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The Mess by Ray Printer Friendly


She slides to the other side of the bed, avoiding either him or the wet spot—he isn’t sure which, and he doesn’t really care. She’s away, and that’s enough for now.

He stays where he’s at, staring up at the ceiling, a breeze from somewhere brushing his penis in an apathetic manner. He shrivels a little, which causes another drip to leak from the tip. He should get up, clean himself off, put some pants on.

Instead, he thinks.

He thinks of lost futures and destroyed hopes and fake promises. He thinks of naïve lies and accidental mistruths and he scoffs at himself while he lies there in the dark, staring up at a ceiling he can’t see.

The room seems small, suddenly; the air thick. He feels like he’s suffocating. He rolls out of bed, stands on legs that aren’t nearly as shaky as they should be.

“Where are you going?” She asks. Her voice sounds tired. Sleepy tired, not satisfied tired.

“Get some water. You need anything?”


He walks slowly, feet testing the carpet like a blind man’s staff, careful not to hit anything too forcefully. He closes the bedroom door on his way out, turns on the kitchen light, and fills a glass with water. It tastes like ambivalence, or at least how he always imagined ambivalence tasting. He dumps most of the water down the sink.

He almost walks back to the bedroom then, but it catches his eye. Just a tiny bit of color, highlighted by the streetlamp shining in through a slit in the blinds. It looks majestic and promising and damning and tempting. It is almost as if the book was placed in that manner, specifically for this moment, to cause this effect.

He scratches his chin absently, wondering if it is time to read the book. His stomach growls, as if it’s hungry for the written words. His heart aches.

It is time.

Instead of returning to his bed, he crosses the room and dresses in the gym clothes from the bag by the couch. Then he picks up the book. He carries it into the bathroom, turns on the overhead light that is meant to scare away shadows, and the overhead fan that is meant to whisk away odor.

He lights a candle, then worries that it might be left unattended. He blows it out.

Lid up, seat down, and then he’s sitting. He opens his book.

A good book always gets his bowels moving. He doesn’t understand it, but he has come to expect it. He is careful what he reads, and when.

He doesn’t want to read some inspirational literature at the bus stop and then spend the rest of the day trying not to shit himself. There’s a time and a place for everything.

He reads the newspaper on the train to work—there’s nothing worth reading in the newspaper, but it’s a fine way to pass the time. He reads brain candy in the evening sometimes. Nothing too spectacular, but enough to be entertaining. He knows he’s getting too into it when he has to go have a sit-down.

It’s nothing he ever talks about, but it’s something he knows about himself. Like most things in his life, really.

He wouldn’t go so far as to classify himself as lonely, although there is a loneliness about him. In a room full of friends, he is still alone. He’ll smile with them, laugh with them, drink and yell and party with them. He’ll work with them and commute with them. But he won’t connect with them. He won’t be a part of them. It isn’t a decision he made, it’s just how things are.

He has tried to reach out, and occasionally, he finds someone doing the same; reaching out towards him. Sometimes, there’s almost a connection; but then, no.

Being alone doesn’t make him lonely. There are times when he wishes there was someone to share his…well, his whatever with. Whatever it is that people share with one another. Soul, perhaps? Dreams? Hopes? Something.

Most times, though, he is content to be alone.

The problem with being alone is that you always have to clean up your own messes. If you leave a dish out at night, it’s still there on the sink the next morning. If you leave a pile of dirty clothes in the hall, they remain there until you pick them up. And if you get caught embezzling half a million dollars, there’s no one to take the fall with you.

It was a stupid thing to do. It looked easy, of course, which is the only reason he tried it. But what he should have realized is that if it was as simple as it looked, it would have already been done. And perhaps it had been done, which is how they caught on to him.

“If it was easy as you make it seem,” someone might have told him, had he not been so alone, “So many people would have done it that the company would have gone under. No—you’re either missing something, or they’ve intentionally left it looking like an easy feat.”

But there was no one to argue this point with him, and although he was nervous, and although he had his doubts, it still seemed like a good idea in his mind. And in his mind is where it stayed, because he had no one to discuss it with. In his mind it stayed until he went to work and put his plan into action.

He typed in numbers here and numbers there, cross-referencing and intertwining figures and paragraphs in a way that was almost poetic. His shifting of concrete and theoretical figures was a work of art. Pure in a simplistic way, but beautiful nonetheless.

He went home that night, shaking, excited, anxious. He awoke the next morning, sure it had all been a dream, hoping half that it had and half that it hadn’t. There was no one to talk to, so he went for a run to work off excess energy.

