Words Fall Like Rain Pt. I
“Is that her?”
“Ms. Connelly, we need to know.” A sigh, then a photograph slides across the metal desk that smells like death and copper. “I know this is tough for you, but we need an answer.”
I’ve been here for hours. I’m tired, I’m hungry, and I want to use the bathroom. I want to scream more than anything, but nothing comes out.
So I stay still, in this chair that has a rivet missing and wobbles to the left. I look everywhere: the security camera in the corner, the dust collecting on the concrete floor, the door that’s banged up enough to make my imagination jump. I even glance at the dark, endless mirror to my right, but just for a second.
I don’t look at the cops guarding the door. I don’t look at the police detective in front of me. I don’t look at the well-dressed, well-meaning but annoyingly perky psychologist behind him.
I don’t because I can’t.
“Ms. Connelly.” The psychologist speaks, and my eyes go straight to the table I’m sitting at, my eyes catching the details of the scraps around the edges and the metal ring I can only assume is there to keep inmates imprisoned in a room they can’t ever hope to get out of. “If I could just—”
I start tapping my toe. I do it fast and loud enough that she notices and stops speaking. That’s good. I don’t want to hear her say anything else.
“I can’t let you out of this room until you look at this photograph and tell me if this is her,” the detective says to me. I think his name is Carrion. I’m pretty sure that’s the word for decaying flesh. If it is, it’s a pretty damn good description of his job. “I don’t want to keep you in this room. I’m not trying to make this harder for you, okay?”
I make myself look at him. He’s a nice-looking man, older, white hair and dopey eyes. He’s serious, too, and tired. The lines on his face were probably put there by what he’s seen. I can only imagine what he has to look at when he closes his eyes at night.
I know I’m making his night longer, so I nod, and he flips the photograph over.
“Oh.” It’s the only word that manages to come out of my mouth. I struggle to say something else, but nothing will come to mind. So I sit and stare for a second, the memory flooding back to me:
Opening my apartment door.
Seeing everything destroyed — books, the table, the couch she and I bought together a street fair in Chelsea.
The blood trail.
The bathroom sink overflowing.
The moans and laughs from the bedroom.
The smell of shit and piss hitting me from the doorway.
The blood smeared on the walls, made into symbols, just like a little kid.
The look on her face as she swung from the ceiling, eyes bulging, struggling to speak but only being able to laugh.
The scream from my mouth.
Tripping over myself to try to cut her down.
The fight just to get her to stop struggling so I could stop the fan.
The drop to the floor with her on my lap.
Her last breath.
“That-that’s her.” I say, after a deep breath. I look at him. “That’s Leah Robinson. My roommate.”
I try to flip the photograph back over, but I fail, and her face jumps back face up, taunting me. Carrion takes it from me. He knows I don’t need to see her face like that, white as a candle yet stiller than a flame. He knows, and he takes it, and for that little bit of respect, I’m grateful.
“Okay, that’s good,” he says. “You’re doing good, Naomi.”
I nod again.
“I just have a few more questions, and then we’re going to let you go home,” he says. The perky psychologist opens her mouth to protest, but Carrion doesn’t turn around, putting his hand up. “You’ve been through enough. We’ll need you to set up a meeting with Dr. Ambrose here tomorrow, but that can be done somewhere that you feel comfortable, okay?”
“Sure,” I say. I know that I won’t meet with her, and he knows it too. He lets it drop. Again, I’m grateful.
“So, let me go through this with you quickly, okay?” He waits for my nod, then he gets out his pen, sliding the photograph back into the file. I let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding. “How long did you know Ms. Robinson. Is it okay with you if I call her Leah?”
“I don’t think she cares,” I say. I bite my tongue after the sentence leaves my mouth. “I-I’m sorry. Yes, it’s okay.”
“It’s alright,” he says. He’s been through this a lot, and I realize that he’s doing this for my benefit. I feel like an idiot, but he continues. “How long did you know Leah?”
