08 November 2010

In Which I Attempt Fiction

This is the beginning of that book I mentioned in an earlier post.

The kitchen sink, as it ever seemed to be, was full of dirty dishes. Some were stained with pasta sauce so old that had begun to petrify into a brownish crust that, for whatever reason, reminded me of Yellowstone. The plates, at least, were mostly dry. It was in the water filled bowls that the true horrors of bachelorhood revealed themselves. What was once a bowl of banana bread-flavored oatmeal was now a primordial swamp out of which, at any given moment, I expected an heretofore unknown species of nematode to come crawling. Ours was less a kitchen sink and more a tiny cosmos; I less an underemployed Bachelor of the Arts and more a wrathful god, with the power to give life to a billion microbes with my munificent leftovers or to snuff it out in a moment with the cataclysmic power of soap and sponge.

The time had come for me to pass my apocalyptic final judgment over the kitchen sink once more, since all our forks were dirty and because Bryan Munzie – Bryan fuckin' Munzie! – had neglected to do the dishes like he'd promised he would.

“Aw shit, sorry man,” he said, clutching his head in his hands. “I forgot all about it. I thought up this awesome riff this morning and I spent all day trying to work it into that song I've been writing. Here, let me play it. It's fuckin' heavy.”

As he so often was about these sorts of things, Bryan was right – the riff was both awesome and fuckin' heavy. Not so much that it made up for the smell that was beginning to emanate from the kitchen, but enough so that I could overlook this latest transgression. This was vintage Bryan Munzie – he had a way about him that couldn't always keep his friends from being pissed at him, but could without fail keep them from staying that way. It was, perhaps, the same inexplicable personal charm that allowed him to bring home a different girl every other weekend in spite of the fact that he couldn't hold down a steady job to save his life. There was something about his mellow voice and scruffy beard that the ladies just seemed to find irresistible.

I, on the other hand, seemed to register somewhere between creepy and annoying to just about every girl with whom I would try to strike up a conversation. I always tried to be as gentlemanly and charming as I could, but I inevitably bungled every advance I made – I aimed to be like William Powell, but ended up like Jerry Lewis. Without fail, Bryan would come home with some starry-eyed girl on his arm while I came home with a half-empty hip flask and drunkenly crooning “Shuffle off to Buffalo” to nobody in particular. Bryan would take his lady friend du jour to his room and show off his collection of musical equipment and wow her with his schtick about being in a band and writing songs for their album. Sometimes, if she seemed like the sort of girl who liked such things, he would play a song or two for her on his guitar – he was, I must admit, a talented guitarist. What he and his girlfriend did next goes without saying. While all this was going on, I typically sat on the back porch, finishing whatever was left in my flask and having long, meandering conversations with the moon. Weather permitting, of course.

I probably should have resented Bryan's musical talents and success with women, but I didn't – at least not most of the time. In spite of his talents – and what many a guidance counselor would call potential – Bryan was very much a helpless sod. He was full of big ideas and ambitions, but lacked the motivation to pursue them. The band of which he spoke so proudly was essentially him, a few on-again-off-again buddies and some pirated software. It was certainly telling that I was the responsible flatmate.

Not that I had much room to criticize anyone. My only work came through the temp agency with which I was registered, and my only real motivation to work was to not seem as much of a failure as I sometimes felt like I was. I did have ambitions of my own – most significantly, I wanted to someday be a wealthy something-or-other with a pretty Armenian mistress whom I'd dress in the finest clothes, take to dinner at the finest restaurants and with whom I'd travel to all the wonderful and exotic places she and I could ever want to go. Of course, my ambitions were completely impractical and unrealistic – perhaps even more so than Bryan's loosely-defined dreams of a Bohemian Shangri-La – and even if they weren't, I was secure in my knowledge that little miss Sarkissian – or whatever her name might be – would eventually become smitten with a handsome young Italian who owned a winery in the Po Valley and a ranch in the Argentine, a development which would prompt me, in a fit of jealous rage and heartbreak, to shoot first him and then myself, leaving her her to return home and, at long last, marry that nice Armenian boy down the street like her parents wanted her to do in the first place. She will hopefully have by then learned an important lesson about the inability of money to buy true love and happiness (or some such bullshit).

I, however, was a million miles from the Po Valley and the Argentine, a million miles from pretty Armenian girls, a million miles from anything. There was only me, a temp agency, a mercurial roommate, booze bottles, beer cans, bong hits, bootlegged prescription painkillers, bar-stools, bills, and, perhaps most pressingly of all, a sink full of dirty dishes which, once again, I had to fucking clean.

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