” Noah called hoarsely as he slid his legs off the couch and stood up, letting the blanket that had been crushed under his body fall to the floor.
He walked over to the door, where whoever it was had stopped knocking. He slid the lock, not bothering to look through the peephole. Regardless of who it was, he’d tell them he was fine, then just come back inside. Maybe even shower.
He opened the door, the “I’m fine,” on the tip of his tongue as the door swung open. But then he paused as he looked out and saw nobody there. Noah was puzzled for a split second before he felt a small body try to squeeze past him somewhere around his knee.
Mia looked up at him, scowling. “Kitty,” she demanded.
“What are you doing up here, sweetheart?” Noah asked.
She glared up at him with all the regal posture of an angry two-year-old. “Is Mommy with you?” Noah asked, glancing around the empty stairs.
Good question, but he had more pressing concerns first. “Hey, Liv?” Noah called down the stairs.
Hurried footsteps greeted his question, and a second later, Olivia was looking around the corner at them. “Oh my God!” she exclaimed. “Mia! How did you…”
Olivia ran up the stairs as Mia squeezed past Noah and tumbled into his living room. He turned to get her, then saw Gray Lady cautiously approaching the toddler. As Liv got to his doorway, he motioned for her to be quiet as Mia reached out a fist and awkwardly stroked Gray Lady’s back. The cat sat down and started purring as Mia screamed in delight and kept petting her.
“She was knocking on my door,” Noah said as he watched her.
“I’m so sorry,” Liv said. “I was bringing in groceries and she slipped right past me. I was looking for her when you called.”
“She’s fine,” Noah said as Mia pressed a little too heavily on the cat, who just bent her back to receive the attention. “Did good on the stairs.”
They were quiet for a second. “Noah, I’m-” Liv started.
Noah shook his head, that sick feeling bubbling up again. “No,” he said. “No, of course you would think that. Any normal person would.”
She didn’t try to argue or deny it, which he appreciated. Instead, she just stayed where she was. “Are you… okay?” she asked finally.
She didn’t believe him, but he didn’t have it in him to argue about it. Thankfully, she let it go. “What, um, what are you up to today?” she asked.
Noah shrugged. “Charlie’s dad might have some work for me,” he said. “A meeting, maybe.”
“Want to have dinner later?”
“I don’t know.”
Her face fell and Noah knew he’d fucked up again. “I’m not mad,” he said quickly. “I’m not, I swear. I didn’t tell you about sleepwalking and I’m an alcoholic. You’d be an idiot to think I was telling the truth. I just… I don’t know what my plans are today, that’s all.”
He tried to smile and knew it looked as fake as it felt. But the smile Liv gave him in response wasn’t any more authentic. “Okay,” she said. “If you’re home, you’re invited to dinner.”
Before he could respond, Gray Lady swatted at Mia and tore out of the room in a blur. Mia fell over and started crying, prompting Liv to scoop her up in her arms. “I’m going to bring her back down for her nap,” she said. “We’ll talk later?”
He didn’t like seeing that fear in her eyes, and he knew she was scared of pushing him away. So he smiled again, hoping this one looked real. “Yeah,” he said. “See you later.”