June woke to an empty apartment. Duane was gone. Icy air seeping in around the window frame made her shiver and she pulled the acrylic blanket snug around her neck and rolled her back to the wall. Duane left her a note on the nightstand, it read, “went to work, don’t leave. Come back if you leave I mean. If you want to.” He signed it with his first name in a careful cursive, “Duane.”
She had nowhere to go, no place to be and also no reason to stay. The thermostat ticked and she heard the radiator somewhere far below in the basement wheeze a warm current under the bed. She had to pee. The mattress rose against her hips as she sat up, it was an old and formless thing, and she rocked against it to get upright and swing her legs to the floor. Still wrapped tight in the tattered Green Bay Packers blanket she scuffled in her socks to the bathroom. It was tidy, if not clean and she lowered the cold seat and pulled her tights down. She finished and used the last scraps of toilet paper on the roll. She squeezed a bit of toothpaste onto her finger and rubbed her teeth and rinsed her mouth, then poked around for more toilet paper to replace the empty roll.
The bathroom cupboard held 4 threadbare towels, neatly folded, 2 washcloths of the same era, a large bottle of amber mouthwash from which she poured some into the cap, gargled and spit, a pipe wrench, a coffee mug from Cook County Sheriff’s Office with a scrap of soap in it, and a coarse shaving brush stuck to the bottom. No paper. She moved slowly into the kitchen as if she might disturb someone or be caught snooping around where she was not welcome. She found a can of coffee in the freezer and not finding any filters, used a napkin on the counter to improvise herself a cup from the little 2 cup maker on the counter. She searched the rest of the cupboards as the coffee popped and percolated, not finding any toilet paper there either. She moved to the narrow coat closet in the foyer by the front door, and broke through the tightly packed rack of men’s overcoats and uniform jackets to reveal a cardboard box against the wall on the floor. She read the simple label.
NAME OF DECEASED: Alfred Edward Duval
BIRTH/DEATH DATE: 1936-2014
CREMATED ON: 11/27/2014
RELEASED TO RELATIVE/FRIEND: Duane Wicks- nephew
She slowly closed the curtain of clothes and backed away from Uncle Alfred’s resting place, turning the knob to close the door as if she might awaken him. The coffee maker stopped. The radiator no longer hissed through the vents, and June thought of Duane, in his silence, day after day.