I sit up in bed and hear the sound of my own voice. ”…so leave a message whenever you think it’s time to leave a message, or if you don’t want to, don’t. Really, use your own judgment…” I lift the receiver and the machine is cordially shut up.
”Hello?” I seem to shriek. I clear my throat and try again, ”Hello?”
”I dreamed about you.. I think.”
”Why aren’t you here?”
”At the office.”
”I guess you haven’t heard.”
”It’s all over the papers.”
”Ethan Young has been shot and killed.”
”Oh, I mean oh, I mean..”
I slam the phone down and lay back on my bed, eyes closed. So it has already hit the papers. When did I kill him? Yesterday? No, the day before yesterday. Pete’s party. It’s monday. Already. I smile at myself and roll over on my side, opening my eyes to look at myself in the wall-mirror.
”Hey, don’t I know you,” I say and find myself laughing at my own ingenious remark. I sit up on my knees and tense my hairy upper body in front of the mirror. I’m pleased. Not ecstatic, but pleased. I look down at my blood-filled manhood. I’m pleased.
I am of average height and average, perhaps just a little above average, build. My face is handsome but scarred from puberty’s hellish endurances. My darkish brown hair is cut short and clean, nothing out of the ordinary. I’m no model. But my eyes, those devilish, fiendish eyes. Blue and eternally deep but sometimes far too revealing for comfort.
I reach for the remote to my stereo, press a button and soon ”You can call me Al” with Paul Simon is blasting over the Dali loudspeakers.
I jump out of bed and look over my room. It’s a mess. It’s a perfect mess. Any artist will tell you that a good, healthy mess is the key to a hearty life. Straight lines will ruin your focus. Clothes and various books should cover a barely visible chaotic carpet. The bed should never be made. Keeps the bed bugs from settling. It’s true, really.
Any wall decoration should be put up with haste, as all of my film posters which cover three of the walls in my small apartment. No parallel lines allowed. The fourth wall is for three closets and an exit to the tiny hallway. The first closet contains the dirty clothes that are not part of the flooring. The second contains shirts and pants, the third T-shirts and underwear. The two latter closets are seldom full. Dirty dishes and milk cartons are placed where other objects have not made their mark.
The hallway will take you to a bathroom not worth mentioning, or outside, or to a kitchen where the dishes in the sink are now, if I remember correctly, covered with Lisa Cole’s cooking.
I tell visitors that I’m like a dog, I need to mark out my quarters. The truth is, if I clean up I admit to having some attachment to the place. If I keep it a mess I’m telling myself that I won’t be staying long, that it’s time to move on soon. Soon. No, the truth is that I’m incredibly lazy. Sick and lazy.
Gadgets, the other key to inner peace. My stereo with an output I never get to fully appreciate. My HDTV and my computer with a tabloid size screen. The bare necessities.
And my bookcase. It stands out mostly by its fluorescent, green color, but also by the complete collection of Stephen King and Joseph Cole books that fill it.
”I’m going to miss all of you guys the most,” I say with a deep sigh into emptiness.
I walk into the hallway singing ”..why am I soft in the middle… when the rest of my life is so hard…” and by the door I retrieve the day’s paper. The Morning Blaze. The second paper that Ethan Young took ownership of. He got the name from a poem I once wrote. About a microwave oven actually, that goes haywire and fatally shocks a five year old girl. Slowly, whistling, I unfold it and stare at the headline, ”MEDIA GIANT YOUNG SHOT IN
As I take a milk carton from the fridge and put two slices of bread in the toaster I go through the facts: The scene of the crime was Young’s summer house on the East coast. A neighbor heard three gunshots. He spotted a speeding car leaving the scene. He called the police. When the police got there they found Ethan Young in his bed, poor bastard. His face was beyond recognition.
I feel uncomfortable. I jump, startled, as the toast flies up. What car? What speeding car?
The phone rings again. I let it. The answering machine is disconnected. After thirteen signals it stops. I sit thinking about the trip to Tanzania I am going to make soon and I devour my breakfast with a healthy appetite, topping it off with a microwaved, left-over Calzone pizza. I spit out the milk over the paper because it definitely does not taste like it’s supposed to.
After five minutes the phone starts ringing once more. I walk over to it and turn to admire my still naked body in the mirror. I look up at the crazed face above my bed which is the only picture on the wall that is not from a movie. It’s also the only connection I seem to have to my Swedish heritage. It shows the Swedish poet Gustaf Fröding sitting in his bed at the asylum, arms crossed defiantly, black beard covering his face, and his empty, all-knowing eyes staring past the artist, actually at the viewer of the picture, I think.
”Insanity is truth, isn’t it old man? And truth is reality. And in reality we are all insane!” I laugh, suddenly realizing how right I am. I look up at the white ceiling. ”The secret is finding just a spoonful of madness and pinch of craziness. Mix it well and nobody can tell that you’re giving them virtual insanity.” I look at Jack Nicholson breaking through the door in Stephen King’s The Shining then over at him by the drinking fountain in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. ”And don’t you know it, Jack,” I say. ”You can take or leave it if you pleeease,” I sing softly.
On the twelfth ring I turn off the music, now playing Suicide is Painless with the Mash, and on the thirteenth I pick up the receiver. I wait a few seconds.
I hear Julie’s voice, ”Hello is there anybody there?”
”I’m here,” I mutter.
”Are you okay, honey?”
”I don’t know.”
”Are you coming in today?”
”I don’t know.”
”There is some journalist here who wants to talk to you. Should I tell her to come back tommorrow or something?”
”Yes, a certain miss Elizabeth Tucker.”
Immediate flashback. Wow, I think. There’s a name I haven’t heard at anyone’s lips but my own in, what, seven years? My mind starts floating back in time, to school days, to teaching days. To magic.
”I’ll be there in half an hour.” I say and hang up. ”Jesus mother of God!” I
scream, ”Christ almighty Elizabeth Tucker of all fucking people.”
I look at the mirror.
”You hadn’t planned this, you son of a female dog. Why does she come now?
Why today? Why this year?”
Not realising it at first, I begin to violently scratch my wrists.