Wednesday, January 16, 2008

RS: Excerpts From an Inner Voice

A single bead of sweat released its hold on his forehead, sliming its way to the tip of his nose. It held, swelling, straining into pulse, unhinging into splatters against the gloved hand around his neck. Ray’s throat began to tighten, vomit churning upward, burning, crashing waves deposing breath. He could feel himself slowly losing consciousness but refused to unlock his stare into this man’s eyes. There was no face, just cold, blinking fissures, holding him in their grip, grasping as firmly as the clinched, gloved fingers around his neck. Finally, achingly, willingly, Ray closed his eyes and opened his mouth slightly to receive this stranger’s kiss.

Ray’s eyes snapped open and he clutched at his own throat as he rolled himself quickly, unsteadily from his bed and shuffled his feet toward the bathroom, weaving to navigate uncertain walls. He reached out for the light switch as he stepped onto the cold tile but missed. No time to reach again. Don’t dare turn for a better look. He dropped to his knees and hurled his face into the toilet. Heaved, purplish, chunky, acidy juice—splatters on rusty bowl, splashes on murky water. Some droplets ricocheted onto his right cheek as his Adam’s apple lurched and scooped up dribbles of old urine from the rim of the bowl. The rancid smell, wafting into his smoky haired nostrils, sent him into another thrusting retch.

He spit out what he hoped was the last of the puke and leaned over, licking his shirt sleeve, all smoke and sweat and bitter crust. Sitting back, his ass uneasily resting on his heels, he flushed and queasily watched as the former tenants of his stomach swirled away.

“Fuck.” His mouth framed the words but he could force nothing, no shout, no plea.

His stomach twitched then spasmed, discharging a tablespoon of bile into the back of his throat that he swallowed before he could think to spit it out.

Moonlight slammed onto the dust covered porcelain, reflecting off yellow-brown speckles around the toilet rim and gritty tiles. The blackened grout monochromatic against the darkness. Foot tingling as the blood strained into circulation.

An inner voice screaming, “How the fuck can you live in this filth?”

He strained to stand, reaching toward the sink for balance, pulling himself upright. The splash of cold water, gravel bouncing off his face, sobering him a bit, enough to remind him to scrub the vomit off his face and loosen the residual white powder from the inside of his nose, dislodged reflexively from a broken finger nail into the sink. Ray looked up into the mirror, a shadowed ghost of a face staring back, vaguely his father, only younger and with deader eyes.

He began to mutter, “Who was? That? Goddammit. That man choking me? What the fuck?”

Grabbing a towel, he raced to his room, this time slowing down to find the light switch. Razors of light sliced his eyes, convulsing lids, tentative slits opening onto the scene. An empty bed, barren but for a tangle of sheets.

“What a fucked up dream?” Ray thrashed the words, beating himself with every syllable and sending his brain into a panicked throb. He poured a full glass of water and three extra-strength something into his craving throat. Burn and bitterness diluting. He stumbled back into the bathroom and flicked on the light.

He jolted back from the mirror, raspberry pin pricks of blood forming a faint outline of fingers and thumb. He slowly wrapped his fingers around his neck, overlaying the outline. Not a perfect fit but close.

Out of control. Life a distant gyre and in a second he could picture it: a bloody, swirling outline of foreshadowed death. He coughed, part air, part laugh. Too cowardly to kill himself, too drunk to succeed. He dragged his open hand against the door frame and caught the light switch with his middle finger then achingly, defeatedly, glacially moved toward his room.

The smell of sweat and alcohol leached from his thousand thread count sheets. Flailing—labored breath and heavy limbs—to shake loose the twisted olive branch of sheet, Ray gave it an angry snap and lost his footing, sending him face first onto the bottom sheet, slamming and rebounding only inches from a moist black glove and near black stain of blood.

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