I know there are days when you wonder
if I’m really here, if I really exist, if my existence matters,
when you look right through me at the calendar, counting the
months until the lease is up. I talk to my echo and the neighbors
downstairs. Even the cat doesn’t listen, a willing participant
of your mutiny. You negate my existence by erasing my outline
from the bed, my clothes from the closet, my shadow from the
corner of the room. Undo all of the things that did me in.
You don’t like my feet, and hate that I wear
hats. They’ll make you bald before your time, you said to
me when you were still saying things to me, when you recognized
a me to whom you could say things. Hated that I never carry
an umbrella or wear sunglasses. You fell in love with me once,
my charm, my pyramid scheme. Loved that I had a parole officer.
You always liked bad boys, still do, and liked me because
I was a bad boy until you found out it wasn’t for anything
good like aggravated assault or armed robbery, but that it
was for fraud and passing bad checks. Any weasel can write
a rubber check, you said, and you were right.
The only thing I learned in prison was how to
get cable for free, which my cellmate, Jimmy Squish, taught
me to do. How to split it from your neighbors and feed it
into the back of the television.
In the morning, I wake up before you. Sit up
and watch you breathe, pushing it hard out of your nose so
that it whistles as you exhale. I get up and make coffee.
Pour you a cup when I hear you stir. I know exactly how you
take it: two sugars and enough cream to turn it golden. I
leave it for you on the counter, hoping if there’s enough
little things like that, you’ll let me start using the bathroom
again. You come out into the kitchen, your eyes half-closed,
your robe half-undone. I watch you ignore the cup of coffee
already there for you, already made, steaming and waiting.
Watch you open the cupboard and retrieve another cup. Watch
you pour your own coffee, fix it yourself: two sugars and
enough cream to turn it golden. You leave the other cup on
the counter where it cools, colder, and finally cold.
If you do this long enough I will disappear from
the apartment and my name will be left off the new lease.
The cat will forget me, and you won’t be able to smell me
on the furniture anymore. We used to talk about things, current
events and our strange dreams and the things we were feeling.
Until: we talked less. You stopped telling me your dreams
and I assumed it was because you dreamt of another man, one
who could build a bookshelf, ride a bull, catch a fish. I
kept dreaming the same thing: that I was in a circular room
and couldn’t find the way out. Couldn’t find a window to open.