He awoke one morning, head flat on the agonizing pillow, to find himself in a familiar place. Only one question persisted. Who was this woman sleeping next to him?
When the stranger got up, he pretended to be asleep. When the stranger left the apartment for her daily job at the firm, he was still pretending to sleep. By mid-day, he remained still beneath the sweaty sheets. Outside his window tantrums from disturbed children tormented him. Notes from a saxophone floated into the courtyard. The cat cried outside the bedroom door.
Moby Dick was on top of the night table. The phone rang. The answering machine did not pick up. The stranger will arrive late. Some meeting will inevitably detain her. The bedroom floor was covered in dust. Fur balls sailed across the room. The clock blinked steadily. The blackout erased any semblance of time. It was now late afternoon, but he thought it was earlier. His head was filled with cobwebs. He was hungry, but the refrigerator was empty. His landlord was in the backyard sweeping. He got up and stood by the window.
It was early evening. The window was no longer interesting. His landlord sweeps every day. There is one solemn Japanese maple. The cat still cried. The clock continued to blink. The saxophone stopped. The children had gone indoors to eat macaroni and cheese. As he opened the door, his cat squirmed its way inside. He slammed the door shut. He stood in the hall, turned around, and headed back for the bedroom, but then made a sudden, awkward step for the bathroom. After he splashed hot water on his face, he looked for a clean towel. He pulled one from the laundry bag. He clipped his toenails and sat on the toilet.
The journey to the front door tired him. His endurance was never any good. He removed the chains, turned the knob and stepped out. His stoop was covered with autumn’s leaves. His bare feet kicked them aside. A construction worker stared at him and pointed him out to the others. Another laughed and whistled. He was naked, but sat anyway. The evening was brisk. He thought about the next day.
A different version was previously published in failbetter.com.
Richard Fulco’s stories, poems, plays and reviews have appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Front Porch, Full of Crow, The Rusty Toque, Dark Sky Magazine, Nth Position, Heuer, Daily Vault, Poetz, Thirdrail and Serpentine.
Object(s) to bring back to life: “The answering machine. The blinking red light added mystery and intrigue to an otherwise mundane existence.”