“This might be the wine speaking,” she whispered. And the oblivion wraps its arms arms around me in a welcoming embrace, an old friend falling back in step with me.

Alarm clock blared. Six-in-the-morning head fog, dehydrated mouth, and bad breath. Empty wrappers and containers of food litter the floor beneath my feet. My “home office” desk cluttered with empty bottles and various cups with sticky substances lining the bottom. It’s another day. Another time. At the floor is a beaten up copy of a poetry publication. Pages ripped out in a frenzy I know longer remember. Highlighted stanzas and circled first letters of every title.

Morning coffee rinses my mouth of the mint provided by my toothpaste. Strewn across my kitchen table are more ripped pages from back issues of the publication. The patterns I ignored until her message read loud and clear.

“My heart is a complication/rendered too small at birth//It is why I give myself unto you/quickly/drunkenly,//this may just be the wine speaking.”

My cell phone buzzes to life. Work. Another day, another dollar.

“Hiya, Matty. What’s the news?”

It’s amazing how a person’s career history can fit in a single copy paper shipment box. Framed photographs. Pen holder and paper weight. Work journals and day planners. That easy-to-care-for potted plant Irene in HR gave you one year at a holiday party when she drew your name in a Secret Santa bullshit ritual.

“What do you know about toxic relationships, Alan?”

“I know to never get into one.”

Night: Chinese food, a movie playing on Netflix that I couldn’t care less about, and this month’s issue of the poetry publication. Every page, a painting. Not a single verse.

3 am phone call. “Help me. Help me. Help me.”

“Hey Shelby, do you know why this month’s issue is just paintings?”

“Paintings?”

“Yeah. Just paintings. Every page. No text.”

“Marrow, last issue was a double month. There isn’t a new issue this month. Not until the 23rd anyway.”

“My mistake. Must’ve picked up another publication.”

At home, I study the issue. The paintings. Every fine and careless brush stroke. On one page, a glass of wine, a heart-shaped vibration.

“This might be the wine talking…but come find me, Marrow. It’s beautiful here.”

It was 3 am when the phone call came in that night. The phone call that stole my family away from me. And Amber’s broken voice on the receiver, “I don’t know know what happened. I don’t know where I am. Come find me, Marrow. They’re all gone.”

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