Friday, April 1, 2011

The Loser's Day Off

Pat Tillman

The Complete and Total Loser spends one day and one night a week at his parents' house these days due to their declining health. He spends one third his time there trying to mediate their constant bickering—his mother has gotten mean with age, his father responds like a sad, bullied child—one third sleeping, and one third shopping for them. 
The Loser has gotten used to the shopping, having resigned himself to driving to as many as five stores to fill the wants and needs of two people. No wonder, the Loser thinks, people say the American way of life is unsustainable. 
What this means is that the Loser has one day that is truly his, one day off, and today was such a day. 
He wakes around ten and turns on the tiny radio on his night table. A few minutes of an AM all news channel tells the Loser that the world is in one piece and that it's still cold in his part of it, despite spring's completion of its first week.
After his morning shower (he showers at night, too) the Loser eats. He fries two eggs, toasts two slices of bread and prepares one cup of coffee. He eats at his computer, checking his email for his daily word and his daily almanac. Today the almanac entry was about moths and the Loser learns that they fly to lights at night not because of the illumination but because they think the heat comes from another moth and they're pursuing their quest to propagate. 
His meal complete, the Loser puts his dishes in the sink and carries his weekly load of laundry down four flights to his building's basement. The clothes, all colors mixed, barely fit in the machine. He starts the cycle and returns to his apartment, where he futzes with papers and things for half an hour. He puts on a light coat and his bicycle helmet and goes back to the basement where he puts his laundry in the drier and unlocks his bicycle. His first stop is the post office where he drops his latest Netflix movie in the box outside the building. (It was a documentary about Pat Tillman. A good movie, the Loser thought, but don't we all know by now that the last administration was a venal cabal of greedy, short-sighted people who would stoop as low as imaginable to keep the world one they felt comfortable in?)
After the P.O. the Loser is off to the library to return the two DVDs he checked out last week. One of them he watched just to see if it was as bad as advertised: Sex and the City II. Awful, but only because signals had changed since its inception and people worried about lost jobs and homes were in no mood to coo over rampant materialism. The movie delivered what its fans wanted—in 2007.
The Loser pedaled downtown and bought a new shirt and a belt at a low-end clothing emporium and produce and vegetables at a large indoor farmers' market. Lately he's been craving sesame balls, which he gets at a bakery in his city's Chinatown. They are delicious. He'll go years without eating one, then he'll want four a week. The woman behind the counter didn't catch his order when he asked for three so he repeated it in Chinese, just for fun, as he held up three fingers. She understands this, which is not common as what little Chinese the Loser remembers from his year there in the 1980s he speaks poorly and few Chinatown residents speak Mandarin.
He goes home and takes his dry clothes upstairs, where he dumps them on his twin bed. He hangs his no-iron dress shirts and folds his T-shirts. It's taken him decades, but the Loser has figured out socks. He buys thick crew socks that are all the same so there's no need for pairing. When he feels the cool floor through his sole it means that sock is worn and he tosses it. There are new ones in reserve. So on any day the Loser is wearing two socks of different ages but in similar condition.
He emails, naps, reads sections of his Sunday paper and backlogged magazines. Around six he plans dinner. He's on a quinoa kick at the moment and cooks a cup in his rice cooker. He mixes it with a cut up bell pepper, chunks of tofu and tomato sauce and eats it out of a bowl while watching a TV series he took out of the library.
He spends the rest of the evening the way he spent the day. No real contact with anyone. A look at some Net porn. More reading and DVD viewing. At 11 he takes his second shower and, his teeth brushed and flossed, his tongue scrapped, gets into bed where he considers masturbating but lacks the drive and energy, so he reads again until he reaches above his head for his light switch. He bought the light some years ago. It's a small halogen bulb on a dimmer switch, which is perfect for when his aging urinary system calls him out of bed at four in the morning. He twists the little knob and the light dims, then clicks off.

No comments:

Post a Comment