The man upstairs is jerking off again. I can hear the porn through the ceiling. No one watches that stuff just for fun. Little kids, maybe, sneaking a peek at their daddy’s collection. But eventually it all ends in the same way.
I can’t do anything about it. I can’t knock on his door and ask him to turn it down. I’m in a cast, on a couch, surrounded by pill bottles. Crutches to the bedroom, crutches to the bathroom, crutches to the couch. Six weeks, maybe longer if I don’t heal right, maybe less, if I behave myself.
I am behaving myself.
* * *
My friends all come to visit me. It is good to have friends. They sit in the chair of modern design in the corner, and I lie on the tan suede couch in the center of the room. I have been wearing the same ratty nightgown for weeks and they ignore it, which is generous of them. I am oozy and sympathetic to their needs in return for a cup of coffee, a muffin and a few hours of their time.
* * *
At night I watch television shows about addicts. All kinds, anorexics, drunks, junkies. Documentaries about faded celebrities trying to recover, their molten faces collapsing in front of a therapist. Last week I saw a show about a guy who was an anorexic and a drunk. Overachievers make me sick.
I compare everything they do to everything I do. I am trying to see if I engage in addict behavior.
* * *
A man I dated in college with whom I have been recently reunited through the magic of the Internet brings me a Starbucks coffee and one of their processed muffins. Small, blueberry, too much sugar. The coffee is large, though, larger than any of the other coffees that have been brought to me. This guy, he knows how to buy big coffees. It’s probably a super venti asshole, or something like that.
He’s not an asshole, though. He was kind to me in college even though the sex was terrible. I was drunk so much of the time. Often I would push him off me mid-sex so I could pass out. Still, we went out for months. It was the longest relationship we’d ever had. We would whisper that to each other late at night, him snuggled up so tightly to me it was as if he could crawl into my womb. We were both amazed someone could tolerate us for so long.
He sits hunched forward in his chair, his cell phone in his right hand the entire time. He talks about his job, which he hates. And the girl he just broke up with, whom he also hates. He’s certain she’s an alcoholic. He would find empty bottles of gin in her closet. Once she ruined a pair of his sheets when she had her period and never apologized. She owes him money and he knows he’ll never get it back.
“Oh, she’s definitely an addict,” I say.
* * *
I’m not missing a thing at work because I haven’t worked in months. My mom puts another check in my account and we both ignore that she has put another check in my account until just before I need another check, and then it is all we talk about for a day.
I wish the checks were bigger, so we would talk less frequently about them. I would like to explain this logic to her. I stay up late sometimes thinking about it. If I could just make her see.
* * *
A girlfriend from two jobs ago comes to visit at 9 a.m. She and I used to stay out late after work. All day on the computer, all night at the bar. We were younger then, and our faces did not yet reflect our evenings the next morning.
Now she lives with a man. He is a success. And now she, by association, is a success, too. He is a nice person, just like she is, but they are not fun to hang out with because they are really into each other. I am barely into myself. They finish each other’s sentences and say things like, “I swear we share a brain sometimes.”
But her alone, I can tolerate, even if she is different from how she was before. This woman who brings me a giant coffee and two muffins to choose from, one made from pumpkin and chocolate, the other from ricotta and raspberry. This one who confesses to me, squirreled up in the chair.
“He’s mad at me,” she says.
“I’m sure he isn’t,” I say. “He loves you. The last time I saw you two together I thought to myself, ‘Boy he really loves her.’”
“We haven’t had sex in months,” she whispers.
“Me neither,” I whisper back.
* * *
The man upstairs masturbates three times a day on weekends. Ten a.m., porn. Three p.m., porn. And then, around 1 a.m., he’ll stomp home from whatever shitty popcorn bar he’s been guzzling cheap beer at, ruffle through his porn collection, sigh into his couch, click on the TV set, and bam, porn, jerk, crash.
Not that I have been paying attention.
* * *
I argue with myself about the Vicodin on a daily basis. I know I am allowed to take it. It has been prescribed to me. And I am in pain. But I have watched the television shows. I am taking as many as I like. I gobble them like candy. Sweets for the sweet.
* * *
An old friend stops by in the morning, and stays through to the afternoon. Once I think he loved me. We would walk around Chinatown together and buy pirated DVDs, and take pictures on our cellphones of weird toys, and eat dumplings and hot little buns filled with meat. We always hugged with great sincerity at the end of the day. But nothing ever happened beyond that, the hesitation always floating between us like a hummingbird before a flower.
He pulls the chair from the corner closer to the couch. He offers me an iced latte, a cheddar scone and a bag of hard candy, which we both pull from occasionally. Sucking and crunching quietly.
“She wants to get married,” he says.
“What do you want to do?” I say.
The hummingbird hovers.
“I guess I want to do what she wants to do,” he says.
And then it flits away, in search of a new flower.
* * *
My mother drives me to the doctor’s office for a check-up.
“You’re always doing things like this,” she says.
“I’m not,” I say. “When was the last time I did something like this?”
“Do you really want me to tell you?” she says.
I pop another pain pill. “What do you think?” I say.
“Because I can tell you,” she says. “I’m not so old that my memory’s shot yet. I’m your mother. I know everything.”
You know nothing, I think.
* * *
At the doctor’s office, I am ushered to a small chair outside of an examining room by a nurse. She is Korean, and the tips of her hair are orange and she wears a glittery purple scarf that glows at her throat. She points at my ankle and gives me a sad face. She says, “It takes longer to heal. Because it is so far from the heart.”
The doctor looks at the X-ray, and asks me if I’m behaving myself. We have a good laugh. My hair is sticking in all different directions. Then he asks me if I need any more pain pills, and I say yes.
* * *
It was only a matter of time with the Vicodin. I have been addicted in the past. Cigarettes. Diet Coke. Cocaine. The man upstairs.
It’s 10 p.m. More porn. I get up from the couch and crutch to the wall. I lean against it with my good foot. I lift a crutch to the ceiling and I start banging on it. I keep banging until he shuts off the television. I go back to the couch and lie on it. There are footsteps, and then a knock at the door.
“Come in,” I say.
It is the man upstairs. Now, downstairs.
He comes in. He sits in the chair.
“You never come see me anymore,” I say.
“You never call me anymore,” he says.
It was always like that with him. Me, calling. Him, coming.
“I’ve been laid up,” I say.
“I see,” he says.
He gets up from his chair and comes over to the couch. He kneels to the ground, and leans over me.
“You smell,” he says.
“It’s been weeks since I’ve showered,” I say. I start to cry. “I know, I stink.”
“I don’t mind it,” he says. “You smell dirty.”
He runs a hand up my nightgown. I am still crying but it does not matter to either of us.
“Is this what you wanted?” he says.
“I don’t know,” I say, and I keep saying that until it turns into a yes.