May 12th, 2013. The sky was a bit cloudy that day and the trees were finally green, it was a beautiful week outside, that is, for those who actually go outside. I’ve been comfortably seated at my scruffy couch with a drink that has stained my red-oak coffee tisch. Torence used to call my table red-oak all the time. Torence was the type of person that liked specificity. She’d go out of her way to use complicated vocabulary, even as far as describing her bus-rides into town as “Quite Inertiatic”.
I’m a man of the old-fashioned kind, so I go over to the liquor cabinet and grab a bottle of whiskey I inherited from my father, and by inherited I mean of course: stole from him as he lay on his death bed and asked for my siblings. I decided a long time before his first heart attack that I would get something of his, whether or not it was included in his will. It wasn’t of course until my brother spotted it sitting in my bedroom drawer that it began raising suspicion as to how I got a hold of it.
I never did know what I wanted to be. I’ve always known it would have to be something I was good at. Although I aced chemistry in high school; the concept of a bachelor’s degree in it and going the whole mile by getting a masters and even a doctorate in it would shatter all my hopes in becoming a male stripper. At least that’s something I know I have potential for because – see Mr. Hunt, who lives in the building to the left of my door, thrives off this. He’s a peculiar man. 3 years ago I was playing around with a 33mm drill while hoisting one of Torences paintings to jab it on to the wall right above our – my – bed. Instead I created a glory hole for Mr. Hunt to peek through once a week. I know exactly when he does it. He usually prefers Tuesday nights right after dinner, although there were several cases when he chose a well-deserved Friday evening instead.
I suspect it’s about the same age as Mr. Hunt; the old typewriter I had gotten from my mother in freshman year of college sits on the oak-red table of my otherwise dark-beige room. The dust falling off it stains almost as much as the now empty glass on my imaginary coaster. It’s an ugly color, most likely deemed acceptable in the 90s, back when I was paying tax through my father’s paychecks and pension money. He was my very own personal bank, back when I was on his will.
My mother could never remarry after him. She’s godsend; One of the slightly more optimistic parts of my childhood. She’s what kept me from grabbing the sword-musket on our mantelpiece and stabbing myself with it. The only realistic conclusion I could come to when asking myself why he ever grew to like me in the end of my college years might have been because of what naïve ambition I had left in me. Apparently enough to get a college degree in law (sadly not chemistry).
Of course, as soon as I decided to return to college for another few years to get a BA in English Literature his conservative mind from the 1200s could simply not comprehend where he had gone wrong in raising this assuredly perfect young man.
I can sense the clouds outside are going to result in catastrophic thunder. A thunderstorm is always highly anticipated on my behalf. When I was 10 years old I remember developing a strange addiction to rain. I’ve always loved the very idea and essence of rain. It’s water in its rawest form. For a 10 year old kid to sneak out in the middle of the night while his father fell asleep in front of the TV and his mother gabbed away on the phone about racist neighbors was an adrenaline rush. Absolutely, scandalously thrilling. I would grab a blanket from the closet hidden behind the entrance door of our summer house in the South of France. I’d run out into the middle of the field, the grass would be moist from the humidity mixed with fog, and as soon as I found a good stump to sit on: I’d curl up in my blanket and stalk the clouds until finally! A stroke of lightning from a distance would glaze my glasses with a powerful flash. I felt like Frankenstein out there. The lightning made the thought of being caught by my parents seem a miniscule and immaterial matter. They’d call my habit idiotically stupid and my father would complain about the hospital bills he would have to pay once I got pneumonia. My mother would just cry about how dirty my blanket was after all the muddy rain leaked onto it and it had been dragged around on wet grass.
Despite my attraction the concept of lightning frightens me to the very core. Something so powerful that it can either kill you or let you live instantly; all determined by the electric charge it carries at the very moment you’re struck. A soul-wrecking art. Torence always thought I was insane for sitting out on the balcony with a nice hot cup of coffee during a thunder-storm. She complained that living on the 7th floor was risky enough. If we were ever struck by lightning, she said, all our circuits and other insignificant things were at risk. I couldn’t stand her in the end. The specificity and daily complaints: That I could live with, but when she insulted my strangely fascinating hobbies, I couldn’t take it anymore.
By now the rain outside has destroyed the grass, it’s probably not even considered grass anymore, just muck. The clouds are getting denser. The view from my living room window is disgusting and smudged. I probably haven’t cleaned the windows since Torence left.
Bam! And there it is, the first strike of lightning, lucky for me I have a gorgeous view of it. Almost automatically the baby living right above me begins to squeal. When a baby cries it gives off emotion, it’s being alive; breathing rapidly, trying to voice its concern for its own well being and it’s telling his/her mother in the only way he/she can. Poor baby. I guess that’s what all humans do when they do anything that requires slight emotional strain. At least babies have the nerve to show it up front instead of sulking about it like adults do. And then we use the phrase “Don’t be such a baby”.
Oh! That was a big one. I mumble to myself as the baby goes silent and rapid footsteps approach from the bathroom to the living room upstairs. Tim? A light voice starts to panic. Like a blond beauty from a Hitchcock movie; Mrs. Darkins from upstairs has probably picked up her baby by now and… Right on cue. Her footsteps are scampering all over the apartment.
A quiet darkness.
I rub my eyes a couple of times. I can hear my slippers rubbing against the carpet, the sound of the water pipes through the walls. Even the occasional rat scampering in hallway outside, but most of all I can hear the rain dripping and constantly whipping against my window. It’s so quiet and peaceful in the absolute dark.
As a human in the 21st century you often forget how much serenity is necessary. It opens up a new world for your senses to roam. Sometimes all you need is the blackout of a thunderstorm to remind you. I can feel a fly buzzing around my neck, the hairs on my body stand and I miss my chance to slap it away.
[Two days ago my phone rang in the middle of my balcony-surveillance session. I was checking for any rat poisoning or rat traps Mrs. Giovanni might have slid through the plastic boundary separating her balcony from mine. In my recent years of living here I’ve come to a conclusion that Mrs. Giovanni could either be very interested in the art of animal-homicide or just practices intensely tedious and repetetive taxidermy. In any case, my interest in being invited over for tea is benign. Hence; my balcony surveys being so short and ruthless. The phone rang and I paced myself over to the night-stand it lay on. There were small paint splatters on the phone from Torence’s Jackson Pollock phase. As the telephone in this apartment is about the most expensive thing I myself have ever bought: I don’t see the point in getting a new one just to avoid the nostalgic heartburn caused by it every time I receive a weekly check-in call from my mother. It was Torence. “Hello?” I asked. “Hi. It’s me.”-“Hi”-“How are you?”-“Fine, Nice of you to call”-“I know…I know what you want to say, I just…didn’t think you’d care, honestly.”-“Right, right, cause 8 years is nothing, Torence.” I chuckled, hoping it would hide my obvious resentment. Silence. “I don’t like complicated”-“No one does, isn’t that why people hate life?”-“I don’t know…look, it just, it didn’t seem worth fighting over anymore”-“I guess”-“Yeah”-“But still, 8 god damn years Torence”-“Look…I didn’t call to rub this in, ok?”-“Then why did you call?”
Silence. In my mind the first phone call from her after our discontinuation was depicted as a much more elegant and graceful talk where I would be the grown up and she would plead for forgiveness. It of course involved me lecturing her about my father’s recent demise and how much I needed her. She already knew these things of course.
“I um…I don’t know if I’m the person who should be telling you this. I could get in a lot of trouble…” her voice was tender. and sweet.]