As laconic as his face after he arrived, the phone call that initiated everything
ended before I really understood anything.
“I’m coming over, unlock the front door,” then, silence—a silence that pursued
me long after I clicked off the phone, long after I clicked off any sense of agency
and long after every subsequent movement. Where I am now is where I sat then,
on my couch looking out into the street through sun suffused blinds.
He showed up in a navy blue jacket, gray vest and navy blue pants. Every
possible flaw in attire and demeanor seemed resolved long in advance. Take
his pants. They seemed to touch the uppermost curves of his irreproachably
polished shoes regardless of his position, sitting, standing, crossing his
legs and so on. The contours of his jacket corresponded to the contours of
his body, shoulder to shoulder, wrist to wrist, waist to waist. Not even an
errant thread around the holes in his buttons. No hair rebelling. No light
encroaching from my windows to alter the fragments of gray and blue in his
eyes that corresponded to his suit. The sun blazed at his back the whole
time, and yet his image stayed distinct, unmarred by the blur.
The phone call, in addition to establishing our relationship, also
prefigured the crazed impotence I felt succeeding all of my decisions. A
sort of regressive contemplation that left my present mind stale and without
any sense of action. What exactly motivated my action if not simply his
request over the phone? Not twenty seconds after opening the front door, I
returned to the couch without a firm memory of my own motivation. Obsession
clenched me entirely and every remembrance surfaced slightly more denatured.
Furthermore, what authenticity could anything claim after unlocking the
Five minutes after his call, still immersed in such consideration,
consideration that then resembled a spent matchstick, I heard footsteps
leading up the stairs to my apartment and a voice, reduced to a small tenor
behind my door—
“Let me in, open the door.” He brushed by me, pushing my body aside heading
to the couch. He wiped crumbs clear and threw a magazine to the ground
I didn’t feel anything towards him, or even about him, it was around him,
with him as part of the whole scheme that I felt a strange indecision
regarding everything. As if I could effectively trivialize every feeling
while still genuinely feeling it. His mien shone as natural as the slits of
light that penetrated my blinds and fell on the floor and
what I would have done, even in that early state of unknowing, to be a mote
of riled dust sinking back to the floor with the sun’s guidance. I quickly
viewed the time before he came to present somewhat of a baffling absence.
Confusion is the air between the dust, the invisible abettor. But he
refused either as his emblem. Neither could be his.
Only the one feeling remained—the obsession with trying to figure it out.
His first remark, after a lengthy silent appraisal of myself, the apartment
and his nails:
“In three seconds, you’ll change the television channel out of impulsive
awkwardness and on the new channel will be a knife commercial.”
I changed the channel and a woman with gaudy jewelry smiled back caressing a
large wooden block with black handled kitchen knives. I set the remote down
as if in reflexive rebellion, but my hand again reached for it when he said
“pick it up.”
Please, press me back down into the cracks of the floor and I will be a
happy piece of dust.
Again I found it impossible to extricate what happened from the possibility
of it not happening and every moment that occupied the silences between his
interjections immersed me in deeply aggravated re-creation of the act. When
did his demand begin in relation to when my hand moved? They couldn’t
possibly concur and yet I no longer believed in my movement. Plus, watching
tv before and during his conjecture [if it was conjecture] easily assigned
to his statement a degree of reliance upon the situation and the inherent
possibilities. Every such reductive thought felt as if it gained credence
and license under his watch. Even actions such as blinking, breathing,
slight twitches, felt as though he already possessed knowledge of their
In thought, I curled up into a long blue thread and entwined myself in his
suit, becoming a color, not a form. In thought, I became the sun-inflected
air that traversed his unmoving face, looking for contours as proof of
something. But I probably wouldn’t even find pores. The whole time I sat
thinking all of this he looked at me, arms crossed and eyes set. I noticed
the watch he had on had no arms and no numbers.
