The apartment was still clean. Malcolm still had a sizeable stack of old sketches left to burn through too, but he found himself using them less and less as the winter went on. Though he hardly ever noticed that it was winter to begin with: he stayed in his apartment as often as he could, and anyways, it was getting warmer every day.
Malcolm could hardly see the walls in the living room anymore. There wasn’t a single space that wasn’t occupied by something abstract: all of the canvases fit together like puzzle pieces. He was standing at the center of it all, having just put the final piece in place, when his phone rang. He didn’t recognize the number.
“Bom dia, você ligou para o número errado, como posso ajudá-lo?” Malcolm asked. He liked playing games with unknown numbers, and he had been brushing up on some of the languages he’d nearly forgotten, for a trip he was planning in the spring. Here, he was speaking Portuguese: Good morning, you’ve reached the wrong number, how can I help you?
Malcolm waited for a response. Nothing. His thumb was on the button to hang up.
And then he heard her.
“Please,” Susan said, and Malcolm flinched. “Tell me you didn’t move on.”
Malcolm grabbed his wallet off of the kitchen counter, and sat down by the front door to put on his shoes. “Where can we meet?” he asked her. “I’m clean. I promise.”
“I’m in France. Do you want to come visit?”
Oui. Je t'aime, Malcolm told her.
Je t'aime aussi mon amour, a déclaré Susan. Je suis navrée.
Speaking in another language was tricky: Malcolm didn’t quite know if he was still playing games.
© Ray Underscore Thompson, November 2015