Broken thoughts from a lingering dream danced around my head as I buried my face deep into my worn pillow, Hamtaro’s eye staring at me from a fold of cloth near my leg. I don’t wanna get up, don’t wanna get up…don’t…
Oh, crap. Is today May thirtieth? Or the thirty-first? I stared up at the cracking plaster of the low ceiling a few feet from my head, watching for any patterns. How many days are there in May anyway?
A coffee pot hissed somewhere to my left, a door slammed shut, the honking of early cars with drivers angry with the rush hour beeping outside in an annoying fashion. Sheesh, I thought, wiggling my toes and wondering if there was any food left in the fridge. It’s the Bronx, people. Get over it.
Tick. Tick. Tick. Click.
Blaise Plant’s voice rang loudly from the dented radio from across the room, crackling with static and announcing to pretty much the entire apartment complex that it was seven thirty. “Long shot penny, s’everything you told m…” I felt around my bed with my hand and found a brush. How’d this get here? I tossed it at the radio, missing it by a few inches and hitting the window pane instead with an incredibly loud smash. Oops. I heard an angry woman’s voice coming from the room below telling me to shut up.
I grabbed my pillow instead and chucked it against the radio in a desperate attempt to shut it up. It caught it and both items smashed against the wall, bits of plastic and electronics skittering across the paint-stained floor like runaway bugs. Oh well. It was an ugly radio anyway.
I swung down from my bunk bed down into the floor below before screaming out in pain. Lifting my foot I inspected it. A pencil sharpener. Swearing I tossed it aside, crouching down to take a look at the radio. Decimated. Bits of circuits and wires stuck out rather desolately from the broken box. I felt a bit regretful.
I wiggled the mouse of my computer to wake it up and I reached for my wallet with the other hand. Flat. No money. Sitting down on my worn chair I rifled through it. Receipts, receipts, a ticket stub, receipts, more receipts. Thoughtfully I dumped them all in my overflowing trash can. I still had that Nightmare of Nunnally series that I’d painted a few weeks back. I could sell that. I took a look at it across the room, the canvases resting haphazardly on top of several containers of paint covered by a rather mildewy sheet of cloth. Or not. I sat down and surfed for a while.
Some insensitive jerk had commented on my nature trip piece. “Your art sucks horse crap,” it read. Philistine. I was about to post a flaming retort back concerning his mother and her sexual orientation when there was knocking at the door.
Struggling a somewhat clean T-shirt on and smoothing back my messy hair I opened the door, hoping I didn’t look like too much of a bum. “Hi,” I managed to croak, suddenly realizing that I must have had killer breath. Garlic shrimp fried rice take-out for dinner and out of toothpaste. I’d have to buy that too. The small Chinese woman stared up at me, sticking out a plump hand. “Rent this month?”
My mind was churning out possible excuses, but after two months of missing rent it was pretty hard to do. Mother died. What the hell does that have to do with being broke? Friend borrowed money from me. What am I saying, I borrow money from my friends. I got mugged. Hmm, in the Bronx, not too far fetched. “I got mugged.” Mrs. Hong gave me a death stare. “I’m sorry,” I added pointedly, suddenly realizing that the orange I’d thrown in an angry fit at the wall was still lying in a gross heap in the ground. She grumbled angrily. “Three. Three month. At this rate you get kicked out.” I swallowed hard. “I want my rent in two days or you out. There are many other people who want apartment. So no pay, no apartment.” I nodded furiously.
She gave me another glare and left. I quietly locked the door as she went to ask for her pay from the couple next door. I realized with a sinking feeling that the only thing I could sell was the Nightmare of Nunnally series. That or get some massive commission at the Tavern, which was virtually impossible at this time of the month. Crapcrapdoublecrap. I needed money, and fast.
After posting my response and checking my email inbox I headed over to the small fridge to look for anything edible. There was a murky jar of what seemed to be leftover pickles from last Christmas and some fuzzy cheese. I smiled, cautiously inspecting a mysterious grey lump which had congealed in the bottom right corner of the fridge. Ha, ha. Just some saltine crackers and it’s Glove Pond all over again.
I went back over to my desk, grabbing handfuls of paper and unopened bills out from its drawer before just taking out the entire thing and flipping it upside down beside my scanner. There. A ten. Screw radios and toothpaste. I want food. I picked it up, stuffing it in my jacket and fetching my scarf, hat, and bag. As I took the key from the hook in the wall I took a long look around my shabby home, making a face as my eyes stopped on that blasted orange. Making sure Mrs. Hong wasn’t on the same floor as I was anymore I slammed the door behind me and I left.
After greeting some other people standing going out for smokes near the entrance to the small worn down apartment complex I stepped outside to another morning. The raining had stopped, and mist was rising from the slushy streets. Taxi cabs and school buses splashed past, rumbling loudly, splattering unsuspecting passer-bys with mud and exhaust. I warily stepped near the wall of the apartments while smiling politely at passing people. I spied a pastry cart, the rich and enticing aroma of freshly baked bagels and pretzels wafting into the chilly air. Unusually cold for a late spring morning. I took my ten and paid for three large onion bagels and a small cup of coffee. It was almost painful to watch the man behind the counter take out the change.
Sitting down in one of the benches nearby and biting into one of my bagels, I opened an abandoned NYT. Some more news about the presidential election, the earthquake in China, bills regarding same sex marriage passed in some states, Israeli villagers living in fear because of noise of rockets, et cetera et cetera. I skipped to the editorials, finished my bagel and coffee and stood up before tossing the empty wrapper into the trash can.
I kept reading as I walked on down to the subway station, a cement stairwell to the depths of the city lined with red-tinted globe lamps flickering off to greet the morning. Lexington Avenue Express, it read in faded blue letters. I ran down the steps and flashed my metropass at the tollbooth. There was a green light, a blip, and it let me through.
Seeing that the train wasn’t here yet I went to one of the dollar shops next to the ticket booth and bought some batteries with the rest of my money. I really needed a rechargeable player. I felt a blast of air coming from the tunnel to my right. Train is here. Hoping there’d be enough time, I took my battered player out and tried to coax the battery into its back before it slipped from my hands and cluttered down to the tunnel below. The train slid past, inches from my forehead, and screeched noisily to a halt. Damn! There was a sudden increase of noise in the station as people milled about, getting in and out of the train. I fumed while I was jostled inside.
I stuffed the batteries back in my pockets and rubbed my face with my hands in a rather tired way, sighing as the train started to move. A rather bored voice sounded through the stuffy train's intercom system. “Next up, Köllner station.” I moodily sank back in my seat. It was quiet, the rustling of newspapers being turned, the noise of earphones turned up too loud, coffee silently being sipped by pursed lips. Moments later the train screeched into another halt, everybody in the train swaying slightly in one direction as it did so. “Köllner station.”
The darkness of the tunnels was replaced with a muffled blast of air and soft lighting. Colorful mosaic tiles and bright graffiti jumped out at me as the people waiting for the train to slide to a halt started stepping towards the waiting platform, their silhouettes a stark contrast against the rest of the station. The doors opened with a pneumatic hiss, there was a hubbub as people moved in and out, and then the doors closed again with a click. It was almost hypnotizing to watch. “Next up, Jackson Avenue Station.”
Two more stops... and perhaps a break from all of this.