Eats dinner in front of computer, listening to English band active between 1989-1996. Sends text message to single woman unlikely to respond. Disregards fact she never replied to message three weeks ago. Finds diversion: spends large sum of money on Japanese denim from online store. No reply to text. Drinks rest of wine bottle, opens beer. Removes T-shirt and looks at self, disgusted by pelt of fat covering chest and stomach. Fat not all there last time he looked. Submits to passing rage and smashes dirty plate in sink. Finishes drink, cleans up broken plate, sweeps floor. Stops himself from walking to corner store for cigarettes. Remembers why he quit smoking years ago—an extended and immediate family history of lung and pancreatic cancer. Browses image search of professional indoor volleyball player. Irons shirt in case message arrives from unlikely and disdainful woman. Almost calls unlikely woman but his pulse hammers out code that signals a mistake. Decides: that’s enough booze tonight.
Finally! Receives text message—but from elder sister, a physicist of some kind. “you forgot our mother’s bday.” Fury toward only sister for sending glib reminder so late at night, knowing it’s now difficult to contact mother re: 62nd birthday because mother goes to bed and wakes up very early. Mother’s home not the kind of environment you call after 9pm. Thinks about setting alarm and calling mother at same time she always rises, which might make for acceptable birthday gesture, but suspects this only possible with the assistance of sleeping tablets. Possesses small quantities of several benzodiazepine derivatives, prefers valium for recreational use. Has already swallowed 30mg of various hypnotics that afternoon, in answer to horrible feeling of self-awareness that since graded into a sensation of— of something else. Searches web for articles regarding what might be a safe dose of benzodiazepines plus alcohol, but fails to find information that can be apprehended quickly, since time is important, since mother arises at dawn, maybe five hours from now. Gives up: decides not to swallow more sleeping pills. Undecided about staying awake to call mother at first light.
Turns attention to new social network status update. Declares he is “an irregular shape, unlikely to roll away, not fitting anywhere especially well.” Then deletes this social network status update. Runs hand along paperback spines on bookshelf, picks up selected poems of Rainer Maria Rilke, who was the subject of abandoned PhD thesis. Peruses bilingual edition (trans. Stephen Mitchell) and concludes that Rilke’s imperatives—concerning resilience and change and so on—are impossible to fulfill. Weeps over memory of childhood friend who died seventeen months ago. Weeps over memory of one day approximately five months before closest friend’s death, when friend had recently finished treatment with chemotherapy drug methotrexate and was waiting for the interpretation of CT scans to tell whether the unresectable gliomic tumour had shrunk or spread, and at that stage the friend spoke often about not living on the Cancer Calendar, as he called it, and had applied for part-time graduate study, was paying rent on his crappy apartment, and did not return phone calls from a palliative outreach nurse who used the term contingency.
The subject of this report is particularly affected by memory of November day when he and the friend sat indoors watching team of council workers remove a condemned gum tree from the courtyard of friend’s apartment building. Friend asked: “Should we ask the guys to come in for coffee or a beer?” But the friend looked so unwell, was now bald, was once among the two or three handsomest boys at high school, was in turns grey and then jaundiced, his clothes still a pre-cancer XL, most of them two sizes too big, and the left side of his body was mildly palsied. Unable to speak clearly, liable to take the occasional fall. The subject of this report decided his friend’s need for normal contact with strangers was not worth the risk of strangers responding to seriously ill friend with the pity and fear that the subject himself struggled to conceal from this friend. His response to the friend’s question: “No, those guys, they don’t look like much fun.”
Weeps now, weeps because he denied friend of human interaction, because he hurt his now dead friend, who did much better job of being alive. Puts on pants and turns off iron. Falls asleep in front of computer. Still asleep when mother wakes in her nearby house, as mother puts on canvas shoes and walks outside—as her steps make a distinct sound: up, up, up—as enormous and world newsworthy dust storm falls on the city of Sydney, and people in every last street in Sydney are moving outside to see the red endtime sky, holding up cameras and cameraphones and their small children, because this dust storm looks different from all the others that have come to the city; for a short time the dust appears permanent, a fog stuck in front of the biggest fire.
© by Andrew Pippos. Used by permission of the author.
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