He went out for a drink after work, walking eighteen blocks down so as not to encounter any of his co-workers. He couldn’t bear to be around them. He was bursting to confess his secret. He played darts with a stranger, and they discussed football and beer and attractive movie stars.

At the end of the night, the stranger wrote down his email address and said to keep in touch—they had gotten along very well.

He walked two blocks before dropping the scrap of paper into the trash. The last thing he needed in his life at the moment was another relationship, another responsibility, another potential obligation, no matter how small.

Days passed, and weeks. At some point, he calmed down, realizing that he had gotten away with it.

And then the email. Short, terse, pure in a simplistic way. “Meet @ 1 to discuss missing funds.”

He read the email and wished for someone to call, someone to listen to him while he panicked. There was no one, so he went to the vending machine and drank a Sprite and then went to the bathroom and threw up. He cleaned up and went to lunch.

After lunch, he went to the meeting, and he looked very professional—not at all like a panicking, Sprite-gulping vomiter. He listened while his supervisors—four of them sitting around the dark oak table—discussed the anomalies they had discovered.

He nodded at the right times and looked confused at the right times. He examined the papers they passed him, and shook his head. “That can’t be right,” he muttered.

He told them that this was very strange, and that he would need a night to figure out what had happened. “Not to worry, gentlemen,” he said. “I’ll get this sorted out. I’ll need to look through back-records—I wish we’d seen this months ago so it would be easier to break down—and I’ll let you know by tomorrow. Day after tomorrow at the latest.”

“See that you do,” the supervisors said to him. They were no longer worried. Only annoyed.

He worked the rest of the afternoon and then he took the train home. Once there, he called around until he had a date for the evening. Not his favorite, but she can be fun, and she always puts out.

On the way to the restaurant, he stopped at an internet café and paid ten dollars for half an hour of computer time. He typed in some passwords and some secret numbers, starting a process, and then he went to dinner.

They discussed trivial things in a serious manner. They ate expensive food and drank expensive wine, and spoke expensive words.

At some point in the evening, he asked, “What’s your favorite charity?”

“What do you mean?” She asked.

“Never mind.”

At some point in the evening, he asked, “What’s you favorite animal?”

“I really like kitties, but have you ever seen a baby penguin? They’re cute. Not as cute as a baby tiger, though. I think a baby tiger.”

On the way back to his place, he stopped at the internet café again. She looked frustrated, but he explained that this was a very serious business matter, and he assured her that this was the last time business would come up.

It took him ten minutes to find the right charity, the one for baby tigers. The website asked him would he like to receive updates about the baby tigers. He clicked on “No.” The website thanked him for his contribution.

At his place, she went in to urinate. He slipped a wad of hundred dollar bills into her purse, along with a short note.

They had unsatisfying sex, and then she slid to the other side of the bed, avoiding either him or the wet spot—he wasn’t sure which, and he didn’t really care.

It’s a good book—better, even, than he expected. He can’t read the entire thing in one night, which is unfortunate, and he considers skipping to the end to find out what happens. He doesn’t though—just in case.

He is as empty as he can get, he thinks. He isn’t sure how any of this works, but he’s hoping that he did an okay job. He flushes the toilet, washes his hands, and then writes another note. He sprays a bit of air freshener into the air, but not too much—it’s either going to stink or it isn’t.

The problem with being alone is that you always have to clean up your own messes. There are times, though, when you can’t. He hopes it’s noticeable enough, the note. It reads, “Don’t come in—call the police.” Stuck on the bathroom door. He hopes she won’t get too freaked out that he used the same notepad to write the note in her purse, the one that reads, “Sorry for the mess.” The one that’s wrapped around several hundred dollars.

His biggest problem with dying alone has always been the mess. The bowel movement after death, the various fluids. He doesn’t want them to find him alone, naked, covered in feces and blood.

He turns on the shower.

He brings the pistol out from under the bathroom sink. He usually keeps it in the closet, but for obvious reasons, he needed it in the bathroom tonight. He steps into the shower, fully dressed, and leans so that any blood spatter will be washed away by the shower.

The water feels welcoming and warm as it soaks through his clothing. It feels like the gentle embrace of a loved one, of someone who knows him.

He takes it as a good sign, and pulls the trigger.

posted 4/11/08

Entered By Anonymous From Unknown
2008-04-11 04:31:39

I was rapt, Ray. Good story.

Entered By Diane From NH
2008-04-11 13:46:04

Awesome. Really.

Entered By Ray From Austin
2008-04-21 02:42:44

I'm glad you guys enjoyed it. It's a hard one to sell, in it's basest state: "What are you writing about?" "This guy steals some money then takes a shit." "I hate talking to you."

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