The beer he was drinking was brewed in Costa Rica. He’s never been to Costa Rica but drinking the beer that was brewed there made him believe that he knew something about Costa Rica. There was a ton of traffic in the street 14 stories below and he thought about having nothing in common with all those people, and then wondered if he had anything in common with anybody out there, and if he dropped his beer out the window that the odds it would land on somebody’s head would be greater than that it would not, and that would probably make him a murderer, so although he didn’t have anything in common with the people in the cars and the sidewalk down below, he didn’t want to be a killer, so he just finished the last slug of beer and threw it in the trash behind him.
The city is built upon the bones of ghosts.
Heart of Darkness was open in his lap but he wasn’t reading it. He was staring at a crack in his ceiling, picturing the crack growing until it split the ceiling open and he could stare through the gap at his neighbor who’d look down at him with giant spider eyes. He bought Heart of Darkness because the beautiful girl at the book store told him it was the most terrifying book she’d ever read. On page 62, he concluded that Heart of Darkness wasn’t nearly as terrifying as the beautiful girl at the book store.
The chest sitting in the corner of the room with the rusty lock whose key was hidden in a very secret place took his attention away from the crack in the ceiling that one day might split open into a wound. He wondered what people would think if he should die and they somehow find the key that opens the chest and go through it. Would people say, “I had no idea, he seemed like such a normal man”? Or would they suspect he harbored such secrets all along?
He was in a wallowing mood. No doubt about it. He thought maybe a walk might change his perspective. He needed fresh air. There certainly wasn’t any fresh air 14 stories up through the plaster and dry wall, through the smell of curry and decomposing newspapers and all the hoarding that even normal non-hoarding people do. Do any of us really need half the stuff we jam into our apartments and homes? He put on his coat and took the elevator down to the street. An elevator is just a box built for humans, hanging on a rope. It made him feel like he was hanging on a rope.
His mailbox lid was standing open. The stupid mailman must have forgotten to close it. His mail was still there, though. There’s nothing worth stealing from him. Especially his identity, he concluded. He closed the lid and made a plan to retrieve the mail in the morning.
The summer air was sticky, like a giant guava had a caesarean performed by a jittery surgeon. His shirt was sopping with sweat by the time he was at the end of the block. He put his foot on a yellow fire hydrant and tied his shoe as a blue-haired elderly lady passed, walking five dogs, four of them yapping, the other one biting on the leash. He told her, “Good evening.” She tugged on the leash, pulling the dogs away from him, and gave him a dirty scowl. “What the fuck is your problem?” He said. “I’m just trying to be nice, bitch.” The old lady gasped and took off at a trot. He contemplated running after her, maybe even grabbing her from behind, but just to teach her a lesson about being rude to people, you know.
There was a stench coming off the river so he headed east in an attempt to escape it. It was the smell of furious fish slowly death-rotting under a canopy of river kelp. They say the water doesn’t flow anymore it’s so thick with sludge. It just sits there, and when the sun is a burning torch sometimes it catches on fire, the flames like upside-down gyrating giant jellyfish.
Up ahead a taxi was pulled over and the cabbie was yelling at a man in the backseat that was wearing a civil war uniform. The cabbie screamed, “Get out! I don’t want you in my cab. You’re crazy.” The man in the backseat had a giant white beard that fell down to the top of his civil war uniform. As he got closer he noticed that there was a small flickering glow in the taxi, and could see that the man in the civil war uniform was smoking a billowing cigar and shaking his head around while he puffed away and the end of the cigar flared. “That’s what they tell all the geniuses,” he was saying. “You’re not ready to understand.” The cabbie reached back and smacked the cigar out of the man’s mouth and onto the sidewalk. It skidded into a bush and left a trail of embers sparking behind it. “You understand that!” The cabbie hollered.
The city is full of geniuses.
He turned a corner, almost colliding into a homeless guy pushing a shopping cart with one pant leg torn all the way up, revealing one butt cheek. The shopping cart held a gray dog with one eye haloed by white fur. The homeless man and the dog both turned and looked at him as he walk by. The dog opened its mouth to bark, but before he did, the homeless man put his hand over the dog’s snout and whispered, “Shh! Don’t talk to them.”
After this long walk, he’d be ready for bed when he got home, he thought. Usually he keeps his walks down to a couple of blocks, but he looked around and realized he hadn’t an idea where he was, and that he’d been walking longer than he could remember. The buildings were all foreign and the street signs unrecognizable, coated by factory ash and neglect. Something bleak and sharp entered his heart.
Then he saw it, blowing in the breeze.
It whipped and whirled, floated up to the top of a billboard advertising a movie that came out three years ago, then floated back down. ‘Happy birthday’ was written on one side. ‘Marcus’ on the other. It was dragging a long string that caressed the hoods of the cars it floated over. He watched it drift and bob, commuting over an empty street. A lone tear found passage down his cheek while a giant moon watched him watching a balloon from a sea away, a bundled of blurry stars held hostage in the background.
He now had only one thought on his mind. One urge carrying him through the battered streets.
Back at his apartment building the traffic had thinned and his building stood as a scared sentinel against the delirious night. He took the stairs 14 flights up, a physical pain to go along with the mental. Although he knew he was alone, he checked every room and lowered the blinds on the windows before he retrieved the secret key from its secret hiding place. As slow as he tried to lift it, the chest lid always made a groaning sound when he opened it, a low death moan. The smell of old paper and typewriter ink greeted him, adding something to the shame and remorse and frustration.
He stared at its contents, all the crowning titles on the pages and the hammered words filling them up, and decided he was in no mood, after all, to write any poetry tonight.