Nothing Compares 2 U

Blue curtain hanging out of the window of a wooden house

God disappears on a Tuesday afternoon and no one even notices. Business proceeds, the stock market stays level, the news stations don’t catch wind of it, and parents pick up their children from school and feed them Cheetos, fine, if they’ll just be quiet. No strange weather announces the departure—it’s been raining since morning and continues to rain. At an apartment on Winter Street, where a young history teacher lives with his twin sister, who is out on a double shift waiting tables, it is only the cat who seems to register a change. True, that cat is always getting spooked by something, startling across rooms from a breeze or a breath, but still, she stares at the corner of the kitchen ceiling for so long that the history teacher can’t help but look up from his grading and stare too. The room is in shadow. Nothing moves except the steam that rises from his tea, no spiders that he can see, or ghosts for that matter. If his sister were there, she would make a joke of it, pester the cat until she forgets the empty corner and agrees to chase her feather toy around the living room. But he hasn’t seen his sister in nearly a week, each of them leaving traces—a cup in the sink, a hall light left on—to prove they’ve each passed through. And the history teacher is exhausted from another day of standing in front of his eighth graders, trying to give them more than just the facts they’ll spit back at him. He feels no urge to disturb the cat and, even below that, thinks he might notice what she might be noticing. A silence, doubled by their listening to it, blooming out from that corner of the kitchen. The cat perches upright on the other chair, stiff with attention, staring the way she always does when the history teacher and his sister leave the apartment together to pick up Thai food or go to the movies, when she’s left locked inside to watch out the window as their figures shrink, then blur, then blink out completely.

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