My friends thought it was a big deal that I was flying out to Los Angeles for a call back on a film. I had the initial audition when the director was in New York. A month later, he called to see if I was still interested. I was. I didn’t have anything else going on. The trip would also give me a chance to visit my father. I hadn’t seen him in years.
Sirens blared nearby, but as James sat, they sounded distant. Distorted. Like a baby’s cry from a monitor. People rushed by, screaming, sobbing, but the world was silent and still. His heart slowed as emotion slipped from his body. All that remained where he sat were functioning organs under worthless skin.
When he was a young boy, he had pictures of cartoon superheroes taped to the walls of his room.
When he was in high school, his walls were covered with pictures of great athletes.
In college, he had posters of movie stars on the walls of his dorm room.
When he got his first job, framed pictures of fancy sports cars were on the walls to motivate him.
As he moved up the corporate ladder, his walls became almost completely covered with personally autographed pictures of celebrities he had met over the years.
On the day he retired from his position as the CEO of a Fortune 500 Company, he packed up his belongings all by himself. He went back to the office one last time to take down the only remaining painting left on the walls.
I was woken by weak fragments of sunlight seeping through the cracks of the plastic tube slide, at the center of the park where I had spent the night. I lay for a while, listening to mute sounds of dripping water and distant traffic. I thought about squirrels, what they do when it rains, if the trees provided enough cover. Then, I pushed myself down and out of the slide, my jeans wetted by the small puddle that had accumulated at its base, and headed towards the distant sound of cars. I kept walking until I reached an intersection. I stood there for a while, watching the cars go by. The sounds of tires ripping across asphalt like wet Velcro. I thought about what it would sound like if someone got hit. I thought about a wet sponge being thrown at a brick wall. Then I turned and continued down the sidewalk.
A guy I know had the telly on one evening, wasn’t taking much notice of it, and then one of those telly chefs came on. That made this guy get out of his chair and kick fuck out of the thing. He’s a happier man now, so everybody says. In fact, I don’t know him, but I think I believe it because telly chefs, they have to be a sort of conspiracy to piss people off, isn’t it, a sort of programmers’ revenge on the people who put them where they are. Think about it this way: you dream of a life in television, want to make your mark on the spirit of the age, and they make you set up a programme featuring a telly chef?
There was always a queue to get in, too many drinks in an easy pub before hand and you were in trouble. You had twenty stairs to practise your date of birth. Even at the bottom of them you could hear ‘You Spin Me Right Round.’
He died on a Friday.
The July heat was already pouring in through the weathered old screen as he perished quietly in his slumber. He’d always insisted upon the open window, even on the very coldest of nights. His wife would wrap herself in layers and layers of electric blankets in those days when they still shared the same room, time and circumstances causing them to slowly drift apart in their sleep.
Thirty-nine years as husband and wife. Decades of laughter and illness, heartbreak, and euphoria gone in the span of a single heartbeat. She would never know what did him in, only that he slept. She found him there in the first blush of morning, leaving the room before turning back and placing her hand gently on the bedroom door. The new day opened up all around her, petals on a withered flower, as she realized they would never see their fortieth year together. Continue reading