by Dan Nielsen
Simon Narrow awoke feeling feverish. His whole body ached. Except his feet. His feet were numb. Cold air touched his face. The tape covering the crack in the window had come loose in the night. It hummed like bees. He braced a hand on the nightstand and made it to his feet. His pants were on the floor. He crouched down to get them and fell back onto the bed. He slid them on and, once again, made it to his feet. He secured the belt on the extra hole he’d made. They were still loose. He’d need to make another hole. The hooded red sweatshirt hung from a nail on the door. He put it on and zipped it up. Socks and shoes meant once again sitting on the bed. He felt faint. He closed his eyes until the feeling passed. He managed to stand. He opened the door and walked down the hall to the communal bathroom. He peed. He washed his hands and face, careful to only use the soap that was his. He looked in the mirror, and there he was, standing in the bathroom, looking in the mirror.
Back in his room, he pressed the tape down as well as he could. He lit a cigarette. He opened a can of beans. He drank his last Pabst.
There were voices coming through the wall. It was Joe and his woman.
“I want to make you happy, Joe, but sex is a two-way street.”
“I understand that, honey.”
“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
“It’s all good, baby.”
“Joe, a woman is like a snowflake.”
“Right. I agree. No two are the same.”
“You know, like snowflakes?”
“What are you talking about?”
“I have no idea, sweetheart. I’m sorry. Please come back to bed.”
There was a sign in the entranceway: GENTLEMEN ONLY! NO WOMEN ALLOWED! But the women got in anyway, usually through the windows. That’s how Simon Narrow’s window got cracked, a woman trying to get in.
He turned on the radio. It was the talking station. He pressed a button and the one with classical music came on. He listened for a while. He liked classical music, but only for a while. He put on a coat and pulled a knit cap over his ears. He checked his wallet. He had money.
At the 7-11, Simon Narrow bought Camels, Nyquil, three Krispy Kremes, and a six-pack. By the time he returned to his room, the tape had come loose again. He’d need more tape, better tape. He drank the bottle of Nyquil. He washed the donuts down with beer. He listened to the station with people talking. It was a story about a miner working miles underground in a space too low to stand. Simon Narrow had one of his panic attacks. In this panic attack, he was locked in a box with his knees pressed against his chin, and everything else—the room—the radio—the cracked window—was a fantasy his mind created to make him forget that he was locked in a box with his knees pressed against his chin.
Simon Narrow did a breathing exercise. He inhaled deeply to the count of five, held it to the count of five, and exhaled completely to the count of five. It wasn’t working. It never worked.
He fell asleep to a humming like bees.