One for the road

There was something comfortable in failure. He laid on the floor and traced his fingers around a patch of dried blood as waves of mediocrity lulled him to sleep. Something comfortable about knowing that. Something comfortable knowing. Something comfortable about knowing you have done exactly what you need to do to be exactly where you are. Nothing more. Just something. Comfortable. Counting misfortune. Undulating failure. In. Out. Comfortable. Here. Gone. Comfort. Come for it. Comfortable. Fading of. Arrival of. Wait for it.

And sleep became just that easy.

Each morning came with a long list of expectations, but he ignored this illuminating quality of daylight with closed blinds and a bottle tucked under his arm. He did not shower. He did not dress. He did not wipe the blood off the floor. And in that dim world, he understood comfort until Mag Donovan tore down the blinds.

It was an accident, the ripping of the blinds, although it seemed like a slow, choreographed ritual. Like primal magic. But we're ahead of ourselves, aren't we?

It was a warm morning, a morning that promised to be 90 degrees or better by noon. He went to the kitchen and saw a girl standing outside the window. She had two nubs of definition forming at her chest and a dirty white tank top. She was smoking a cigarette.

He almost shouted at her then, but there was some distant memory of decent behavior which encouraged him to put on the bathrobe first. When he came back, the girl was gone. The next morning he checked for her when he woke up. There she was, thin greasy hair. Another dirty tank top. Cigarette smoke curling into his kitchen.

"Who the fuck are you?"

The girl jumped and looked in the window. She scanned him up and down, pausing at the long, narrow scabs around his ankles. "Who the fuck are you?" she stammered.

"I'm the son of a bitch who lives here."

She looked at the bottle of vodka under his arm. Then she cleared her throat and smoothed her matted hair. "I'll trade you a cigarette for some of that."

He held the bottle out and stared at the label for a long time before he asked, "Some of this?"


He didn't know why he opened the door, but he did. The girl walked in unafraid and stood in the middle of his kitchen. She put a cigarette on the table and waited. He felt confused as he put the bottle down next to it.

"Got a cup?" she asked.

"Um. Yeah. I think so." It had been a long time since he used a glass for anything and even longer since he had washed dishes, but he was surprised to locate a few clean glasses in the cupboard.

"You need this back right away?" she asked, holding up the plastic cup.

"Not really."

"Cool," she said. She poured vodka to the rim of the cup and he wondered which was worth more, the cigarette or the tall cheap glass and its contents. He decided it was the vodka.

She carried the glass to the door and sipped a little off the top so it wouldn't spill. "See you later," she said and walked away.

That night sleep did not come in smooth waves as it had so many nights before. That night sleep did not come at all. He thought about the strange girl and her tiny breasts. He rolled the cigarette back and forth between his fingers. He wondered if she was going to steal his fucking cup. But more than that, he wondered if she took the glass to school, or if she even went to school, or if she had stumbled drunkly around town all afternoon. Most of the night, though, he wondered if she would come back.

As the sun rose he paced in the kitchen, waiting for her. Just before 8:00, she knocked on the kitchen door. She had the cup, and he let her in. The girl walked around the kitchen and peaked in the livingroom, noticing the dried patches of blood. He felt as though he was being investigated.

"What's your name?" he asked, hoping to bring her attention to a place where he could control it.

"It's Mag," she said, "And don't call me Maggie, Marge, Fag, Hag, or Maggot. I'm Mag. Donovan." She expertly lit a cigarette that seemed absurd between her lips.

"Ok, Mag," he said, "Shouldn't you be at the bus stop?"

"I'm not going to school."

"Why not?"

She blew a few smoke rings before she answered. "I don't feel like it."

"What do your parents think of that?"

She glared at him. "My parents don't give a shit. My mom's a dumb bitch and my dad's in jail."

He paused to let the new information soak in. "Why's your dad in jail?"

She smiled and exhaled a rich plume of smoke. "For touching me."

He took a step back. "I think you should leave now. Thanks for bringing back the cup."

Mag took a step forward. "I didn't tell on him. My mom did. And she only did cause she hates him."

"Well, that's fine. But you should really leave now."

She looked him in the eyes for a long time as he nervously glanced away and back. "I cut myself too," she said as she lifted up her shirt and revealed her white stomach to him. There were thin scrapes that stretched from her ribs down to her stomach, as though some great creature had torn her abdomen to pieces. Some of the scabs were thick and dark but most were thin and superficial.

"Jesus Christ." He stepped back three more paces. "I don't cut myself."

She answered by looking at his ankles, where his own scabs were healing.

"No. I don't cut myself. I break mirrors."

She stepped closer than before. "I break mirrors too. I hate my reflection. Sometimes I use the shards."

He stepped back and lost his balance when he found a chair. "Leave, please. Leave now, Mag."

"Fine." She pulled down her shirt and walked quickly out the kitchen door.

That night he wept for Mag Donovan. He cried until he fell asleep, and he dreamt of kissing her little nubs and tracing his fingers along her scrapes as she blew cigarette smoke in his eyes. When he woke up with a hard cock, he puked. Then he cried some more.

Mag Donovan did not appear under his window the next morning or the morning after that. To get her out of his mind he washed the dishes. All of the dishes except her vodka cup, which he placed on the T.V.

When Mag Donovan reappeared it was late at night. He was watching a movie and drinking when he heard the furious pounding on his kitchen door. She stood there with a little backpack and she was crying.

"Can I please come in?"

He stepped aside and watched her walk into his kitchen and sit down on the chair that had tripped him days before. She had a black eye and a bruise on her chin.

"What happened, Mag?"

"My fucking mother. I'm not going back there. Not ever."

He shifted his weight uncomfortably. "What do you plan to do then?"

"If you let me stay here just for tonight, I've got a way out tomorrow."

"Where are you going?"

"Los Angeles. I talked to a guy who knows another guy who says he'll let me stay there."

"Jesus Chirst. He's probably a pimp, Mag."

She lit another one of her cigarettes and stared him down. "So what?" she said, "Maybe I like sex."

He didn't know what to say or do. There was this greasy vision of dispair sitting in his own fucking kitchen and there was something he had to say but he didn't have a fucking clue.

"Mag," he tried, "Why don't you get some sleep and we'll talk about it in the morning?"

"Can I have something to drink?"

"Sure," he said, "Do you want some water? Maybe I have Kool-Aide."

Mag rolled her eyes and blew out an angry stream of smoke. "How about some more vodka?"

He didn't want to give her any booze, but he didn't want to lose her trust either. She needed him, and if he fucked it up now she would be gone as quickly as she appeared. "It's too late to start drinking. We'll have some in the morning."

She rolled her eyes again. "Fine."

He reached out his hand to her, "Come on. I'll show you where you sleep tonight."

She watched his hand hang in the air for a few seconds before she grabbed it and allowed herself to be lead to the bedroom. It was his wife's bed. He hadn't slept on it since she took off, and now Mag was going to rest there. Rest in the room where he shot the dog only a month before. Everything was so fucked up.

He gave her directions to the bathroom and offered her a pair of his wife's pajamas. He turned around while she changed and he tucked her into the bed. Mag asked, "Aren't you going to sleep by me?"

He walked to the bedroom door and flipped off the light. "Not tonight, Mag."

He paced in the livingroom most of the night. He listened for movement in his wife's room. In Mag's room. He was scared of something, but he didn't know what. He laid down on the couch and waited for the morning to bring its illumination.

...to be continued

1 comment:

Anna Nym said...

The fusion of several conversations and three posts. And now one apology.