He could feel himself slipping away, so he wrote notes to himself. On good days he would let his elation show on his face as he recognized the notes and what they meant. Other days, bad days, he would see the notes as if for the first time. As if they had been written by someone else, he could not recognize the words or their connection to him.
He puzzled over the first note he had found on the refrigerator, the note that had given him the idea in the first place.
“Hi Gerald, it’s me, Gerald.”
He chuckled to himself. Such a silly note to leave. It meant nothing, as far as he could tell, and he had no idea who Gerald was.
He scanned the fridge, marveling at the shear number of notes, each overlapping another, like the shingles of a roof. Some he could read without removing from the fridge, others had words that were completely obscured by other notes.
He drew a violently pink sticky note from beneath a plain dim yellow one.
“The cat died ten years ago. Stop buying food.”
He looked at the floor where the linoleum of the kitchen met the carpet of the dining room. Two dishes sat there, one containing water with a floating layer of blueish dust, the other half filled with small grimey brown pellets. Beside them, canted from carpet to linoleum, sat three different bags of cat food, each one open, each one no more than half full. He shook his head and resolved to throw them out, now that he was alerted to the fate of the cat.
Hebrew. That was the cat’s name. Funny how he could remember it after all these years. He put the note back on the fridge, tucking it beneath the neon green note he was certain was above it when he had pulled it from the fridge.
Now, where was that damn cat? Hebrew was so lazy, he spent most of the day sleeping beneath the bed in the guest bedroom. He shuffled back to the guest bedroom, poked his head in, and didn’t see or hear anything. He’d leave the cat alone, for now. The cat was old and tired, and he could certainly sympathize with that.
A picture on the mantel caught his eye and he stopped to lift it from the mantel and drew it close to his face. A man, woman, and child smiled at him from beneath a glare of dusty glass. It was harder to be alone at his age, but he was always a solitary person, and it suited him just fine. The child in the picture was someone he knew, but he could not bring a name to mind. It was a boy, though. He was sure of that. What boy’s names did he know? He squinted, and something about the boy’s face sparked some recognition. Hebrew. Yes, that was it. He remembered it now, thinking it was such an odd name for a boy.
The woman in the picture he could easily recognize, and he was sure he’d know her face long after he had forgotten his own. Margaret. She was the kindest, sweetest, smartest person he had ever known. She’d be home soon, he was sure. The sun was going down, and that’s usually when she got home.
He heard a noise from the kitchen, so he set the picture back on the coffee table, directly in the spot he was sure it was supposed to be, and crept through the dining room. The noise, as well as he could figure, had come from the refrigerizer. A light thunk and a gentle hum. He set his hand against it and felt the soft vibration. It was almost like not being alone.
A note stood out from the others, glowing in his mind’s eye, and he was afraid of it. It glowed from beneath a pile of other notes, although the pile all seemed to be blank. He pulled each note away slowly, feeling his pulse quicken and his eyes sting. He thought it was fear, but then he thought it was sadness. Hebrew. It was time to feed the cat, before Margaret got home.
A siren rang out from the street below, starting very near his window, then fading into the distance. He looked out the window, over the yard, across the street. When did they paint that house purple? Not even a good purple. A dark bruise of a house. The neighborhood black eye.
An odd glow pulled his attention back to the fridge. The thing was plastered with notes, each overlapping another like a disjointed calendar. He pulled a few blank notes from atop the glowing one.
Well, of course she is. She’s at work, but she’ll be home soon. He stared at the note, turning it over in his hand, feeling the residue on the back. The residue that made it sticky. And he was surprised at the waxy feeling it left on his finger. Margaret’s not gone. This note’s a lie.
He looked at the note-covered fridge. They’re all lies. None of it’s real. He could feel a heat growing in his face, and his eyebrows began to ache. Lies. He reached up and pulled another note down, without reading it. Then another followed. Then he was snatching them from the fridge in threes and fours, piling and crumpling them in his hand. He stopped with one note remaining on the fridge. The one that started the whole thing. Maybe they weren’t all lies. Maybe it really was Gerald. Whoever that was. He dropped the crumpled mess into the trash can, exhausted and weak. Who was Gerald, anyway?
He was tired, and he didn’t feel like he could stay up much longer. He hated to be in bed by the time Margaret came home, but he didn’t want to be too tired when she came back, anyway, so he figured he could take a nap. A couple hours maybe. That should be enough.
It was cold when he woke up, but there was sunlight sneaking through the edges of the blinds. He was hungry. He shambled out of bed, a rickety old house of a man with stilts for legs. Margaret was already gone when he got up. She must have had to work early today.
He couldn’t remember how long it had been since the last time he had eaten. It would be a while longer, he had just discovered. When he got to the fridge he was distracted by a note stickied to the top left of it. A bright green note, hand written by, what appeared to be, an eighty-year-old woman. It didn’t make a lot of sense. Who was Gerald, anyway? Still, though, that was a pretty good idea. He could feel himself slipping away, and keeping notes would be a good way to remind himself of the important things. He couldn’t wait to tell Margaret about his new idea, just as soon as she came home.