“These knives are guaranteed not to rust or becomes dull—I think we have
someone on the line, caller are you there?”
“Close the blinds.” He yawned and sat back. I closed the blinds, awash in
trying to remember each minute difference of each action. My jaw had set
itself toughly and it wrenched my temples. With the blinds closed, the only
light allocated fell across both his eyes like a visor. The apartment felt
Only a person of surgical temperament can clean dust. You have to be
patient with it, if to avoid merely sending it up into the air for another
round of settlement. You have to hate and love it, but more than not, love
to watch its removal turn the ground bright. Any single moment of hurried
insistence could ruin an afternoon’s worth of work. And what’s more, the
protracted interlude between sending it up and watching it fall. Staying
active will keep it from falling on you, but nothing will stop it from
“You should clean this place up. It’s embarrassing.” He held his watch up
to his ear, evidently testing it, before giving a dissatisfied look and
setting it down on the coffee table. “In three minutes, you will suddenly
think me escapable and will use the bathroom as a cover for further thought
regarding how to eliminate me. You will turn on the faucet to create the
illusion that you are doing something, as though it is possible to really
conceal your actions. A drop of water will splash out onto your pants and
while you try to rub it dry you will think about how some things only need
exposure to the air to disappear. You will be right. But, if you don’t
think you’re right, then you’re not.”
This statement interesting me with its complexity and exactness and I had to
wonder if, because of this complexity and advanced speculation, he had
simply predicted or tried to induce. His phone request bore the stamp of
automatic response, the channel prediction seemed inseparable from its
context, the suggestion to clean could affix itself to impression and the
remote remark is still marked with doubt as its concurrence and obviousness
Additionally, a different style of expression further complicated things.
Some statements contained simple prediction, some an imperative and some
combined the two subtly, even relying on predicting something that involved
me and could therefore be refused, if only to deny him. I decided to
further consider these things without him around—I decided on the bathroom.
“You’ll be right back.”
“I’ll be right back”
The cold toilet seat goaded me as I thought about the situation in its
fullest detail and potential for evasion. All of the things thus far
experienced could logically be explained and only aroused interest if I
attributed a singularity to them myself, or if I refused myself singularity.
Also, each experience occurred as a hearing individual. This seemed too
obvious for any use, yet, it would be impossible to determine if any of the
preceding would have happened had I not heard them.
Ok, this is something, I thought. He’s going to suspect something if I take
too long. This in mind, I hit the faucet for some cover. The steam from
the water floated out and a drop escaped the rim wetting my pants. Rubbing
it idly, the wet spot slowly evanesced into nothing. The air had retrieved
it, only the fibers of my pants could hold it and only silent eventuality
could retire it.
Perfect! If I couldn’t hear him, I couldn’t possibly adhere to anything he
said. However, in not hearing him, that doesn’t necessarily mean he
wouldn’t be talking or even trying to induce in other ways. He seemed
entirely reliant upon me to relate himself, so sitting still would render
him ineffectual. But again, I would still never know if he knew in advance
my actions. I decided to chance it. But how would I block my own hearing?
A knock on the door derailed my thinking and, not knowing what measure to
take, I stood still, as if to disappear, when a piece of paper slid under
Footsteps withdrew and turned to little taps as they left the apartment.
The paper slowly became limp under the weight of the settling steam as I
read its few short sentences.
“There are Q-tips in the drawer. Rip off the cotton and stuff it into your
ears. I am leaving now but I want you to write down everything that has
happened. Also, leave the front door open in case I want to return. Don’t
forget to clean the place.”
I threw the paper into the garbage and returned to the living room. The
knife commercial was still on. A grid of sunlight rested on the floor, my
door locked tight. The peep hole showed me no one.
“These knives won’t rust and are guaranteed to remain sharp.”
A tiny breeze lifted the blinds and as they slapped back against the window
frame, a little miasma of old dust glided upward. When I tried to grab it,
the wind from my hand blew the cloud away.