When he comes home



Nov. 10, 1981


The spouting water burns as I splash it on, trying not to look too closely in the mirror at my morning face, cycle of life gripping me in their jaws as I hope for a change of luck. The mirror has a tiny crack in it from when Garrick painted over it because he didnítí want to look at his face either when he lived in this apartment, or maybe when Pauly scrapped off a tiny circle just big enough for him to shave when he lived here, or when I finally moved in and couldnít stand such a limited view Ė so that seven years of ill-luck turns out to be my misfortune, and I wonder, just when the ill-luck started so I can calculate as to when it might end, if ever.

I have a line of useless bottles along the ledge between the mirror and the corroded faucets of the sink, all rattling with the pipes whenever I turned the hot water on, my morning music that wakes me up better than the clock radio and the annoying newscaster telling me about the list of disasters I ought to know about from the night before.

Sometimes the bottles rattle from traffic outside, as trucks make their way down Passaic Street, turning the wrong way at the train tracks and confused as to why they canít find the bridge across the river into Garfield. Their horns honk like frustrated geese, nature never intended to produce.

The apartment is always cold, but Iím reluctant to turn on the heat until a real frost comes, the energy man sucking the life out of me, and then like the drug pusher he is, threatens to cut me off when I canít pay. So I take comfort from the hot water when it finally rattles out of the spout, and scrape my whiskers off so I look more respectable than I am.

Dust falls from the tin ceiling Garrick also painted over while living here. He was good for painting over anything that didnít move, and always in that suck ass tan paint he got cheap from some warehouse on River Drive, maybe the same warehouse where Pauly worked, and who sold it to him on the sly, pocketing the cash so he could buy pot later.

The dust catches in the light through the shade, and looks strangely pretty, like a shower of diamonds or snow, although snow it a four-letter word I have no use for, and already dread.

This early, I already hear the raised voices of my neighbors, the bastard who beats his wife before he goes off to work, and beats her when he comes home, calling her all sorts of names for all the things he imagined her doing while he was away. And I always think of how she wonít be there when he gets back someday, and imagine his howl and outrage, and how somewhere some place safe she is laughing Ė even though I know she wouldnít laugh, and that she would likely come back even if she left, and take the beating ďlike a man,Ē when she isnít.

I canít wait for the shouting to stop and the door to slam, and the thud of his footsteps on the stairs as he makes his way out, and I always imagine being outside when he got there, revving my engine for the moment when he steps off curb. But I never do. I just listen to the rattle of the pipes, the honking of the trucks, and to her sad whimpering in her anticipation of when he comes home.

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