That morning she said she was going to break up with him.
“Is it a richer guy?” Roy asked.
“No, why’d you think it’s an old guy?” she replied.
She said something about Roy being silent all the time or him not keeping his promises. Or maybe Tina asked why he didn’t keep his promises. Soon Roy couldn’t even remember, or even say.
She went to work and he washed his face. He opened the curtains. All the windows faced onto back alleys and he had to turn on all the lights anyway. He brewed his coffee and drank his coffee. He watched a movie and heard a voice from outside screaming “Oh shit!” and then the rattling of a fence. One day while smoking on the fire escape he had seen some kids jumping over that fence, which made the same exact sound, and climbing up the fire escape to enter, through a window, the apartment next to his.
“I guess you’re the new neighbor?” Roy had asked. The kid had looked at him as if he was some sort of idiot.
He watched another movie from another decade on streaming and realized that he did not enjoy it because he wasn’t finding any of the actors good looking. Half of them were bores and the other half, with their white suits, pink shirts, python shoes and all that, were just gaudy.
Mothers never liked the slicked-back hair, the sunglasses, the fitted jacket, the tight pants, all the silly signs of overtly good looks… except in their own beds, that is. Something sins against respectability in a beautiful person, thought Roy. It’s as if the person of charm is the garish flashy peacock clown whose small success is making the public overlook, for a moment, how laughable he is.
He did some coke. Just a couple of key-bumps, because “that’s our coke,” and she would get jealous whenever he did it without her. He figured that it was his coke now and wondered why the choice had to be between being boring or ridiculous.
Back when he was young and scared of being boring he got into makeup and make-believe. Started to skip school. Fell in love with an older girl. Spent days in smoke-filled arcades, not knowing how to shoot pool and hoping she would walk in one day. He assumed the poses of an actress and felt good. Got his heart broken when he saw her with a boy and then another and yet another; he then decided that there’s no tomorrow, putting his wrist to his forehead. His mother would appear behind him in the mirror and say that his friends were laughing at him. Laughing behind his back. He would go into a rage, grab the two toothbrushes in a fist and pace up and down through the house not knowing what to do with them until, exhausted by his failed attempt at violence, he would throw them on the ground and cry.
He went online to order some food for delivery. Played some guitar. Leafed through an art magazine. Put on some music on loop.
The delivery was taking a long time to come. He was getting hungry and anyway these thoughts were all about a long time ago, and already, as the memory of Tina began to seep into his mind, he felt that the chatter of a distanced mother barely mattered. One pain was being followed by another slightly different pain. If anything, he thought, she could be quite proud of the bore he was.
His girlfriend got back home. Turned on the air conditioner and fanned herself with the mail.
“It took me fifteen minutes just to get from the corner to here. The police sealed the whole street and were not letting anyone through.”
“Did something happen?”
“Just a guy that fell from a window upstairs.”
“Was it suicide?”
“They say they found drugs in his apartment. I wonder if they were the fun type of drugs.”
Roy stuck his head out from the kitchen window and there was the body, badly covered with a white sheet, the arms and legs sticking out. The left arm and leg, twisted in unnatural right angles, were touching. Both indistinctly tattooed.
Roy put on a faded black denim jacket. He went out and a young kid called to him.
“Hey man, what happened?”
It was the young kid he had met while on the fire escape a couple months ago.
“Some guy fell from a window. Or jumped.”
“Shit. He ok?”
“No, he’s dead.”
“Shit… Hey, can you let us in?”
“What do you guys do in there anyway?”
“You know, hang out. At home are parents.”
Roy walked up to a cop. There was a photographer. Roy raised his collar to cover his face, hoping to distract from his sweatpants. The cop asked him what he had heard.
“First somebody shouting ‘Oh shit!’ and then the fence.”
“First the person shouting or first the fence?”
“First the shout and then the fence.”
The cop asked him to repeat everything once more, wrote it down and didn’t care for a name. Roy walked up to the photographer now smoking behind the police tape.
“Got a cigarette?”
“Not really,” said the photographer, taking a drag.
“You can see the body from my kitchen. I’ll let you in for twenty bucks.”
“Nah, thanks, that’s pretty much what they pay me.”
“Alright… How about for a pack of cigarettes?”
The photographer pulled a half-smoked pack from his pocket.
“Cool, whatever,” said Roy.
When he saw the body the photographer gave a hearty laugh. He sat on the windowsill with one leg resting outside and the camera firm in his hands.
Tina, in the other room, was watching some black and white movie where two pimps with guns were fighting over some young girl, pulling her by the arms. One of them opens fire and the young girl falls dead. The deep voice of a philosopher is heard stating: “Man is made in his own image: this is what we learn from the strangeness of the resemblance of cadavers.”
The photographer was now staring outside the window with a languid smile that gave away the flush on his face as that of a person who had spent the afternoon drinking.
“So what’s your take on this?” Roy asked.
“I haven’t heard anything,” said the photographer, pulling out a cigarette from the pack on the kitchen table. “But it’s always some sort of stupid fight. You know, one of those that leave you torn open when you put the phone down and think about what you were supposed to be saying. Because, you know, you got plenty to say. You got all these stupid ideas, just roaming about in your head. They come at you out of nowhere and they just seem to tell you everything that’s wrong with… with just everything. Silly words that tell you why we’re so mean and so ugly and so sick and stuff like that.”
Roy couldn’t see the face of the photographer, who was looking outside. Embarrassed by the sudden confidence, he wanted to ask him if he was ok. But the photographer just kept on talking and smoking.
“But try and repeat them, go ahead, and everyone will take you for a fool and laugh. Or if they don’t laugh they’ll say that the ramblings are a warning sign before a fit. The more words you repeat, the more your face becomes that of a violent idiot. The only way to save face is to shut up. So what else can you do? You can only be silent. You shut up when others talk, you shut up when they don’t talk and you can’t really answer any of their questions. It’s silence, just silence, and again silence and more silence. It’s silence turtles all the way to the bottom.”
The buzzer rang. It was the delivery guy. It took him a while to get to the door. He got lost in the building and couldn’t find the apartment. By then the body had been moved and a trash can put in its place, a clumsy attempt to hide the stain of blood on concrete.
Anton Ivanov is a founding editor of Black Sun Lit and can be found on Twitter at @batailleordie. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Psychopomp Magazine and Milkfist.