Patricia thinks: I have closed the steel doors of the Past and the Future and I am living in the immaculate dwelling of the Present. They both feel happy and slightly odd and a good amount drunk together until, feeling a hiccup come on, Edward excuses himself. The hiccup reminds him that he is already on his fourth Wild Turkey and that he is slightly confused, had quite possibly missed something in Patricia's story. The pleasantries that Patricia and Edward exchange express a mutual enjoyment of the few hours they shared, but on his walk home Edward feels a pang in his stomach from the peculiarity of choosing to walk alone to their apartment building. He takes a longer route to sober up and passes by the graveyard on his walk home where he acknowledges and puts to sleep the emptiness that makes its home in his chest. This is what Edward has wondered his whole life: Is this it? Is this really all there is? The thought crosses his mind that maybe this is really all there is, and that at least sometimes it could feel like enough.
Patricia goes home alone twenty or so minutes later, so as to avoid running into Edward. Once home, Patricia calls her mother back. Her mother recently began meeting men online and went dancing with a 65-year-old with a prosthetic leg. She sounds happy.
The apartment complex in which Patricia and Edward live is made up of four separate buildings that contain in the vacant space within them, an inner courtyard that few people visit, save those who lock up their bicycles there or have the occasional summer barbecue. Weeds, unweeded, on paths and overgrown gardens alike, flourish haphazardly, diminish only in the far north corner, where an aggressive strain of magenta cosmos grows from July to October and leave nothing behind in the months between. Greenfield has too many hills for cycling to be comfortable or convenient and small one and two bedroom studios comprise the medium-income apartment buildings, thus the residents largely keep away from the courtyard with the exception of going to dispose of their garbage and recycling in their respective bins, located on the south wall. From Stacey Avenue apartment building 2, in order to get into the courtyard, one must go through the basement: wet and moist, piles and piles of newspapers and forgotten mail strewn about, the smell of old, old air. The residents of Stacey Avenue apartment 2 take out their trash begrudgingly.
Edward is the only inhabitant of apartment building 2 who takes his trash out twice a week, on Monday and Thursday evenings, like clockwork, sometimes, even, on Saturdays. The idea of garbage appeals to Edward, its turning something into nothing, how understated and undervalued the whole process is. As a child, Edward had considered becoming a magician when he grew up. The basement, separately and similarly appeals to him, and he has always been under the impression that he spends far more time thinking about the small stale space and the garbage that is taken through it than anyone else. He looks forward to his down and out and back again journey, looks forward to the constancy of it, the quiet seclusion, the feeling of secrecy, the final disappearance of the trash bags, and the freeing return to his apartment; he enjoys the fact that it is the one thing the various tenants share, like a cult's ritual or a club's hobby.
On a Thursday, at 7:30 PM, on the first day of November, he walks through the basement slowly, and as he is just about to reach the door that leads out to the courtyard, he pauses, steps back, sets his trash down and sits on the concrete floor, taking an unanticipated stop along the route, framed by asbestos and shredded paper wetted and dried countless times. He breathes in air, spider webs, dust. He runs his hands through his hair to reassure his sense of touch. He leaves his shoes untied and the garbage beside him, and closes his eyes.
At 7:47 PM Edward remains in the basement, seated, eyes unopened. He feels his blood and nothing else. Before he can catch the exact moment when it begins, the knocking has returned in full force for some minutes, and he is unsure about if it has been present all along. He admires the steady rhythm of it, unchanging. Bom-bom, bom-bom. It slowly gets stronger and he can feel it now with his blood. The thought crosses his mind that the room might be shaking, because it isn't, he pictures Patricia's face. He feels the knocking grow; his body is pregnant with vibration. He sees a light, bends his head back, feels warm, and just before he feels light all over, before the final reverberation kills all other sounds, he thinks he hears the distant whimper of a woman crying, nearly laughing, or a cat moaning, in disparate, muffled moans that read of some great yet ambiguous pain. At first the sobs seem to come from the corner with the dripping water and sealed cardboard boxes and then to come from the wall behind him, but now a particular sob feels as if it is coming from the back of his skull. Then it envelops him, and then he is whole, and then nothing. Then he is absent, but does not vanish. The basement smells of musk and loss and Edward realizes his surroundings and the impossibility that Patricia was responsible for the noises. Days later he will remember the scene with huge blanks but recall how full he felt. He will masturbate relentlessly, for hours, time and again, to reach something of the elevation, to try to resurrect the lightness and the fullness and the thoughtlessness of it all.
After microwaving a prepackaged Indian meal, Patricia begins working, matches up the edges of two sides of the trunk's drawer perfectly, in perfect concentration. She sands one of the edges and the rhythm enraptures her whole body, and she feels the soft invisible particles greet each other on her work-worn fingertips. She thinks about Edward, how he might deserve an apology. Though Patricia never imagined that the noises she made in the construction of her boxes could be all that audible, she understands Edward as a very sensitive man, and sometimes thinks she hears solitary weeping come from above. She imagines asking him for forgiveness, in a way that would be candid and sincere—imagines his forgiveness and gratitude freeing her momentarily from the gravity of her mother and her failed collages and a myriad of small, unremarkable disappointments.
Patricia knocks on the door to Edward's apartment for a while and then walks in. He isn't there when she arrives to ask him for forgiveness—he who doesn't know her, who has nothing to forgive her for—he, who is seated in the basement and is after all just a man who lives above her and makes art. On the kitchen table lies a painting that seems both recent and unfinished, though it is difficult to discern whether it is either of those things. It is about half the size of a sheet of notebook paper and mostly a grey color, with a yellow streak on the bottom left corner and three less pronounced black streaks tracing the same trajectory just beneath it. She considers staring at the painting for longer because too many people all over the world have died since her arrival, but instead she returns to her apartment. She takes out an atlas, wonders what would happen if she chose a city for its name like Tauranga, New Zealand, moved there among all those sheep. Patricia imagines that in On the Fast Track to Becoming YOU, it might say something like this: Resilience can mean letting go—when you're alone and no one is there to hear what you're going through—that's when You're You.