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Authors: Sam Pink

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BOOK: Rontel
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And early evening will pass into the next day, sun rising on me through the (blinds closed, DUH) windows.

And I’ll turn the videogame off.

Stand, stretch, walk to the window, open two blinds with my first and middle finger, and look outside.

No focus, just looking.

Forever, as a feeling that takes place inside of time.

What next—I’ll think, staring outside.

What next, Chicago.

How do you want me to fuck you, Chicago.

Then I’ll go to bed, to another terrifying dream of being on the deck of a ship during a violent storm.

Same fucking shit.

Sweating on the floor this afternoon, I decided to take a shower to stop sweating on the floor this afternoon.

*

After the shower, I noticed my only towel wasn’t clean.

It smelled really bad and had crumbs all over it and I think Rontel pissed on it and it would probably give me a rash.

So I got some paper towels and used them to dry myself off.

At first, looking at the sheets of paper towel, I thought—This is the saddest thing that will ever happen to me.

But no.

That’s silly.

Using paper towels to dry off after showering might not be bad.

Why get upset.

Why get upset about anything.

Everything felt automatic.

Controlled.

Control yourself.

Ok, I will.

No, you don’t even know how to start.

That’s true.

Look at the paper towels.

Dry yourself.

It’s a new day.

Start this new day.

You can do anything you want, just have to dry off with those paper towels first.

Exciting.

Exciting because I knew if I wanted, it could be the beginning of a new period in my life.

One where I solved problems as they happened.

One where I solved problems before they even had all their elements.

A new period where I eliminated problems before they were problems.

With no fears or concerns, because those were for people who viewed life as a future, not something already happening.

A period where I thought, “No future”—and meant it positively.

A period where I stood up and said, “Yes, I have used paper towels to dry myself off after showering, and I don’t care if I do it again and again—except for the cost of buying the paper towels.”

This is it—I thought, standing in my bathroom naked and dripping, already sweating again.

This is all there is.

Nothing else outside of being here right now, naked and dripping.

Sweating.

No end to the recycling.

Just keep going keep going.

Stop thinking.

I began to dry myself off.

Noticed you can’t use the same drying motion with paper towels as you can with a fabric towel.

Truly, two different towels.

The best method was to fold two connected paper towels in half—over each other—then gently touch them down over the wet areas of your body.

Scrubbing motions wrinkled and tore the paper towels.

I was able to dry off my whole body with about three paper towels, adding a third to the first two near the end.

In conclusion, using paper towels to dry off: not bad!

It was a nice, fun way to keep dry.

Something new.

Also, it kind of made me feel like an escaped prisoner, or someone running from someone else maybe, maybe some kind of secret government agency.

Like I’d broken into someone’s apartment and had to use whatever was available then quickly escape.

Have to get out quick—I thought, smiling.

Have to escape.

I thought about escaping as I dried off.

Then I thought—No, this is all there is.

Can’t get out.

Rontel came into the bathroom and licked water off my shin then drank water from the faucet in the bathtub.

He sat under the faucet sticking his tongue out to each drip.

Timed.

And I folded the paper towels and threw them on the floor.

On top of all the old hair and beard clippings from when I’d cut my hair or beard without sweeping.

But yeah, paper towels.

Not bad!

*

After that, I went to the Uptown Public Library to use their air conditioning and internet.

It was difficult for me to always use the Uptown Public Library for their air conditioning and internet because of the hatred I felt towards the place for never responding to my job application—the one I partially completed then just submitted, hoping it wouldn’t matter that certain parts weren’t complete.

But, I’d been using the Uptown Public Library internet to visit this website that sold a lot of different products and allowed you to write reviews.

I’d write reviews for random products.

Today I did one for paper towels.

I titled the review: “We all know paper towels are a whiz in the kitchen,”—and then the review went—“but did you ever think they’d be so great to dry yourself off, like after a shower or day at the beach!? I say—
beep beep
—go ahead. These little numbers are perfect for just, getting ready for the day. And they’re so much more portable than a bath towel. I can now carry like, six squares with me at all times and be able to shower/swim no matter what situation I’m in. And, I, LOVE, swimMING! Not sure you can even begin to appreciate that kind of freedom unless you invest in a package of these bad boys!”

Then I changed “bad boys” to “babies.”

Then back to “bad boys.”

I gave the paper towels four stars out of five.

After reviewing the paper towels, I found a product no one had reviewed.

Earplugs.

I wrote this review: “Wow, just…disappointing.”

Then realized I was writing the review about myself.

Then realized every negative thing I’d ever said was about me too.

Ouch ouch ouch.

Stinging!

I did another review, for a twenty pound barbell.

The review was: “So, ok. I’m a fitness FREAK! But this barbell just isn’t doing it for me. Nope, no way, Jose. I think it’s going to take a much MUCH bigger barbell to successfully smash my mother’s head in. Bottom line: Great for fitness though. Definitely feel stronger.”

In the review section for a television stand, I wrote a review titled: “This is actually a review of my girlfriend’s roommate.”

