Christ the alarm. Sore eyes under tender eyelids. Sonofabitch sandman. Somebody opened the window a crack and now the room is cold. It's still dark outside. Oh shit leg cramps. Bloody murder. Must drink more water. It's the sulfites in wine that kill you. A big heave, up we go. You sit there on the edge of the bed, open-mouthed, parched, itchy all over. Stuffed up. Reach for the roll of paper towels sitting on the dresser. Time to blow your nose. Look. Blood and snot -- a lot of it. Maybe it's your effin brains. Stare at the big green numbers on the clock radio. 7:00. The last numeral turns over. 7:01. Congratulations -- you've lived another minute of your life.
You sniff your fingers. Sex. And no effin memory of it.
Blow your nose again and try to breathe deep. Sunshine and coffee are just around the corner. Now is the time to focus on the day ahead in all its goddamn glory. Forget about last night, whatever happened. Those fair-weather friends of yours -- Miss Give and Miss Take -- they aren't really your friends at all. You stand over the toilet watching your dark rank piss fill the bowl. Brush your teeth, more blood. You run your tongue over the roof of your mouth. Don't worry, pard, you've had worse mornings than this. Suck some ice. You spend too much time alone. If you only had someone to take care of you things would be different. Corn in the silo. You've got it bass ackwards: if you only had someone to take care of, things would be different. That's better.
You had your shite together when Carlotta was battling the chemo and you had to drive to the hospital every day and walk the dog. That neighborhood. Never any parking space. Effin salsa music going all the time, people living in the streets, eating, laughing, grabbing ass, playing ball. Too much color. And the Pentecostals in their little church just past the trestle singing "Alabare a mi Señor." Ex-Catholics thinking they'd found a pipeline to the one true god. Most of them worked in the hospital, wearing their insipid faith-based smiles even as she was dying, your one true love. "How are you this morning mamecita?," Dolores would sing-song before turning her over and wiping her clean. Dolores was cute too. You stood on the other side of the curtain fending off a hard-on.
Back then, you tried praying but you didn't know what to pray for. A little more life or a quick death? The thought of her leaving this world forever, you couldn't stand it. But you saw the goddamned pain she was in and wanted it to end. Some days you wanted to end it for her. Take a pillow and smother that effin rattle. But then she would rally and sit up and you would reminisce about the things you'd done together, the rose garden and the trips upstate in the fall. A smile would cross her face. The whirring of the kitchen exhaust fans outside her window soothed her and you let down your guard. You two had a few sessions like that. Then she whispered of a loving god as though he was in the room with you. You nodded and went into the bathroom where you punched the sink and sobbed. You didn't want her to see how much you hated that loving god of hers. Or how frightened you were of losing her. Swinging until your knuckles bled.
Both of you were losing your grip, in different ways. The damned dog sensed it. He started acting like you were a stranger: suspicious, refusing to be collared, fussy. Walking around and around before doing his business, his hind legs trembling. You think about it now and it's still not funny. When they write the book of your life, that'll be your finest hour -- dutifully cleaning up dogshit while she was in the hospital dying.
Goddamn shakes, can't effin stir the coffee. Hate these mugs. It's been a crazy winter. Gives people something to talk about. Count your blessings, whiner. One, the job, as long as the boss leaves you alone. Two, the Subaru, as long as you can afford the gas. Three, big-hipped Magda, as long as you can afford her appetite. Four, this apartment. Who cares if it's too cold or too hot? It's a roof over your head, it's safe, and there's juice in the walls. Five, the big pipe that carries your turds off into never never land. Maybe you'll think of some more after you get some coffee in you.
Quist used to tell you, "Life is a struggle, bud. It's been that way since Adam. Get used to it." He went on about the male principle and facing up to the harsh realities of existence. "The four Fs. Fleeing, fighting, feeding, and fornicating. We're no different than dogs when it comes to living day-to-day." That was near the end, when he was living on Bushmill's and milk and kept a bag of cash in his freezer. It was hard to tell who had the greater need for a little human contact back then -- the giver or the taker. But then, it's always been hard to tell. Especially for someone who believes words can change people.