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A few miserable days passed. Endless sleepless nights. Then one morning I awoke to the realization that I had slept a full night. Like most people, when you don’t sleep for days on end and finally crash a full night, that next day you feel immediately worse. My stomach churned.
I rummaged around the kitchen. I had no coffee or food, just some pretzel crumbs, a moldy loaf of bread and one last beer. I drained the beer, couldn’t find a spot worth saving on the bread, so I struck out into the early morning to find a cup of coffee and maybe something to eat.
The sun was just above the covered garage and it screamed in past my retinas to drill a pair of holes through the back of my skull.
I slipped into the smoke shop where I get my pipe tobacco and puked in his bathroom. It felt like a three day hangover, but I’d only had one beer in over than a week. I couldn’t even stand the one 40 watt bulb above the sink as I rinsed out my mouth. A hangover wasn’t the worst thing in the world if you’d earned it. This felt unfair.
I bought a pair of cheap sunglasses from the tobacconist to battle the early morning rays. The coffee shop was at the far end of the shopping center and the sun kept shooting in between the trees and the buildings or reflecting off the windows of parked cars. It was an obstacle course for my vision and my sanity.
When I was close enough to smell the coffee I practically lunged for the door, which luckily faced south. All the windows faced south, so the only thing I had to watch for was the oblique reflection from a passing car. My mind began to reassemble and I ordered the largest coffee they had. It was unbelievably hot and I couldn’t even taste it with the vomit still fresh in my mouth and nostrils, but it kicked in soon enough. I wasn’t concerned with flavor anyway. In a few minutes the room stopped pulsing, light stopped screaming around and people stopped shouting. I peeked out into the world and things were quiet out there as well. I could almost stand up straight.
I ambled across the way to the bakery where they know me. I got a loaf of sourdough, still warm, and ripped off about a quarter of the loaf to eat while I walked back to my place. I really love their sourdough. If there’s one thing that can make me spitting mad, it’s spending 4.00 on a fresh loaf of sourdough from a bakery and then it tastes like plain old white bread. Sourdough has to be sour. But it also has to be balanced. Good sourdough was hard to find, but this little place had my number.
The warm bread put me in a better mood so I thought what the hell, let’s fire up the laptop and see if I can’t make some sense. It all started coming together. I must have slept, alright. The words flowed and the only thing missing was I was out of scotch and beer, but I had a story and I wrote until I was almost dizzy with hunger. It’s a bad habit and I need a woman around to make sure I eat when I get going on a story that way.
Then the sun was all the way across the sky. I must have been writing all day.
I tore off some more of the sourdough, found a third of a wheel of Edam in the fridge that I’d missed before, put in on the bread and pretended it was a sandwich.
Then I had an unsettling thought. Something was missing. I walked out into the parking lot and there was Salvador looking for my recycling. I’d been off the booze for over a week, I had nothing for him. I shrugged and he mounted his bike, smiled the same genuine smile as always and got on his way. I felt bad, but he didn’t seem to think of me any differently. A real, unconditional friend.
But that wasn’t it. Something else was missing. I lit my pipe and had a look around. It took a couple minutes to make it that far down, but the ex-Marine’s apartment was empty. The truck was gone, the dog was gone, the backyard was cleaned out except for a pile of ash from the charcoal grill and a mad swarm of flies in the corner where the dog did most of his business.
He’d moved out. I didn’t know if he left willingly, if he’d gotten in trouble, if he’d been asked to leave. I didn’t know how long he’d been gone. I didn’t know if he’d had help, if he had somewhere to go or if he was shacking up with a friend with all this things in storage. I didn’t know anything and I couldn’t tell how much that mattered to me. I hadn’t slept in so long, there weren’t too many things of which I was sure.
But my stomach was about empty, that I did know. I thought of my bare cupboards, the remains of that sourdough, the refrigerator with no beer. I fished around for my keys but they must have been back upstairs, so I began to walk back when I passed my car. That completed the picture of disorder. All four tires were flat and my tail pipes were almost touching the ground.
Any other day I would have been far beyond spitting mad, but I guess I felt like we were even. Not that I’d done anything wrong, but I hadn’t made his life easier. It felt good that this whole thing would be over. I finished smoking my pipe, seated on the trunk of the Plymouth, watching the sun dip past the horizon as a half dozen palm trees swayed in the light evening breeze. At least it was a short walk to get the whiskey and beer.
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© Anthony David Jacques MMX