by Sky Allen

I like it best when it rains. There’s a sort of kinship I feel when I look out the window at the slate sky and find the sidewalks to be empty. I can breathe better feeling like we’re all on the same playing field again.

On the other hand, when I can tell that it’s a beautiful day outside from the sun warming the carpet beneath my window or the cacophonous music of birds twittering in the trees above, I feel an insurmountable sense of loss. I have no porch, and in my mind, there are no doors.

When I receive a phone call this morning from my landlord, I answer the phone without apprehension. I pay my rent months in advance and keep the space spotless. The soft blue couch is worn but clean, no dirt ever escapes the pots holding my many plants, dishes never pile in the sink. Cleaning after just one person is stupidly easy. I often wish it took me longer. 

It’s odd hearing the sound of my own voice when I speak into the receiver; it sounds like it belongs to a stranger.
He informs me there is likely a gas leak in the building. One of the other tenants reported a sulfuric smell, and he recommends everyone evacuate the building until the gas company arrives. “It could be nothing, but you can’t stay there until someone comes to inspect it. That could be hours from now, though.” 

I glance at the clock. It’s 10:34 a.m.

I control my slow collapse on the floor of my kitchen, dizzy with panic. My lung capacity shrinks in half. I lay myself down and press my cheek to the cold hardwood, taking measured breaths. I hone in on the sensation of my warm breath exiting my panting mouth, coating my nose in wet condensation. 

This is the exact feeling I’ve spent my whole life trying to avoid. It’s the kind that only comes from the interference of other people.

It has been three and a half years since I have spoken to another person face-to-face. For over a year, the whole world was sick or scared of getting sick, and we learned that nearly everything we needed to go outside for could be accomplished within our own homes. My career can be forged from my couch with a laptop and a reliable wi-fi router. Groceries and packages can be delivered with an app. Even after people realized this, as soon as they could, they went back to their offices, to the packed grocery stores full of fluorescent lighting and jam-packed aisles, to bustling city streets and whatever places they take them to. 

I, however, did not.

There is so much pain in co-existing. I lived with a boyfriend, once. This was way back when things like romance seemed not only pleasurable, but necessary. He told me he didn’t want to be completely alone, which I didn’t understand even then. I loved him though, so I allowed him in. It was because I loved him that speaking with him was so infuriating. The more you have to talk to someone, the more they become a part of your life, and you theirs. Your conversations are supposed to become more meaningful and intimate over time, and when they don’t, a chasm opens. Constantly bowdlerizing every significant detail of what you say so as not to slip up, or feeling offended by some offhand comment they say to you—all of it makes you want to give up speaking to anyone altogether.

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Author Bio

Sky Allen is an MFA in Creative Writing graduate student on the Fiction track. She is originally from Denver, CO, and received a BA in English with Creative Writing Specialization from SMU in Dallas, TX. Her main literary interests lie mainly in Gothic lit, as well as speculative, literary and popular fiction. She has recently been published in the literary magazine Nowhere Girl Collective. When she isn’t reading stories or trying to write one of her own, she’s watching an A24 movie or wandering around an art museum somewhere.