by Chris Milam
There’s congealed blood in the grout between the ceramic tiles. I grab an old toothbrush and start scouring. That’s one benefit of having dentures, scrubbing grout with an unneeded device.
I glance in the mirror. It tells me that my Abercrombie and Fitch T-shirt is drenched in blood. Damn. Need quarters for the laundromat.
Grab the bottle of bleach and go to work on turning my sink from its current reddish-brown back to it’s more proper sheen of dull white.
Make a pot of coffee. Inhale a blueberry bagel with a smear of artificial butter on top. Still famished. Put a tablespoon of sugar in the cup, kill it in two gulps. There’s a note on kitchen table.
“Dear Psycho, I’ve moved on, so should you. Don’t send me anymore syrupy poems or pathetic mixed CDs. No more texts about true love and fate. It’s over, Josh. It’s been over for a while. Check the fridge.”
Olivia. Memories forming. Fragments. Snippets of conversation.
“Just give me the box of clothes, Josh. I don’t have time for your woe-is-me shit. You need to grow up.”
“I’ll do it, I swear to God, Olivia. You know I will. Please stay just five minutes or five years and we can hash this out. I love you. I can’t unlove you, baby. It ain’t that simple.”
“Really? I unloved you as soon as Brandon glanced my way. It wasn’t hard at all, you should try it. Or don’t, I don’t care, just leave me alone.”
The box is gone. She’s gone. Phone vibrates. Lance.
“How’d it go with Olivia, last night?”
“It’s still a bit hazy. Blood everywhere, an incendiary note. My body feels like I just finished a month on an oil rig. I’m spent, man.”
“Not again, dude. Seriously? There are other women out there, Josh. This getting out of hand. She’s not worth it, eventually this won’t end well.”
“I’m caked in blood again, I wouldn’t call that a good ending. There’s no replacing Olivia, my love is her tenant, her prisoner.”
“No, your love is unrequited. You need the fishing filament, I assume?”
“Yes. Or the dental floss, either or. Thanks. See you shortly.”
I shuffle over to the fridge. Grab the Tupperware bowl sitting next to the skim milk. Snag the block of Colby cheese, my stomach is groveling like a vagrant fiending for a cigarette.
Sunday Bloody Sunday by U2 leaking from the stereo. I wonder if Bono has cured worldwide poverty yet. Or if he wears retro sunglasses when sleeps with his wife. Probably.
A gentle knock on the door. Lance.
“You ruined a cool shirt, man. Maybe next time go with a NASCAR one or go shirtless. Just a thought.”
He hands me a small brown paper bag.
“You’re a sage, Lance. I’ll call you later.”
Turn the stereo off and the TV on. Pawn Stars. Degenerate gamblers selling off family heirlooms for another shot at the poker table. Sentimentality trumped by the allure of catching a flush on the river.
Plop down on the couch. Rip off a hunk of cheese and let my new teeth tentatively perform their only duty, chewing. Last nights conversation becoming more clear.
“Rip your own heart out, Josh. I’m not impressed. You could have just treated me better. A bouquet of tulips, cook me some scallops. Make love to me face to face occasionally. But this? I’ll just stick with Brandon and his gentle spirit.”
“How are you not impressed? Would your new man have the courage to do what I have done? Love is about sacrifice. I’ve clearly met that threshold in the past. As I will again, tonight. I’ll keep doing it until your finger wears metal.”
I empty out the brown bag. Grab the needle and start threading it with the dental floss. Pop the lid on the Tupperware bowl. Lift out the fatigued muscle inside.
Desperate knuckles landing blows on my door. Jerry from across the hall. He’s wearing crocs, I let it slide. His shirt is a bloody Rorschach image.
“I told her it was my declaration of love. A statement of pain tolerance. She just yawned and left anyway. Left a note telling me to check the fridge. You have any fishing filament left, Josh?”
“Come on in, man. Let’s get you stitched up.”