Monday, November 10, 2014

The Doormat

On Sunday the snow turned to freezing rain and then just rain. The slush-covered streets mirrored the sad pallid gray of the sagging sky.

     He had been kicked out of the apartment again; for not contributing to the rent, for drinking too much. For acting like an asshole.

     He crossed Plane Street, not bothering to avoid the slush-puddles. His socks were already soaked with icy water, numbing every step.

     He approached the worn, peeling door of his sometimes friend, Yuko. Written in fading blue chalk on the side of the building, to the left of the door, it said, I Adore Barbara Payton. Ask her why! Yuko was always writing weird chalk graffiti on her building. Once, she wrote, My hole belli is swoll. Sometimes she just made up words and wrote nonsense. The other tenants didn’t like it. There were complaints. But Yuko was scribbling a transitory chalk mythology and couldn’t be deterred. It was important to her for some stupid reason.

     He knocked on the door. 

     Yuko parted the curtain in the window. She was a pale, willowy little thing. When she saw him, her head dropped. 
     Oh fuck, the head drop said.

     She opened the door anyway.

     He gave her a lip-jittering smile. “Jesus, it’s a sloppy mess out there,” he said, walking into the kitchen. “Freezing.”

     “Hey, you’re tracking water all over the place! Stay on the mat.”

     “Oops. Sorry,” he said, walking backwards until he was safely on the Isle of Doormat.

     “What do you want?” she said.

     “Joe and Ray kicked me out again.”

     “Well, you can’t stay here,” she said.

     “Aw, c’mon Yuko. It’s freezing outside. And wet.”

     “I don’t care. Dave’s coming over later. We have plans.”

     Dave didn’t like him. Not at all.

     “Okay, okay. Could you at least let me have a drink? Just one drink to keep me warm for a little while? Look at me, I’m shivering. It’s really freezing outside.”

     “Yeah, and wet. I get it.” She looked at him. “All I have is wine,” she finally said.

     “What kind?”

     “White zinfadel.”

     “Okay,” he said. “That’ll have to do, I guess.”

     She turned toward the refrigerator. “Fine.”

     “Hey, can I use your bathroom?”

     “Yeah, okay. But take your shoes off first.”

     He removed his shoes and walked across the kitchen. His sopping-wet socks went squish squish squish on the linoleum, leaving a trail of water.

     As soon as he was in the bathroom, he opened the medicine cabinet and started foraging for prescriptions.

     Moduretic, no. Levofloxacin, no. Lisinopril, no.

     And then, ah-ha, Percocet. Almost a full bottle.He never understood how people ever had leftover opiates but he was glad when they did.

     He slipped the pills into his pocket, urinated, and then returned to the kitchen.

     Yuko handed him a glass of wine. “Here,” she said. “Drink it and go. Dave’s going to be here soon.”

     He nodded and downed the glass. “Okay, thanks,” he said, wiping his lips with the back of his hand. He returned to the mat and put on his wet shoes. He opened the door. “Have a great day. Tell Dave I said, Hi.” He stepped back into the cold, the rain. "Tell him..."

     “Yeah, yeah,” she said, slamming the door on his words.

       What a little bitch.
      He fingered the bottle in his pocket as he walked, the thought of the theft exciting him. He stopped at the corner and looked into his wallet. Six dollars.

     He headed toward The Geronimo Pub to buy a beer to go with the Percocet. He decided he’d offer some pills to Joe and Ray if they’d let him come back inside. He felt fairly certain they would agree to the deal.

     He smiled. Despite the dreary weather, the day was starting to look up.

     He never heard Yuko, upon discovering his theft, call him a “Thieving motherfucking scumbag piece of shit!”

     And later, at the Geronimo Pub, he never heard Dave coming up behind him.

     And all he’d remember about that night was the weeping sound of sirens and his thoughts collapsing into a numb black-hole pinch.

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