Monday, March 21, 2005

You’ve been awake for hours, and are already beginning to feel the day slip away. You put on your coat that reeks of cigarettes and scold yourself for not quitting. You walk down the stairs, onto the cracked and trash-ridden streets, and go to the convenience store on the corner. As you pour scalding coffee into the Styrofoam cup, you remember an incident only days earlier when you heated a pin under the flame of a cigarette lighter and pierced a blister on your thumb, a blister your got when you touched a pot of boiling pasta. Single-serve packets of cornstarch and powdered whey, single-serve packets of white sugar, coffee that’s so hot you can’t taste it anyway.

You count the cracks in the sidewalk and momentarily consider scavenging for aluminum cans for extra cash, and somehow see your dignity getting in the way. You smirk at the idea. You sip the nuclear coffee and hope you don’t have to heat another pin and pierce a blister on your tongue. Single-serve discomfort.

You try to remember all the things you promised you’d look up at the library today, and can’t remember a single one. Your right shoe squeaks, not because it’s old, but because it’s so poorly made and the canvas has scraped off the inside, causing your heel to rub on smooth plastic.

They won’t let you into the bookstore anymore because you never buy anything, and you once tried to steal that copy of Gulliver’s Travels. You see the shop approaching as you contemplate that horrible turn of events, when you cried as the store manager picked up the phone to dial the police. A sip of not-quite-so searing hot coffee and you flip up the collar of your coat as you pass the window, even though it’s not cold.

The schwarma stand three blocks away is already busy and the sweet smell of unidentifiable meat with garlic and onions causes your stomach to churn and rumble, and the burnt coffee funk in your mouth to turn sour. You can actually feel the little glands in your mouth begin to pump saliva under your tongue, but you don’t want to swallow, for fear it might get worse.

You walk into a movie theatre lobby and head straight into the bathroom and spit into the sink. You look deeply into your eyes and are simultaneously convinced that you are both beautiful and vile. You exit the bathroom and are glad to see the smell of fresh popcorn does not exacerbate your condition. Single-serve satisfaction.

As you continue to count the cracks and sip your now lukewarm coffee, you ignite a cigarette and it seems to help assuage the vertigo you are beginning to feel. You take a seat on a park bench and dig into your satchel for your current paperback. You forgot to mark your place again, before you went to sleep, and you must randomly flip through the book looking for familiar words and phrases from last night’s adventure.

Frustratingly, it seems your eyes will not cooperate and your legs become itchy with jitters, your arms and shoulder restless. You get up to again, burying the paperback in your satchel once more. You think about the mouse your found in your oven once, and how you were off frozen pizzas for weeks, not just because you didn’t want to have to see it again, you didn’t want to kill it by turning the oven on. Then you think about the cat you had as a child, and how she once given birth in your lap while you were sleeping, the mewling of the kittens waking you in the early morning to warm moisture, making you think you had wet the bed in the night. There were five of them, six if you count the stillborn, but you never do.

The freezing cold coffee tastes like the rim of an ashtray and you trash it in a curbside bin, fearing the acid tang might remain in your mouth forever. You find another park bench, and this time your limbs allow you respite to engage in your tattered book, but now your mind is reeling, and your stomach sour. You think about all the books you’ll never read, about all the pleasure you’ll be denied, just because you could never live long enough to read them all. Contemplating all the masterpieces sitting on the office shelves of their disappointed authors, never to be published, and even the multitude of stories not yet committed to paper, make you sad. Single-serve discontent.

You think about time wasted working shitty jobs, worrying about money, worrying about love, cleaning, eating, fucking, shitting, shaving, and everything else. Even if you had all that time back, you could never read them all.

You stand and walk, keeping a rhythm with your breath and your feet, exercising physical control, concentrating on your heart beating to soothe the buzzing between your ears.

You fumble for your keys, and open the heavy oak door that stands at the entrance to the lobby of your building. You unlock the door to your apartment and think calmer thoughts of peanut butter and honey and fresh cold milk. You sit at your desk and begin to type, hoping the day has not gotten away from you.