Posted on January 18th, 2014
I was hungry. Not that kind of hungry that people in office buildings get when they want expensive salads and talk about their blood sugar, the kind where you’re sick to your stomach and you have a headache and even just thinking really clearly about food makes you dizzy and instead of eating all you can think about is being hungry. I got up from where I was sitting and walked around my kitchen. There were things in the cabinets but none of them seemed to be anything that was of any use to me. So I put on my coat and my boots and my hat and I stepped outside. It was nighttime. That stars were all moving around me in such a way that it felt like I was spinning even though I was standing still. I lit a cigarette and stood in the middle of the street outside my house. It can be a pretty busy street sometimes so I guess I was sort of lucky that no cars came by since I’m not sure I would have thought to do anything about it if they had. That’s a weird idea anyway. Being lucky, I mean. I’ve never really been able to figure out what it’s supposed to be. It’s not really a personified force in the world, like it’s not supposed to be god or jesus or something I don’t think. Sometimes people talk about “lady luck” but I always figured that was more of a rhetorical device than an actual lady who walks around handing out luck or sprinkling people with luck dust or whatever. It’s just really abstract, is what I’m saying. Like if the word “luck” didn’t even exist and people just used the word “good” instead, like instead of saying “that was lucky that that guy didn’t see you” you just said it was “good” that that didn’t happen, I’m not sure anything would really be lost in the translation. I started walking down the street towards the corner market where they sell junk food and magazines and lotto tickets and gasoline all night. I made a little game out of walking on the two yellow lines in the very center of the road like they were some kind of tightrope. I stuck my arms out at my sides like I was trying to keep my balance and made some really exaggerated stumbles but of course I didn’t really fall since I was just walking on regular flat road. Some of the houses had their lights on but I didn’t see any people in them. I wondered what the people in the houses were doing as I was walking by. A lot of them are watching TV I bet, some of them are probably jerking off or having sex. I bet at least one house or apartment that I walk past on my way to the store, I bet the people in there are doing something really strange, like eating raw meat or making their kids dress up weird or just lying butt naked in an inflatable pool full of thousand island dressing and laughing really hard. There must be at least one thing that I do that someone who walked past my apartment thinking what I’m thinking would have thought was weird. I’m not, like, really that interesting, so maybe they wouldn’t have. You know what though there is one thing, sometimes I sit on my couch and look at the TV for a long time even though it’s not turned on. It’s not like I’m deep in thought or anything, I just sit there looking off at nothing for like hours at a time, sometimes when I’m really tired but sometimes when I just can’t think of what else I might be doing. I don’t think that’s that weird but I’ll bet someone would, some real type A who takes vacations to go rock climbing in our nation’s national parks or schedules their free time on their cell phone so they can reference later what they thought they should be doing. I kept looking into the windows to see if anyone would look out at me but no one did. I wonder what someone who saw me would think, walking down the center of the street with my arms out like a tightrope walker on a freezing cold night. I’ll bet if some parents saw me they would worry that I might try to interact with their kids or damage their property. I wonder if it is a tendency of parents that they are naturally more suspicious of people like me or if it is a sign of my immaturity that I worry about the inevitably, at least I assume inevitably, negative opinion that parents in general will have of me. Weirder than walking past the lit up windows was walking past the dark ones. The people inside those houses must be asleep. It felt somehow invasive to be walking past these people’s houses while they were asleep, like they might wake up and see a newspaper headline reading UNIDENTIFIED INDIVIDUAL WALKS STRANGELY PAST HOUSES: HOMEOWNERS NONE THE WISER and wonder if they should move to a different neighborhood. I came to an intersection. The market was on the corner diagonally opposite me. I watched the traffic lights turn from green to red even though there were no cars at the intersection. I don’t know why but I pressed the button and waited for the walk signal. When the little white stick figure guy showed up on the crosswalk signal I hurried diagonally across the street, not quite running but not really walking either. The market was a weird beacon of fluorescent white light beaming out from the hazy blue suburban twilight. Adult contemporary alternative radio hits that were about as old as a decent bottle of inexpensive wine hummed softly, indistinctly really. A case of premade sandwiches and burritos lined a wall adjacent to the syrup and ice drink making machine. None of them appealed to me in any particular way so I chose one basically at random and walked towards the counter. The cashier informed of the price of the sandwich I had chosen without looking directly at me, only generally in the direction of the front of the counter. I thought about hurting him. It would be misleading to say that I “considered” it because it’s not like I had any real reason to do so or had to come up with a reason not to or anything. I just thought about how easy it would be and how little there was that was that prevented me from doing that. I pictured myself grabbing the back of his head and slamming it into the counter. I wondered if one slam would be enough to break his nose. I wondered if five would be enough to kill him. I wondered if I would be able to kill him by slamming his face into the counter at all, and if I would be able to do it quickly enough that it would be over before he really fully understood what was happening to him. I wondered what would happen immediately after, if I started running right then and got on a bus and wound up in Mexico or something if I could actually escape the repercussions for having done that. I wondered if I would feel guilty or not. I handed him four one dollar bills and he gave me back thirty seven cents in change. I thanked him by nodding curtly and turning around and walking out the door. The thought occurred to me that part of thanking him involved not slamming his head into the counter but I guess in reflection that that was sort of ridiculous. I walked outside and back across the street and started eating the sandwich as I walked home. It was bland and cold and very slightly soggy and seemed like something that was intended to be microwaved although I sincerely doubted that spending time in a microwave would have done this particular sandwich any miracles. As I was walking and eating a group of guys roughly my age were walking on the sidewalk on the same side of the street in the opposite direction, meaning that they were walking towards me. At a distance they were talking pretty loudly and moving around a lot, but as we got closer to each other they quieted down a bit and all looked at me while trying not to seem like they were looking at me and I did the same to them. At the very moment we passed each other I tensed up a little and I even made a fist in my pocket with my non-sandwich hand just in case it turned out they were looking for trouble. Because I mean, you can never really tell what someone else is thinking.