He leaned forward to answer the phone and blood began pouring from his nose. Get me a tissue, quick, he said. I'm just getting over a cold. I wondered why he had come to work. Nothing was pressing and clearly he still wasn't feeling well. Then again at work he wouldn't be alone. Back in his apartment he would. No one there to talk to except the goddamn plumbing.
He took a wad of tissues, pressed it to his left nostril, and leaned back, hoping to staunch the flow. Outside jackhammers pounded. A new hotel was going up, slivered between two tall buildings. It was hard to concentrate with the noise. The city was an obstacle course -- thoughts came and went much too fast to take shape. Nothing lasted, not moonlight on the Ganges, certainly not the relationships at work. Nothing endured except loyalty to one's self -- if you could define 'self' -- everything else was shite.
Some days he didn't mind being alone, solitude was a comfort. Heat up some soup, forgo showering, jerk off. When it was raining, or cold and windy, or the noise from the street got too loud, it was nice to lie in bed, put on earphones and listen to old songs. Jerry Lee Lewis. Hold On I'm Coming. He saw himself as a badger in its burrow. Don't effin mess with me. He couldn't tell if it was a cultural problem or a personal one. Maybe the two couldn't be separated.
And then the sun would come out and it no longer felt good being inside. He needed to wash, to shave, to put on clean clothes and brush his teeth. He counted the bills in his wallet. Enough for the bus, just enough for lunch. It was true that work brought pleasure, that doing a job well felt good, but it was the social life that brought the most joy. It was hard to admit how much he needed to follow the same routine every day.
Ever since he moved to the city he'd been prone to colds and flu. It must've been something in the apartment. The heat was always on, there was mold around the bathtub and damp spots in the ceiling. Either that or he hadn't been eating right. Effin stress. Sore throats, sinus infections, sometimes his ears rang. I wondered if he had the stamina to duke it out with the reality of urban living on a publishing salary.
(The train follows the river. Form follows function. If you want something to last, you don't want it to exist merely as a digital file stored in a cloud. But that's another topic.)
His nose had stopped bleeding. I walked with him to the men's room. He turned and said, I'm alright now. I don't know whether I believed him or not.