Catching up with the Lists

It was Friday. Things were getting impossible quicker and quicker. Angelo had only been off work for ten minutes when they got impossible this time. He got off the bus and ran to his building. He took the stairs up to his apartment instead of the elevator because he thought it might help. It didn’t. He took off his shoes and went to the kitchen, panting. It was hot, as always, and he was sweating, as usual.

In the kitchen there was a bottle on the shelf that hypnotized him. Its shape, its label, its color, its contents, its relativity to so much in the world and so much in his own home. There was fascination with the human parts of the world. Tracking the concert of effort that went into making, say, a menu. It wasn’t a person who did it. The individual letters had each been created and then drawn and redrawn in history. Paper was invented by someone. Printing was invented and forgot and reinvented and made illegal and repealed. Plastic was invented, laminating. Computers and lasers to replace print apparatuses. A man pulled a lobster from the sea and put it in his mouth and said it was good. Someone else put butter on it and it was also good. Someone gave it a name, a recipe, a garnish, a price and put it on the menu on the table in the restaurant in the town in the province in the nation and only then in the world. These were the good men. The ones who gave. The ones who built the world around him one individual thing, by one individual human, at a time. The ones he thought he belonged with; used to be sure of it. He saw his days, his concert of effort, stretching behind him like a photo album filled page after page with the advertisement pictures it had been bought with, but not so pretty.

It wasn’t the list. He had a list of things. He was a resolute list keeper. The short list of the right things that he was adhering to so well. The longer list of the small things that engendered an urge to fight tears. The list of things so sharp and hard that they bypassed tears completely. But it wasn’t the list or any item on the list. It was the growing eraser. The blooming purposelessness of the list.

He went back to sit on the floor, near his shoe mat, with a well considered drink. His hand rested over the top of the tumbler. He waited for the airconditioner to improve his life.

If he hadn’t known, he wouldn’t care. If it weren’t for certain moonlight, twists of phrase, a dream of a woman not his wife telling him she was pregnant, moments of joy he constantly felt by himself. He craved the eraser every day. Every time weakness or casual action let it be used, it grew. But when he took stock of the grand list he craved more than that; a totalling resolution. Since Christmas break in Thailand it had grown potent. The beaming children at school attenuated it.

He could smell the neighbors cooking fish noodles. It used to be his favorite, then he hated it, now it didn’t matter to him what he ate or when or if he did. He’d forget for three days in a row. Then he’d nearly pass out when he stood up from a chair and he’d go have a soda.

Anyone’s me too would have flipped its mouth on itself. It would have eaten itself in minutes, revising the memory of the years that had formed it. The list was not going to be submitted anywhere. There would be none of that. There would be no more pretending. Work was all that kept him in motion. School was inertia and weeks passed kinetically with pain only noticeable on weekends.

There was no cognition of time in Singapore. No recognizing it. It piled onto his belief that it was too late to address any of it. There were no seasons, only heat. No chilly evenings. No falling leaves. No delicious sunshine. Just one tropical day and sweating night with a few hours of smothering rain in the middle. A confusion of Chinese and British holidays, none of which mattered to him or told him how fast he was ageing.

He sat covering his full drink with a palm, looking around the place. Looking for something of his. He had nothing there that he would take when he went home. No one to share it with. No one to care or be impressed that he’d been around the world and brought back small mementos to impress with. No one to compare lists with, swap some entries, improve standings, square things.

He watched a tiny gecko run up the wall. He stared at it. He’d never wanted to hurt anything. He picked up a paperback and threw it at it. It knocked it down out of sight behind some throw pillows. He didn’t know if he killed it. He didn’t care. It didn’t even enter into it.

He considered the glass of whisky again. His jaw traced a circle, like a cow chewing, in the consideration and attempt to swallow his spit.

He lifted the glass and stood up and walked to the bathroom. His hand whipped forward and smashed the glass against the tile wall, holding its base.

It cut open the skin over his thumbnail and the whisky splashed on it. He crouched down in a squat and pulled his sleeve up. He dug the broken tumbler into the inside of his forearm. It tore right through his skin. He dropped the glass and clasped his arm. Dark blood welled up and drenched the white cotton gathered at his elbow. He decided he’d got a couple of small veins.

He tried to scream but he’d hesitated and it wouldn’t come out. He lowered his sights just for yell and had no more luck. He would have settled for cry but there was none of that coming either. It was broken on bypass. He let himself fall onto his side. The tiles were cool and dry. Several geckos were twitching from window to wall across the ceiling.

He put his forearm to his cheek and sucked his blood and closed his eyes because there was too much of himself in the human construction around him and he didn’t want to see it. There was enough human left there lying next to the toilet to be glad that Monday was a long way off.


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