Everything on television makes him cry. As he sobs during a thirty-second commercial about a father learning to video chat with his daughter, he realizes that he might have a problem. He does not care and continues to cry for four more minutes until a sharp pang of self-awareness makes him too embarrassed to continue.
The woman in front of him in the grocery checkout line does not ask for a receipt even though she paid for over $100 of food with a credit card. He wonders what it feels like to be that free and spontaneous. He makes sure to get a receipt for his $12.91 of children’s cereal, whole milk, and frozen crème brûlée. The cashier asks what he is doing this evening, but he does not realize that she is speaking to him until it is too late, so he walks away and says thank you without turning around. He decides to watch The Empire Strikes Back and eat the crème brûlée when he gets back to his apartment and now he feels good about tonight.
He can hear his roommate having loud sex on the other side of his bedroom wall. His roommate’s bed rattles into the thin hand-plastered wall that separates their spaces so he puts his headphones on and inadvertently drops the crème brûlée on the floor. He does not move. He can pick it up when he wakes up in the morning. He needs to purchase better headphones. The sex overpowers the Imperial Death March and he decides to leave the apartment before realizing that he has nowhere to go. He wonders what sex feels like, and then he wishes that his roommate’s bedroom would erupt in flames right as they are about to finish.
He sees one of his coworkers boarding the 6 train. The coworker sits across from him and says hey. He says hey back and now there is an awkward silence that makes his skin crawl. He pulls out his cell phone and pretends to receive a call. Yeah, sure, man, I can probably stop by after work tonight, he says. He does not usually use the word man in this manner. How the hell do you get a signal in the subway? his coworker asks him. He does not know what to say so he stands up and gets off at 28th Street and walks the remaining fourteen blocks to work.
He is lying in bed staring at the white ceiling and wondering what he would hold on to if gravity reversed itself and everything on earth was hurled into the sky. He decides that he would not hold on to anything. His roommate is having loud sex again, but this time with a girl who is not his girlfriend. He wonders what would happen if he told his roommate’s girlfriend about tonight. He wonders if he should say something to her before his roommate proposes on Valentine’s Day. He reminds himself to print out the restaurant coupon email he got for Valentine’s Day. He decides that he will get take out so he does not have to eat alone in the restaurant. He has only eaten alone in a restaurant once in his life and does not want to do it again.
He is lying in bed staring at the white ceiling and listening to the scream of distant sirens. He wonders what it feels like for the people who are waiting for those sirens to come save them. He wonders how many people are dying in the city right now.
His room is too warm and he realizes that his sweat has soaked through his sheets. He remembers the night when the hills behind his childhood home caught fire. A sea of smoke and flame spilling into the midnight sky. He thought the hills looked more beautiful afterward. He wonders how long he will have to wait for the fire that will devour this part of his life. Burning. Burning. Burning. Burning. Burning.
Zachery Morris studies international law at Stanford Law School. His fiction
has appeared in WhiskeyPaper. Find him at zacherymorris.com.