This man, waiting in line, arms full of groceries, short smile, eyes not quite darting, but active, hopeful, looking for any kind of social interaction. Something to remind him he was human. Something to cut through the fog. The loneliness. Some little thing that will let him break free, if only for a small moment.
The woman behind him, bumps his heels with her cart and he turns his head, his acceptance and her apology ready on his lips.
But she says nothing, eyes focused on the items in her cart, rooting through, looking for something buried near the bottom.
He reached over to stop the alarm. Pushing against the heft of the blankets, he turned, lifting, until he sat on the side of the bed. He gave the empty space to his left two taps and stood, walking stiffly to the washroom.
The kettle was on and the coffee ground.
He opened the front door and stepped out on the porch. Frost wasn’t far off now, he thought. The night slipped down behind the apartments across the street, pushed by the rising sun.
Realizing there wasn’t reason for him to wait outside, not anymore anyway, he went back in.
Tensions increased in the domestic cold war between Mr. and Mrs. Elk.
Strained civility, already taut, stretched further as the diminutive missus found, for the she-didn’t-know-how-many-th time, even though they’d gone over and over this, the medium sized spoon set away with the teaspoons.
“What did we decide?” she asked in such a way to make sure there was not but one answer.
“The spoon,” she said.
“Which spoon is that?”
She threw. He ducked. The spoon flew into the buffet, clattered against, and cracked her grandmother’s china serving platter down the middle.
The woman behind the desk had the same colour as week-old Wonder Bread.
“If you don’t have an appointment,” she said, “I don’t see how you’ll get in to see him.
Dzinski thought her attitude reminded him of stale bread as well.
“I’ll wait,” he said, walking across the office and sitting on the stiff sofa. He picked up a housekeeping magazine and flipped through the pages. “Besides, I’m feeling lucky. I’ll bet it won’t be too long.”
Her eyes narrowed, concentrated, down the thin ridge of her nose.
Dzinski awoke, and after a tense moment of confusion, realized he’d fallen asleep in his armchair. His half-empty glass almost slipping from his fingers, and the screen in front of him showing nothing but static.
He heaved himself up and stood in the darkened living room, then crossed and turned off the television.
Muted yelling came from somewhere. He guessed his neighbour had just gotten in and his wife was giving him a piece of her mind. Laying his ear against the bathroom wall he heard that he was right.
“Keep it down,” he hollered, before shuffling off to bed.
They wanted tacos and had heard about a new place a couple of blocks away, so they pulled themselves from the couch, dressed and walked over.
“It’s cold,” one of them said. The other watched their breath escape from their mouth as agreement. There was a line-up. People crammed the small restaurant, more than a few idling outside, leaning against the wall or bench or lamppost.
The people inside came outside, frowning. “Stove busted. Have to close,” someone said. The man behind the counter shrugged.
The other one languidly watched the traffic light change from green to yellow.