Day 22

Who woulda thunk it? I tried some fiction:

He was tired. Bull-fucked, hound dog tired. And he toiled his way up the stairs to his third story apartment, fingering the keys in his pocket, clumsy at first, aligning them with the lock by sound and feel. The door closed behind him in a rush, almost as quickly as the cab driver had left him, heaving, just moments before on the curb.

Even drunk he knew enough to piss first, drink water until he had to piss again. He set his keys on the counter by memory, then let loose his belt, the button on his scrapped Levi’s, filleted the zipper in one fell swoop and let the fabric fall to his ankles.

“Christ,” he said to the dark apartment. “Damn shoes.”

He sighed, bent over to untie the laces, the stretch a little stiffer than he liked to admit. Twenty pounds overweight. Twenty-five, according to the Doc. But not more. No, not Jet Thompson, assistant coach to the University of Georgia Bulldogs. Well, assistant coach for the feeder team to the Bulldogs in Athens, Georgia. The Community College across town had been generous. He accepted the position; worked hard. Once a year the head coach at UGA called him up, scouting fresh stock for the pitch. It never occurred to him to expect more and so he didn’t.

He liked to think he was parenting boys into men, men who had the speed and smarts on the turf to glide into the NFL’s first draft pick, but lacked the academic capacity to cut it with even the most overt exceptions made to the transcripts at UGA. And wasn’t that what his obsession with football had been all about? Parenting. Success. For once, winning, at something. Jet almost hated the clutch those boys had on him, boys bearing no genetic resemblance or familial obligation to him but when it came down to it, damnit, they were all he had. Especially now, since Sweetie had left him.

Jet shuffled his bare feet across the carpet as he walked down the hallway, delighting in the sound they made, the rough pressure of the Berber carpet on the tender soles of his feet. So many years on the field, so much sweat laced up in cleats and layered sports socks, pickling his feet game after game. Almost enough to make a man go soft. In the feet, that is.

One floor below him lived an elderly woman named Ruth Anne, whom he used to cater to, bringing her mail in or checking up on her when the temperature broke a hundred. He found her once, huffing and slumped in her suede recliner, the shock of drool from one corner of her mouth. A minor stroke, the ER said later, after the scans. No permanent damage, but the Doctor assumed Jet was her son, whispered to him while Ruth Anne slept.

“Consider this the tremor before the earthquake. Seen it before. Nothing to do but let her live the way she wants until she can’t anymore.”
She returned from the ER two days later, a potted geranium in each hand.
“I plan on sticking around,” she told him. Ruth Anne shook the flowers from their pots and fanned the root systems into her left palm. She fingered each slight tendril until she’d isolated a small cluster off the taproot and yanked firmly. “That’s what my brain did. Ka-put! And I could care less. Bundle o’ blood vessels; who needs it! These annuals will live to see another year and you, young man, can bet money I’ll be here to see it.”

Young? He hardly felt it, not tonight, a slew of Grey Goose martinis in his gut, a lightning sharp pain slicing down the back of his neck and below his right shoulder blade. He sighed again, this time into the bare face of the toilet bowl beneath him. Poised for the inevitable he stood suddenly, the urge to vomit inexplicably gone, replaced by a surge of urine swelling behind the floodgates like fans in the stadium, aching to rush the field.

He liked to paint with the force of his urine as it broke the surface of the toilet water. Smiley faces were his forte, complicated as they were, seeing as how he had to stop mid-stream and splash the eyes and mouth in separate lines. Tonight he accomplished a B-level challenge, a series of capital letter J’s, each smooth gesture bleeding yellow clouds of liquid.

“What are you doing?” Sweetie said when she caught him at it one morning. Piss painting, she called it. It seemed almost unjust for her capture him this way, naked save a pair of white sports socks, squinting as she flipped on the bathroom lights. Why couldn’t he date a woman who didn’t notice his every move? Or were they all like that?

“Nothing,” Jet said to her as he cut the silhouette of a mountain range into the surface of the water. It would be two months before she left him. She knew it was coming and had Jet glanced up from his proud stream of piss at that moment, he might have seen this on her face. But he didn’t, and she caught herself in time, adjusted her gaze, turned the curling iron on.

“You’re moving your dick around,” she said. “What are you doing?”

“Can’t a man take a piss in his own apartment?”

“I thought we were past this bickering,” Sweetie said, and they were. Had been for months. At thirty-eight years old with one divorce behind him and a one-night stand that later cost him half his share of the abortion fee, he was actually proud of how he’d handled Sweetie. The relative peace they claimed together. This was the juncture in their conversation where he’d flush the toilet, press his body into the back of her nightgown, the smell of sleep crawling off of her and into his nostrils. A deep breath. His hands on her hips, then lower. She’d pause in her task, flossing, hand-washing, you name it, and let him kiss the back of her neck, hold her there in front of the bathroom mirror where they could imagine this moment, this reflection of their best gestures, was all they ever knew.

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