When I wake up I'm alone.
Not that that surprises me. She didn't strike me as the kind who would stick around. I suppose I should be grateful.
It couldn't be too long since she left though. I can still smell her perfume in the room. That and the booze. Actually, I can smell at least four different kinds of alcohol in the air and the scent of the cheap fragrance she was wearing is only one of them. I'm gifted that way. Someone once told me that with my nose I could have been a sommelier. That is, if I hadn't taken up smoking. I told him not to worry - I'd make a profession out of drink yet.
The smell of the room disgusts me. I stumble over to the window and throw it open. It's twenty degrees outside and the wind bites at my face, but anything is better than this odour of stale flowers and ethanol. My mouth tastes really bad too. All dry and mangy, like the insides of a dead cat.
I need coffee. I consider going out to get some but I can't find my wallet. I look for it in all the usual places - inside my shoe, under the mattress, tucked away behind the Bible. Not a sign. Could she have taken it with her? Dizzy with exertion, I sit on the bed and try to remember. After a while a vague memory of throwing the wallet out of the window comes back to me. Something about wanting to be free from capitalist oppression. Yes, that's it. I go to the window and stare down the three stories to the street. Nothing but footprints on the snow. I didn't really expect it to still be there. Some bum must have swiped it. At least I hope it was some bum, someone who really needed the money, not some fat ass banker in an expensive suit who couldn't believe his luck. Not that there was much in the wallet. Just a couple of twenties. One of the best things about a situation like mine is that you don't have the credit rating to be eligible for cards, so you never have to worry about losing them.
I'm beginning to feel cold. I fish around among the clothes lying in the corner and find an old sweat-shirt from my college days. It's pretty faded now, obviously, but still warm. On the front it has the logo of some phony student body I used to be part of. On the back it has a couple of footprints and the legend "Follow the Leader". I guess that was someone's idea of a joke. Hell, it might even have been mine.
My hands are still cold. I really need that coffee. Now that going out is not an option I go over to the coffee machine to see if it's still working. I haven't touched the damn thing for weeks. There's still some liquid at the bottom of the pot, with a grey layer of fungus growing on its surface. It turns my stomach just to look at it.
For a moment I consider just rinsing the pot out quickly and making a new batch of coffee in it. How bad could whatever poisons the fungus leaves behind be, compared to the stuff already swilling around in my veins? Then I think about the last time I ended up in hospital with blood poisoning. All those nurses with their ugly white uniforms and their patronising voices - that irritating way they have of saying "How are we feeling today?" like they were talking to a five year old. It almost makes you wish you were feeling worse, even dying of something perhaps, so you could spit in their face. No, I don't want to risk that again.
Might as well get on with cleaning out the coffee pot. I suppose it's just as well that I don't have the money to be going out for coffee. A few more days of this and things would have turned really ugly. Plus which I can't go out on the street looking the way I probably do, not even in a stupid hick town like this one. Correction: especially not in a stupid hick town like this one. And I don't have any clean clothes to change into. I've been meaning to go to the laundromat, but the time just never seemed right. I really shouldn't let it come to this. I remember someone telling me about how Bukowski would always keep a freshly ironed shirt at the bottom of his wardrobe, underneath the bottles of whisky, just in case things got too much for him and he needed to step out for a bit. Not that I really believe that - I'm pretty sure he was making it up. But it makes a good story. One with a moral, you might say.
Going into the kitchen to clean the pot will mean running into my landlady and I don't have the stomach for that, so I go into the bathroom instead. I walk in cautiously, eyeing the place with care. I'm a little worried about what I might find. I don't always remember throwing up. The place seems pretty clean though. Not that that means anything. Only amateurs go around messing the place up when they have to puke. When you've had as much practice as I have you can feel it coming well in time, and you're careful to get your head right down in the toilet bowl before the retching starts. That way you can just rinse your mouth and walk out clean afterwards. And go right back to the bar. It's a knack, that's what it is. To tell you the truth, I'm pretty proud of it.
I look like shit, of course. I'm staring at myself in the mirror and my eyes are so bloodshot they scare me. I go back into the room and fish out my sunglasses. I suppose I look like some kind of nut, wearing my sunglasses in the bathroom with all the lights turned up, like an extra from some Tarantino movie, but what the hell. Carefully, I pour the contents of the coffee pot into the sink, then rinse the pot out a couple of times with scalding water. Next I take out the bottle of dishwashing liquid from under the sink and pour it in liberally. Then I plunge the pot into water again, and begin to scrub.
As I'm cleaning the pot, I get to thinking about what I'm going to do for money. The situation isn't really desperate. I have enough canned food in the house to last me three, maybe four days. Five if I can get my hands on a pack of cigarettes. That should be time enough. I've had it worse. I'll just have to get down to work today. Thrash out something. Maybe that story about the guy who listened to Beethoven so much he thought he'd turned into God, only it turned out to be true. Joan was telling me about some new artsy magazine over in the Village that would totally go for that kind of stuff. Maybe I could get Joan to lend me some cash too. I know she won't give it to me cold turkey, but maybe if I had a story to hand her. Yes, I really must write today. Right after I've had my coffee and steadied myself a little.
I think I used too much detergent on this thing. The lather just doesn't seem to stop. It's starting to flow over the brim of the basin now. White bubbles of it spilling over the edge and floating clumsily to the bathroom floor. I realise I'm laughing. It's a good feeling, this sensation of having bubbles rising up out of my fingers, flowing over my hands. I imagine the whole bathroom getting flooded with tiny white bubbles. I'd end up trapped inside. I'd drown. When the foam finally subsided, they'd find me lying on the newly washed floor, my body immaculately clean. Even my soul would be spotless, so that if I ever made it to Heaven I'd be the angel with the extra white wings. Not that there's much chance of that happening.
Five more minutes of washing the pot and I'm done. At last. Time for coffee. The powder in the can's starting to get a little lumpy, but the smell of it is still enticing. I don't have any new filters, so I dump the grounds out of the old one and fit it back in place. I like re-using filters anyway. It adds a special taste to the coffee. You should try it some time.
All set now. I sit and watch the black stream of the coffee slowly dripping into the pot and think of the IV lines running into my hand that time I was in hospital. Pretty soon the pot is full, it's round belly bulging with the coffee's warmth, proud like an expectant mother. I find a styrofoam cup and pour myself some. The coffee tastes rough and extremely bitter. Just the way I like it.
By now the smell of last night's drinking is all gone, replaced by the sharp tang of freshly brewed French Roast. I shut the window and turn up the heating. An anaemic sunbeam is trying to grope its way into my room. I let it. I stand by the glass staring down to where a man with a shovel is trying to dig his car out, all bundled up in snow gear. I wonder where he wants to go, this early on a Sunday morning.
I take another sip of my coffee. There are plenty of things I still need to get done. But at least I've made a start.