And the review was: “Well I went into our relationship (me and the roommate) wanting to be nice. Not friends, just nice. You can’t expect to be friends with someone. That doesn’t happen. That’s what my girlfriend doesn’t understand. It can’t just be like, ‘Now we’re friends.’ It just happens. IF IT HAPPENS. So I wanted to be nice. I wasn’t going to do anything more or less than I would for anyone else. Anyway, I’m not one for the bullshit :) so I’ll just say it: Roommate = TOTAL MEANY!!! I tried to be nice. But she just ignored me. Wouldn’t respond to anything. I’d say hi and she wouldn’t say hi back. And I never fucking say hi, so, shit. Need I say more? TOTAL MEANY!!! One out of five stars (and I’m being nice here, folks).”

Then I deleted “folks.”

Then I typed it again and left it.

Seemed like I was yelling “fuck you” in my head the whole time—maybe my whole life.

Sitting in the Uptown Public Library.

The person next to me at the table had a nectarine out.

I had the urge to say, “Want someone to be my FRIEND here!”—slamming my balled fist down on the nectarine as I yelled “FRIEND.”

*

On the way home, I stopped at a corner store and bought an 18 pack of soap.

In line at the store I looked at the 18 pack and felt relief.

That’s 18 bars—I thought.

That will last a long time.

Shit,
each bar
will last a long time.

Think about 18 of them.

When it’s all over, I’ll be a different person.

A completely different person—unrecognizable as any past version.

It was calming to me to know that many things would happen before I needed to buy more soap.

Who knows if I even will have to buy more soap.

Maybe something will happen.

Maybe someone will give me soap.

Maybe I’ll die.

Maybe soap won’t even be used anymore.

Maybe a meteor will destroy earth.

Maybe I won’t even care about soap anymore.

I looked at the 18 pack.

Relief.

I walked home with it in my arms, confident and happy.

Relieved.

At home I stacked the bars in the bathroom cabinet.

It is time to begin using the 18 pack—I thought.

Now is the time to begin.

I smiled.

I was already different.

Sent my brother a phone message: “Hey there’s 18 bars of soap here now if you want some.”

Eventually he sent back: “Who gives a shit.”

I sent back: “Just leave me a few bars you know.”

*

That night when I left for my girlfriend’s, the Wilson Street Red Line stop was barricaded on all sides.

I walked up to the barricade.

Police cars.

Ambulances.

Firetrucks.

ATF units.

Riot shields.

Weapons.

People standing around watching.

Uncle Sam came up to me, in the middle of saying something about the hotdog he was eating,

Uncle Sam was a homeless guy in the area.

I called him Uncle Sam because he wore this American flag top hat.

He also wore sandals with sweatpants and a suit jacket over that.

Our relationship began after I met him out front of a grocery store where he was asking for change and he asked me to buy him a chicken dinner from the store and I bought the chicken dinner for him and we became—I think—friends.

The only time I asked him his name he told me it was “Bob-Fred.”

Two first names hyphenated.

That’s how he said it.

Tonight he approached in a strange walk that involved lifting his knees up abnormally high, his face doing odd twitches as he put condiments on a hotdog, everything backlit by police and emergency lights.

It was beautiful to watch Uncle Sam walk through the light.

He was beautiful.

“Luh me a hotdog,” he said, twitching.

I said, “Yeah”—squinting at the light.

Uncle Sam told me it was a hostage situation and then explained to me the way he likes to eat a hotdog, applying condiments to the one in his hand.

He said, “Dude like me, I’m pu’n spirals on a hamburger, and fo a hotdog, I wind em back and forth.”

“Double-helix style,” I said, suddenly wanting to ask him so many questions.

He looked at me.

He pointed at me with the fingers holding the mustard packet, and said, “S’a double hee-liss style, yuh.”

He rubbed his twitching face against the shoulder of his suit coat and made a weird motion with his lips, like he’d just put on a new face over his skull and was aligning the lips with the teeth.

Behind us, someone who’d been evacuated from the train explained what happened, on her cellphone.

A prisoner—in transport to another jail—killed two police officers and escaped the bus and got on the Red Line and got off at the Wilson stop, then killed someone and took someone else hostage to the rooftop of a nearby apartment building.

Police and civilian death.

Uncle Sam continued putting condiments on his hotdog.

He said, “Jesus luh you no matter what you do. Yuh yuh. But you can’t get into heaven with nunna them acka-hol and cigrets, oh no.”

Then he took many small bites of the hotdog without chewing each bite, leaving only 1/3 of the hotdog.

He squeezed mustard from the shriveled packet onto the end of the hotdog, like he was painting.

Full-mouthed, he said, “Yuh. Dude like me want mustard on eyrbite. Bah-zam! Blam a lam. Dude like me want mustard each and eyr bite, yuh. And you caint get inta heaven wit nunna them acka-hol and cigrets doe.”

“Good shit,” I said. “So the train’s not running.”

He swallowed and laughed, stamping his feet.

He said, “Muh fucka keewd a cop, now they keew him, watch.”

BOOK: Rontel
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