The room was filled with an ornate blue light and the furniture, what remained of it, had taken on the coppery gleam of underwater things. I stared at the drowned face of the clock, at the guitar played only by visitors, the window plant whose petals had turned into carbon.
“The problem is not you,” I said to the kitchen clock.
The man I loved was asleep down the hall. He didn’t know about the eviction. He didn’t know that I’d auctioned off our furniture, one piece at a time. His ability to sleep through the excavation disturbed me. Sometimes I turned into a tiger and lay beside him and licked his face but he didn’t even move.
Each morning, he rose and wandered around the apartment, apparently not noticing that certain pieces of the furniture were missing, more each day. He fumbled for misplaced knives in the place where the cupboards once stood and then, sitting quietly on the floorboards, buttered his toast with his fingers.
“Thought we had knives,” he’d say, but he made no comment about the absent chairs, the naked oven wires, and the silence. Without the fridge it was very quiet.
When I asked him what he was thinking about he said: “The Ukraine.”
He liked to think about situations over which he had no power. The lack of responsibility comforted him.
“What about you?” he asked. “What are you thinking about?”
“Budapest. It’s all I ever think about.”
“What are you thinking about?”
“This is a trap, isn’t it?”
“What are you thinking about?”
“You. You. You. In that order.”
He once said, “I’d be perfectly content to be a hermit and live on a hill and only see people once or twice a year.”
“Conjugal visits?” I asked, hopefully.
“You’re not ‘people,’” he said. “You could live there too.” But we both knew that this was a compromise. Sharing his imaginary real estate would be taxing for both of us.
The clock! It winked at me as I wrapped up the last of the plates in newspaper, as I stacked the teacups and removed the curtain rods for scrap metal.
Tenderly, I unscrewed the light bulbs and gave them to the Turkish man who operated the all-night betting house down the street. He carried them home to his wife like rare shining tulips.
At about midnight the auctioneer came to size up the floorboards. He explained that someone had bought them to line the bottom of a ship.
“Is she taking passengers?” I asked.
“In return for floorboards?” he said. “That could be arranged.”
The hardware men came and started ripping up the nails.
“Please rip softly,” I said. “There’s someone asleep next door.”
“Oh, sorry,” they said and turned the power drill down to a lower speed.
In the morning, the man I loved woke up. He looked down and saw the earth. He looked up and saw the sky. Only the walls of the apartment remained. Even the roof had been sold to the highest bidder and had been gathered shingle by shingle to pave a street in Budapest.
“Hello?” he said to the clock, finally noticing that the cupboards, tables, and chairs had disappeared. He went to the kitchen and turned on the taps. Not even a rusty trickle.
“Why didn’t you warn me?” he demanded, waist deep in the foundations of the building. His voice echoed off the walls.
Time has run out. Everything must go.