i'm not saying it's particularly good. i'm also not saying it's not entirely derivative of tao lin's style. but i've been reading a good deal of him since the semester ended, and obviously i had something to be released. anyway.
Paul had been sitting on the rear fire escape for two hours. He blinked a few times each minute, lost in thoughts he would forget a few seconds later as one moved to the next to the next. In the distance an ice cream truck drove by and he heard the truck’s carnival sounds between the wind in the trees. There was a chill in the air as the sun moved to the front of the apartment building and he noticed the porches of surrounding apartments still bathed in light. He thought, if he lived there, he would still be in the sun. The sun is always brighter--- no, the grass is always greener. He went into the front room of the apartment and sat on the couch where the sun would come in the window. He felt the warmth on the back of his head and turned on the TV. He changed channels five times and settled on a commercial for carpet cleaner and heard a horn honking on the street below. He turned around and looked out the window and saw a car stopped in the middle of the road, a little boy running after an errant ball. The ball had stopped rolling in front of the car, and Paul thought about a book he had when he was a little boy, that told about how things were built, and he remembered that the book said that roads were built so the middle was higher so rain and snow would run off to the sides to the gutters and he wondered how the ball stopped and didn’t roll to the far side of the street. He had lived in this apartment for over a year and didn’t know any of his neighbors and wasn’t surprised to notice that he didn’t recognize the boy – he didn’t recognize any of his neighbors. The car honked its horn again and the boy picked up the ball and turned around and looked up, right at Paul or so he thought. He could have just been looking up, Paul thought to himself, but it was still unnerving. Paul turned around again to face the TV. There was a different commercial now, this one for a flea remedy for pets, and Paul got up and went to the kitchen. He was going to pour a glass of diet coke, but when he took the bottle out of the fridge and looked at it, he decided it would be easier to drink straight from the bottle – he didn’t want a whole glass anyway, and even though his mom and always said it was bad manners to drink from the bottle, she wasn’t there now and he lived alone so why would it matter. Paul liked doing things that he didn’t think other people would see, and then he would feel guilty for a second until he remembered that, if he didn’t tell anyone then no one would ever know and it became his secret. Over the last year, Paul accumulated a lot of secrets. When he was alone in his apartment, which he always was since he lived alone, he drank from the bottle. He ate with a fork and wiped the fork on a dish towel and put the fork back in the drawer. He picked his nose and wiped it on things and then wiped those things down with a paper towel and threw the paper towel away. He walked around naked. He masturbated. He thought about his life and then forgot he was thinking about his life and thought about other things. He looked at his photo albums and wondered where all of his friends had gone, why didn’t he call them, what he would say if he called them, would they be happy to hear from them or did they even care that he was calling and would they hang up and say to their spouses that this guy called that they used to know and wasn’t that weird?
When Paul was in elementary school he learned one day about artists and art and how art increases in value over the years. When Paul was eleven he found a painting on the side of the road in someone’s trash heap. It was mostly grey-black with some blue in one corner and a solid red stripe going from top to bottom just right of center. He fell in love with the painting immediately and thought about taking the painting home and keeping it in the back of his closet until he was an adult and the painter became famous and everyone wondered what happened to his first great masterpiece and then Paul would take it out of the closet and it would be perfectly preserved and worth a million dollars. He was afraid for people to see him just taking it though, so he went to the house and rang the doorbell and asked the man who answered if it would be okay if he took the painting. The man gave Paul a strange look because it must have been strange to have an eleven year old boy asking if it would be okay to take a painting from your garbage pile at the curb, and because he couldn’t think of a reason to say no and plus he was obviously throwing the painting away anyway, he said yes. Paul had been riding his bike at the time, so he told the man he had to go home and put his bike away and then he’d come back and get the painting, so please don’t let anyone else take it. The man agreed, and Paul rode off, and when he came back again the painting was still there and Paul was happy to find out that it was lighter than he thought it would be and he barely sweated as he carried it the six blocks back to his house where he propped it up against the side of his bed, sat on the floor and admired it for a few minutes and then put it in the back of his closet and went downstairs to eat dominos pizza for dinner.
When Paul was seventeen his parents got divorced and his mom made him pack up his room and he found the painting again and saw that the artist never signed it so even if it was worth a million dollars Paul would never know who the painter was so he threw it in the trash heap at the foot of his own driveway and let the garbage man take it away with all the other memories that didn’t get packed up and moved to the next house that never got to be home because Paul moved out the day after his eighteenth birthday, to an apartment with a fire escape in the back and a sun-filled living room in front where he thought about having a house-warming party, but since all of his friends had gone to college, who would he invite? He went to the kitchen to pour a glass of soda, paused, and for the first time, drank straight from the bottle. This, he thought to himself, is what it is to be a grown-up.