Friday, October 24, 2008

Nobody's Home (An Imitation)

      Gloria was better at saying things such as, “The dichotomy of the earth,” than I was. We would drive around a lot, smoking a lot of cigarettes too. The radio was always playing. There wasn’t a whole lot to say. Back then things were simple, but also complicated too, if you know what I mean. We’d pretend that we didn’t know the names of the streets in our neighborhood, that we were lost in a strange country where nobody spoke English and all the houses were for strangers. The radio would play and we would drive around and around “discovering” things that we already knew. I never had much money. She’d pay for the gas. But gas was cheap then, only like a dollar or so a gallon, and it didn’t seem like a big deal. Nothing was very important.   
Things were just kind of stale and it always felt like I was drifting, like maybe I would just drift out of my body if I weren’t too careful. I know, that sounds strange. But that’s just the way things were.
We were both about twenty-two. That’s a pretty young age to be. We didn’t know that then of course. It just seems young to me now I guess, now that all that time has gone by between then and now. One morning you are standing there brushing your teeth, looking in the fogged-up mirror and imagining things about what the day will bring, and then you suddenly realize that nobody is going to care if you leave toothpaste stains in the sink. That’s how things go sometimes. 
If we got hungry I’d steer the car over to In-And-Out and we’d go inside and eat hamburgers and French fries and drink soda. I always got mine animal style, which meant they put all the fixings on it and their special sauce too. I never liked the fries that much. She would eat most of what we got, and she’d always dump a bunch of those salt packets on them. We’d drive home afterwards, or sometimes I’d park the car by the train tracks and we’d smoke cigarettes and watch the trains go by.
When we slept it was out of sheer exhaustion, that tired feeling that you can feel crawling up the back of your legs and making your head go soft and numb. There was never much to argue about. We’d just crawl through the days, kind of stunned and dopey, filling up empty space I guess. I’d cut my fingernails or drink ice tea or turn the pages of a fashion magazine or work on my card tricks while she read out loud from all these books we had all over the floor. They had a lot of dust on them, and she’d have to take a rag and wipe them down before she started in. We didn’t own a TV or have a pet. The days just went by.
There was a man at the door one day. I heard him knocking while I was lying on the couch eating crackers. I didn’t have a job and just spent most of my days lying around like that, listening to things, trying to hide away from the world. I kept the shades closed and tiptoed around in my socks.
Gloria had a job working at a hospital. She was a nurse. It kept her busy while I was doing my lounging.
I tried to wait the knocking out, but it kept right on. Just these tiny fast raps, and then nothing, and then more of the rapping. It went on for quite some time. Finally, I decided to get up and see what all the noise was about. I crawled slowly towards the door, trying to keep my body below where the person at the door might be able to see in through the window that was in the top of the door. The floor was really dirty and a lot of dust got all over my hands and pants. I smelled burnt coffee coming from the kitchen. I hate the smell of burnt coffee. It was hard to concentrate on what I was doing with all of that dust all over me and that stale, sour coffee smell in there too. But I kept on.
I saw a daddy-long-legs go by on the floor. It wasn’t interested in me. The way it walked reminded me of a guy on stilts, or some kind of noiseless dance, a way to move that seemed natural and unaffected. Without much effort it went on up the wall, and I stopped paying any attention to it.
The knocking kept happening. A bunch of mail was on the floor there by the door. The mailman just slipped it through the slot in the door. We didn’t have a mailbox. It was an election year and there were a lot of flyers telling me to vote this way or that on certain things that I had no idea about. A lot of smiling faces with very white teeth, their arms around small children who were smiling too. It made me feel depressed to see all of that mail there. I’m not sure why.
I stopped crawling and just stayed hunched over there on all fours like that. My knees were starting to hurt, but I tried to ignore that and stayed very still. I remember trying to convince myself that I was in a war and was deep in enemy territory, and that if I moved or made any noise somebody might shoot me. I didn’t want to be shot. The knocking stopped for a bit.
All kinds of crumbs and other stuff were on the floor. A lot of those square plastic tags that keep the ends of bread bags tied up. I picked one up and looked at it. It had “$4.19, OCT.12, P 27422” stamped on it in ink. The ends were sharp. I put it in my pocket. The knocking had stopped by then.
I went down on my stomach and inched my way towards the door. When I got there I slowly rose, holding onto the doorknob and sliding my back up the door. I looked through the peephole when my head got high enough. Outside the world looked like a fishbowl. A man in a suit was standing on the sidewalk with his back to the house. He seemed to be looking at the house across the street. The wind was blowing some papers around out on our grass. They got caught up in a mini-cyclone and started flying around all over the place. I wanted to know what those papers said on them. For some reason I got really tired and didn’t feel like standing there anymore.
I went back to the couch and lay down on it. I decided to wait for Gloria to come home before I made any decisions. There were a few crackers left in the box I’d left there on the cushions. It felt good to just be lying there on the couch, eating those crackers, staring at the ceiling, and not thinking that much about anything.