by Bob Beier
He looked at himself in the mirror for the first time in he didn't know how long. The feeble bathroom light caused dark shadows to pool around his feet and slip into his skin, making the wrinkles seem deeper than they really were. His eyes were bloodshot. The pupils narrowed to shut out the relative brightness. The skin around his cheekbones was taut. His complexion had an oily sheen. He pulled his left eyelid down with his middle and index fingers. He noticed that his nails had grown long and a thin layer of dirt lined the bottoms. He wondered how his nails could get dirty from lying in bed for a week. Maybe it was the awfulness trying to make its way out.
He wondered what the time was as he looked at the stubble that had sprouted from his face. He regretted having smashed his clock against the wall. Cooking it in the oven was really too much but it had been great watching it melt through the window that the engineers had thoughtfully placed in the door.
The left index finger tapped the side of the sink. Part of him hadn't forgotten that he was still alive. He thought that his beard hadn't an idea about anything. It's persistent. A barber once said that when people are completely dead, too far dead to come back, their hair will refuse to acknowledge the fact and keep growing. Perhaps much more of him had forgotten. Maybe he'd been dead for a long time, he thought. Perhaps from the age of five on.
The finger stopped tapping. What was the exact day? He looked over to the blackened bathroom window. He'd spray painted all of the windows on a Tuesday. How much time had passed was uncertain but he remembered clearly that he came home on a Tuesday and locked the door. When the bolt slid in he knew that he might never step outside again. He was fine with that.
He took off all of his clothes, carefully folded the starched shirt and non-wrinkle pants and put them in the trashcan. The tie was coiled carefully on top so that it looked like a snake. He wished that he would've thought to take out the trash before committing himself to his apartment. He thought that his fate had been sealed. Driven to suicide by the smell of rotten Chinese food and empty tuna cans. All of the old art supplies in his closet were riffled through until a can of black spray paint was found. He walked to the front of the apartment and raised the blinds. His hands came away dusty and he sneezed. The nozzle was depressed and blackness flew out of the can and onto the window. With each turn of the arm a world that he never wanted to see again, was eliminated.
Just like in the cartoons. The dailies were no good. Mistakes had been made and now it was time to go through and erase. The feeling was enjoyable. He pictured the whole world turning black and choking from the paint. Even the light would be erased and with the light all contrast would disappear and the world would shrivel like a piece of fallen fruit.
He turned and walked into the bedroom and raised the blinds. The windows were long and looked onto a garden with a tricycle turned over in a gathering of peonies. He hated those plants and erased them first, drawing a long line up the right side of the window. He stepped back and surveyed his work. A woman stared at him from across the street. With a spray she ceased to exist. The tricycle was obliterated next because it was red and it reminded him of a farm that he would rather forget. He had experienced such happiness there that it made the hard times harder by comparison. When the tricycle was finished, all that was left was an oak tree, the darkening sky, and some grass. He erased the grass and looked at the tree and sky. The tree cut up the vastness into tiny pieces. How beautiful it was to be able to study eternity held in check by a tree. Everything was taken out except one tiny hole that was small enough to cover with his hand. He stared for a long time through the hole that held the leaves and sky. That could be dealt with. What was left couldn't hold cruelty or dishonesty. The sky had almost extinguished itself. The leaves disappeared as individuals and became a dark fluttering spot. Like a blackbird caged by skeletons.
The remaining bit of the world was erased. He walked into the bathroom and painted over the small window that looked into the alley. What would his landlords think when they saw his windows? He reasoned that if the world had been erased they must be gone too. He stood in the bathroom and laughed. He pointed the can of spray paint at the mirror, his finger tense on the nozzle. The reflection shaking. The tears rolling hot down its face.
About the author:
Bob Beier lives in Brooklyn. He very much wants to visit the caves painted with animals and strange symbols over in France. He also wants to go to the Isle of Elephanta.