Winded, I flip the mobile phone closed. It clicks, a sound i find strangely satisfying. It was three in the morning already. I felt i had just awaken not but a minute ago to the irritatingly cheerful jingle of my alarm clock. But apparently i was mistaken, an entire day had just past by without notice. This routine of mine had become so familiar, it was as if i had driven through it. My foot pressed the accelerator on green and the brake at red, i matched my speed with the neighboring traffic while my mind replayed past conversations and television shows. Had i lived without full knowledge of living? Why is it that every conversation I had had today was as easily recalled as my first footsteps?
Three o'clock with an empty pack of cigarettes. obviously i had been doing something productive. i stood up from my lawn chair seat on our front porch, a nice view of the empty street just beyond a wall of shrubbery. My back ached bitterly, i had sat there, still as a statue, for far too long. I circled the inside of my dark house for a bit, hovering over sleeping bodies looking for something to smoke, a nicotine crazed buzzard of some sort. I needed something to fill the void between two tar stained fingers forever frozen in the act of victory signing. Nothing but empty packs scattered about, vacant seashells offering nothing but colorful hints of their previous, but now missing, tenant.
I think about quitting, for the thousandth time, then slip on my shoes and sweater and head out the door towards the nearby circle K. The small road was veiled in a thin mist that made me think of gentle lawn sprinklers.
As expected, the streets are ghostly quiet. I turn the corner at lipona, off the little road, and make my way down pensacola, carried by cold, rigid and stiff legs that seem to have taken on a life of their own. If i hadn't known any better or if i had only just arrived in this little town, i would've mistakenly believed that the cities population consisted of two sedans (one green and one black), an expedition SUV and a cherry picker truck parked on the sidewalk ahead. the arm of this mechanical monster was navigated by a thin jamaican guy with a blue hat, whose movements where directed by a fairly large, middle-aged white man. He looked like the sort of guy you expected to have a lit cigar wedged between his molars at all times of the day and a permanent squint. He didn't, though. They bickered back and forth, something about wiring and hydraulics systems. I wordlessly made my way under them.
Colorfully lit signs, of all shapes and sizes, shone brightly through the fog. Stationary images now unobstructed by traffic, smog, pedestrians and noise, seemed so awfully clear and obvious. Radiant, eye catching colors and large billboard messages meant to forcefully grab the attention of the mid-day rusher, the idle car at the stop light, the man on his cell phone and whatever other hapless bastards that managed to wander by.
They preached various messages- ninety-nine cent value meals, twelve dollar haircuts, gas at three dollars and nineteen cents a gallon- but to a non-existent congregation. Brilliantly dressed holy men whose grandiose voices echo throughout a barren church. I was amazed at how loud the street remains even when the people leave.
Up ahead was a beacon that cut through all the competitive jabbering. An angelic light, of some sort, pierced the thin fog, a red K encircled by white.
The entrance bell binged, a king whose arrival was announced, not by flagged trumpets, but an electronic chime that drew the eyes and ears of every surf and peasant in the store. The single soul, an employee, was a dead eyed man behind the register whose puffy eyes briefly flickered up to me then lazily back to his tabloid. Truly this man was ready for what dangers could come, be it a ski masked man with a loaded handgun or a drunken bum with an attitude, either way, he was ready. I imagine him rolling up his tabloid into a tight paper bat and bludgeoning the shit out of whatever bastard decided to make his miserably boring shift into an interesting, possibly rewarding, night of action and adventure. This man loved his shift, it was written all over that dreary mess of a face.
I goose stepped over to the refrigerator aisle, poked around and fridge window shop for a bit, then decided to grab a gator aide. I wasn't exactly thirsty, though, maybe it was severe visual marketing mind fuck i had just received on the walk over. The great deals while supplies last, extra value menu, useless bargain crap had wormed itself into my head, i needed to purchase something, anything, to feel better about myself. cigarettes not included.
i swiveled my way through candy aisles and condom lane until i stood right in front of the front register.
I set my drink down on the counter and the man lazily swayed upward. His movements, both head and arm, required little muscle power, more swinging and nodding, seeming to rely mostly on gravity for strength guidance. His movements were sloppy and uncoordinated, as if he were a cube molded into man form. Was he drunk? No, he'd be having a little fun. I wondered, out of the blue, if the man had ever slept with anyone. And if so, whether or not i would've found her even remotely attractive. He wasn't hideous, a patchy chin beard, small gut tucked under a tight belt and a beauty mark just above his right cheek. The circle K uniform wasn't especially figure flattering. He looked beefy in it. The women, what if she were small and fragile? petite? I just couldn't imagine those apish arms gracefully thrown around a women's shoulder, not without knocking her flat on her face, anyway.
I told him my brand and and he grabbed it from behind the register and casually tossed it next to my drink.
"$6.44." he said simply, his mouth movements resembled that of a fleshy muppet. Or a fish, a giant grouper perhaps.
"here you go," i slipped him my debit card. "thank you."
his mouth still hung there. It was as if he were silently dragging out the last 'four' of that single, short sentence he had just spoke.
The credit card machine started chattering and spitting, a paper tongue slipped out. He ripped it away and handed it to me.
I left, silently, the door beeped a robotic farewell, as genuine and warm as an answering machine. The K sign, which had once been so welcoming, now waved a single middle finger at my departing behind. I kept my frozen hands deep within the pockets of my sweater and pulled up the hood from behind my neck. The few souls driving by would see a sullen young man with legs that moved as if bound to wooden stilts, a ghoulish character with a craving for, not brains, but nicotine and gator aide. For a second, i entered someone's mind, i'm sure of it. I had now assimilated myself into that person's brain and played a minor role in their epic life. i felt both dirty and proud.
The cherry picker men ignored me, the man up top had started tinkering with a transformer. I secretly prayed for an explosion, then feared the after effect. A giant metal tube with an extremely high voltage, plummeting onto my unsuspecting head. I heard the cigar man behind me complaining about his job, the jamaican guy seemed to ignore him, or maybe just didn't hear him.
This town sleeps, now. The beasts hibernate, shut down, for seven to eight hours. Then wake up again, climb into their cars and begin honking and screaming and cursing, ignoring all that is around them but, at the same time, directed by what surrounds them. I've seen the city naked and, frankly, am not that impressed by it's swinging member. It has no hold, no noticeable influence, yet presents an unspoken challenge. An invisible gauntlet has been dropped and my cheeks are red and stinging. Do i proceed to whip it out?
i notice a pile of what appears to be hamburger helper, a meal that had escaped the imprisonment of someone's stomach. A small river of bile trickles from it across the sidewalk, i carefully avoid stepping in it. By now i had reached the corner, my house lay just ahead. I look back at the signs, still going on foolishly, speaking to no one in particular. A strange bird song of some sort, high frequency squeeks and chirps, messages my human ears cannot seem to decode. All i hear is the hum of electricity, the lifeblood of this growing fetus.
I take lipona road and climb the steps.
i slip into my dark house and begin typing. yellow teeth reflect a blue glow.