I woke up to … silence.
Blissful, peaceful, tranquil, merciful, silent silence.
No thumping stereo at nine in the morning, no television cranked up at midnight to eardrum-shattering levels, no video games involving explosions, or car crashes, or alien invasions or all three. No stoned giggling as the funk of weed and stale beer drifted up to my attic room.
I lay there in bed; the loudest thing was the chirping of birds in the trees outside my window. The May morning was cool, yet, but I knew that it would get warmer later, maybe into the eighties. As I lay there, I thought about the events of the past few weeks, the things I had felt compelled to tell people - things I knew they really didn't want to hear - and what would happen as a result. My life had needed change; I had made those changes.
The rest would have to sort itself out.
As far as I knew, I was alone in the house; two of the three guys I roomed with were already gone for the summer, having finished up their finals a few days ago. The third roommate was still here for a few more days; his parents were in town to gather him back for the season to wherever the hell they lived in West Virginia … but, in the mean time, they also were in town to attend the spring meets out at the horse track, an all-day thing, all very posh and tony and completely something I never wanted to do.
I glanced at my phone; it was still early - barely after eight - but I thought I'd heard the sound of the shower running, followed by various bumps and thuds and voices downstairs as Lyndon - roommate number three - had opened the door to his parents here to pick up him and his little brother for breakfast before the races. Little brother was someone I'd not met yet; he'd been asleep when I got home late from the lab - wrapping up last-minute projects - last night. He was sacked out on the living room sofa; a filthy, sway-backed thing that smelled like a wet dog on a good day and the mother of all trash dumpsters on a bad one; all I'd seen as I'd tiptoed past him was a mop of curling, honey-blond hair sticking out of a blanket.
I'm not sure I even remembered the kid's name, even though Lyndon had told it to me any number of times. Brent? Brant? Brick? Brute? Something short and simple and stupid like that.
There was a lot that needed doing in the next few days - I really had to get on the ball about finding a place to stay for the next year - but, at least for this one day, I was free. The trouble was, I didn't have any plans … which was, in itself, fine; the semester was over and summer break was just starting. For me, that meant working; I was part of a crew of movers - one of those 'college hunks loading junk' kind of things - and I knew we would be busy over the next week or so. I could expect a call today or tomorrow for a job or three, but right now I was free. I thought about going for a run or working out.
Or maybe just sleeping in.
But I resisted that temptation, forced myself out of bed, yawning loudly, stretching, scratching various places here and there that needed scratching. One of those various places was already half-awake and staring up at me with its one lonely eye peeping out from within its hood of flesh, maybe seeing if I wanted to come out and play.
I resisted that temptation as well, walked naked over to the bathroom. I almost always slept without clothes, especially now with the heat, all of which seemed to end up here. The rest of the house was cooled by dodgy, rattly window units, but I had not been so lucky. Right now, I had all the windows open, hoping for a breeze.
Even though it was stuffy up here, I liked it. I had this space to myself and nobody else would see me unless they came up the stairs to my room. The room itself wasn't much; it was a garret room of angled, unpainted plaster walls and ceiling with rough pine boards for a floor. But it was relatively private. I even had a bathroom up here.
In the bathroom, I looked into a spotty, cracked mirror that was, strangely, mounted over the toilet rather than over the ancient and stained porcelain sink - making shaving a challenge, but making standing up to urinate an exercise in literal self-reflection - and some ugly fucker stared back at me. I smiled a lop-sided smile at the ugly fucker as I took a leak and he smiled back. The promise of privacy that had drawn me to choose this room had all gone for naught this year; nobody had ever come back with me or stayed the night. It had just been me and the ugly fucker, by ourselves. Hand in hand, so to speak.
I sighed as I finished up.
I was half-tempted to go downstairs in nothing but a smile, but modesty triumphed - no need to surprise either the mailman or Mrs. Bennett next door - and I slipped on the pair of boxer briefs I'd taken off only last night. I tiptoed down the narrow, steep staircase that linked the attic to the rest of the two-story house and then down the wider stair leading from the second floor and its three bedrooms down to the main floor of the house.
And stopped on the last step.
Little brother Breech/Blast/Björk/Blunt was still here, still wedged on that sofa, still asleep.
I hesitated. Hell, it was my house - or a quarter of it was, any way - and I had the right to parade around in nothing but my underwear if I wanted to. But …
Again, modesty triumphed and I grudgingly slipped back up the two flights of stairs and hunted around for a tank top to cover up.
Let's try this again, I thought. Once more, I tiptoed past little brother Beast/Bloke/Branch/Brunch and into the kitchen. It was still a wreck from whatever had happened three nights ago - I'd made sure that I missed it - when the tres amigos had indulged themselves in one last blowout. The trash was still overflowing with empty beer cans and bottles, flies bumbled lazily around another bag full of empty pizza boxes and takeout, and I really didn't want to think about the provenance of a puddle of some unidentified fluid splashed down the back door and onto the floor.
I managed to locate a clean frying pan. I knew it was clean because I had washed it, as I had washed practically every other vessel or utensil in this house. I thought about waiting until little brother managed to drag himself off the couch, but I was too hungry. He could fend for himself.
As quietly as I could, I started a pot of coffee (maybe this kid would help me drink it), then set to cracking a couple of eggs into a mixing bowl, splashing some milk into it and and beating them, and then pouring that onto a dollop of olive oil warming in the pan. I slipped a couple of slices of bread into the toaster and watched while the eggs cooked. I was tempted to fry up some bacon, but that was always a huge, greasy mess and I could do without it.
I didn't know what I supposed to do with this kid; nobody had told me that he wouldn't be going to the races. Was I supposed to babysit? I didn't even know how old he was. Could he be left alone? Did I really care?
While I waited for things to percolate, fry and toast, I thought about the past few weeks, and one day in particular.
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