“Seven years. We went to middle and high school together.”
“And you’re both freshman?”
“Yes. I was a psychology major and she was anthropology.”
“Was Leah acting weird the last few weeks?”
“No. She was normal. She was stressed about finals, we all are, but other than that, she was fine.”
His pen scratches the paper and it feels like it’s carving my skin. I force myself to sit still.
“Okay, Naomi. Did she suffer from depression, maybe a mental disorder?” He asks the question gently. I know he has a file, I know it’ll come out, so there’s no pointing in lying.
“She had depression in high school. She was on medication for it, but her doctor stopped it the semester before we graduated.” I hesitate. “Um.”
The pen stops moving.
“She had a tendency to obsess over things.”
“No, like subjects. She liked learning.” I squirm with the last part. “About death, in particular.”
“Oh?” He’s calm, like a tiger in waiting. I shake the thought from my mind. “What do you mean?”
“Well, the science of death. You know, like death rituals in different cultures? That’s what she wanted to specialize in when we got to grad school.”
“Is there a reason she was so interested?” Carrion is looking at me, but not interrogating me. He still has the kid gloves on. I know it’s a show for me, because they’re tearing our apartment apart and they’ll find her books and notes.
“Her brother died from cancer when she was little.” His face softens. “He was older than her. It was hard on her, but harder on her parents.”
He’s silent for a moment, then keeps writing. I’m glad, because I’m starting to get a headache.
“Naomi, I have to ask you some really hard questions now. You only have to answer yes or no. I’m not going to ask any follow up questions unless I think it’s important, I promise.”
“Okay.” I grip my hands underneath the desk, because the pounding in my head is beginning to melt into my neck. It’s painful.
“Did she ever talk to you about suicide?”
“To your knowledge, did Leah ever hurt herself?”
“No.” I bite into the inside of my cheek, trying to forget what her body looked like on the floor of her bedroom. She did that to herself, I think. All that carving on her body, she must have done it herself.
“Did Leah ever talk about occultism or rituals?”
“Y-Yes.” Carrion looks at me. I offer the answer before he asks the question. “She was taking a course on ritual death rites across cultures. One of the topics was Santeria.”
He doesn’t ask any more questions on that.
“Okay, Naomi. I have one last, really hard question. I have to ask you to remember what it was like when you found her.” I shut my eyes. When I open them again, a mist forms and I can feel mascara running down my face. “When you found Leah, was she still alive?”
“No,” I whisper.
“She wasn’t breathing?”
“So she didn’t say anything to you?”
Carrion writes one last thing on his pad, then shuts it and puts away. He looks straight at me.
“Okay. We’re done for now, Naomi.” I nod and pick up my purse. I try to stand normally, but I wobble and the back of the chair I was sitting on slams into my thigh. Carrion waits, not offering me help, knowing I won’t ask for any. I head for the door. “Naomi.”
I turn to look back at him. He’s got his jacket over his arm, clutching the file against his chest, protecting me from that photograph.
“We can’t let you stay at the apartment. Do you need us to help you find a place to stay?”
“No. Thank you, detective,” I say, my voice now as tired as I am. “Just a ride back to campus. I have a friend I can call. She’ll meet me there.”
“Yes. Thank you.”
— — — —
I spend the ride to campus in the back of a police car, silent. The officer who’s driving me leaves me alone, and that’s the way I want it.
We drive past my apartment, and I shut my eyes until I know we’re at the end of the street, turning left.
Then I force myself to remember Leah. Not the way she was, but the way I found her. I remember the cuts, the bruises, the broken bones. I remember the moaning and laughing.
And I remember her last words to me, as she laid in my lap, a mess of human bones and flesh. She repeated them over and over, like a lullaby, begging me to understand them. She shouted, then whispered, them to me from a mouth that was missing a tongue and was lined with jagged teeth.
I shut my eyes tight, and I remember what she said:
“Words fall like rain.”