Saturday, March 17, 2007

Inspired by Heywood

My aunt Heywood told me to write what you know.

Here goes.

It's late. The only light in the room is the pulsing television. He sits in his armchair, remote in one hand, genitals loosely cupped in the other. There is an advertisement for "natural male enhancement" on the tube. He flips the channel. Same advertisement. He wonders if the world is trying to tell him something, and glances at his junk. He shrugs, and changes the channel again.

What time is it? The red glowing clock reads 3:45. He sighs at the thought of another sleepless night. What keeps him up? He isn't sure. A vague sense of dissatisfaction that he can't seem to shake haunts him. He stands up, puts on pants. They are dirty, like the pair near the end of the couch, and the other pair thrown over the back of the chair, and the two other pairs stuffed into the hamper with half a dozen t-shirts and countless socks. The light from the TV plays onto a studio apartment of squalor. The bluish glow of the Zenith lights clothes, half-eaten take-out food, empty bottles, a Sega Genesis, all.

Now wearing pants, he takes a swig from the almost empty bottle of grape juice in the fridge, and grabs a shirt that is halfway in the sink. It's wet, and he drops it on the ground. There is another shirt wadded up on the couch. He puts it on inside out, and grabs his coat. He steps outside of his second-story apartment. The air is cold. His neighbor has left a bottle of milk on the porch. The smell hits him like a punch to the face. He winces, and shakes his head. "Who does that?" He wonders, and disgusted, he stomps down the stairs, walking like he has a purpose.

He wanders the streets for almost an hour before deciding to turn back for home. He has passed houses, some dark and empty, others alight with early risers getting ready for work, others still awake from the day before, like him. He has passed storefronts, closed up and dark, waiting patiently for 9 o'clock, just like every other day. He has passed the sleeping homeless, and wondered how they got so low. It is almost 5 am when he sees the 7-11. It is a little out of the way, but he decides to walk to it and buy himself some bad-tasting coffee, maybe one of those pastries from the damaged-goods rack.

He reaches into his pocket and pulls out three bucks and change. He wonders when the last time he wore these pants was, and what he bought, to leave three bucks and change. He can't remember. He might have been drunk.

At the 7-11 the only person is the guy behind the counter, a young middle-eastern looking kid with a thick goatee and dreadlocks. He nods to the kid, and the kid nods back. The kid's nametag reads "Greg," but he is too far away to be able to read it. He pours the coffee, stirs in some sugar.

The bell rings, and two more people walk in. It looks at first glance to be a mother-son couple, until the man kisses the woman deeply. He winces when he realizes that this is a romantic couple with such a severe age gap that the woman can pass, at first glance, for the man's mother. "Disgusting," he thinks.

There is nothing interesting on the damaged goods rack, and so he just pays for the coffee, which takes all of his three dollars. He sips at it slowly as the world finishes waking up. Cars are passing him now, their drivers wiping sleep from their eyes and sipping at their own shitty cups of coffee.

He walks back to his apartment. The TV is now showing morning news instead of infomercials. He turns it off, and shakes his head. The morning news reminds him of her, though he doesn't know why. Was she the source of his sleepless nights? He hadn't been able to sleep a full night since she killed herself, but he had barely known her.

A few days together, a night at the movies, then he had been told by a mutual friend. She had hung herself in the doorway to her bathroom, a bathroom he had never seen. A bathroom he often wondered about on these sleepless nights. He wondered what kind of shampoo she had used. It had smelled nice. He wondered if there was toothpaste on the counter, or if she had been the type to keep her bathroom spotless.

He finishes the coffee and let the Styrofoam cup fall where it will. The red glowing clock reads 6:23. He crawls into bed and stares at the ceiling, wondering what she would have felt like beside him, what she would have said. It is the ideal relationship, they never argue, the things he says are always funny. The only thing missing is that other half of warmth in the bed.

The caffeine in the coffee keeps him awake, and he stares at the popcorn ceiling, talking to himself, knowing somewhere in the back of his head that tomorrow would play out the same way: Work, home, TV, walking, and maybe a stop at the 7-11, for some foul tasting coffee.


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