Noel Negele


I open my eyes to witness a roach wandering on the ceiling. Its antennae vivid and alive, just bobbling along, and I wonder if these things ever sleep. I have a headache that would put down a gladiator in the era of degenerate madness, but since I have grown accustomed to the lousiness of hangovers, I consume the last stocks of my remaining energy and drag my carcass out of bed.

I take a nice ol’ cold shower to open the eyes wide and I step out of the tub with a towel around my waist, feeling paradoxically enough, even more woozy and lame than before. I glance at the crapper and wonder if it’d be wise to put my finger into my throat to puke my guts out, like a hook into redemption, but I decide against it since A) it’s pathetic and wretched and B) I don’t like easy solutions.

In the kitchen I open the fridge to witness a miracle of sorts. Four bottles of beer batched together, like a decimated Roman phalanx that doesn’t quit — an indication that we were too fucked up to drink them all last night, a very rare event indeed. I take them all and moor myself on the couch between empty cans and bottles of beer. A Stolninchaya bottle lies broken beneath the table. 

I hope I don’t step on any glass and add more torture into my life.

I drink the beers leisurely, still drunk from the night before. Sitting there semi-conscious, I subsist in a fog of numbness and almost total amnesia. In a wonderful state where no ambition intrudes, no pain claws from within.

After a while, I get up and head back into my bedroom. There I observe the sleep-swollen face of the female boozer I’d bought home the night before. She snores at a moderate level, saggy tits exposed from beneath the covers. I slap one of them to wake her up. It’s time to exist again.

She sighs, yawns, and I notice all cavities in her teeth. I wonder if it hurts when she eats. I suppose my own denture is in no better condition, so I’m not the one to judge. She starts rubbing away the mess of her eye gums with her knuckles, and that’s when I notice her hairy armpits. I am more than certain that if I pull the sheets aside, I’ll uncover so much cellulite that I’ll become nauseous. 

“You have to leave. I have to go to work,” I tell her, even though I’ve never had a job in my life.

“And what?” she mumbles, barely able to pronounce the words. “You afraid I’m gonna steal something?”

“ I don’t even know your name.”

I suddenly feel very tired. Even the briefest exchange of words costs me dearly.

I retreat to the bathroom again and splash water on my face. Yes, I’m shit. On the outside and on the inside. I hope I’m not as shit on the inside as I look on the outside. I take a step back and observe. My tattoos look more ludicrous to me with every year that passes. A pin-up woman with her legs up and open on my chest. A childlike skull on my bicep. A boxer on my ribs, old-school style. The ripper with his scythe on my other ribs. Bukowski smoking next to the pin-up girl on my chest. Two drunk baby angels on my left arm. A noose on my back, going around my neck. A snake on my thigh devouring an apple that says TRUTH. They say you can erase them with laser, but since I’m never going to have enough money to even fix my own teeth, let alone erase my tattoos, these fuckers operate as a source of wisdom for me.

Oh yes, a wise and defeated acceptance of the irreversible in life. The college you dropped out of. The girl you loved but never had the balls to do anything about it. The same girl living two blocks away, married, with two kids. All the love you came short for your dead mother. Cancer. Disability. Fatherhood. Lifetime sentences to maximum security prisons. Lousy tattoos and death. In essence, all the great lessons in life are about death. It’s acceptance. Old age is a wild indecency. The inevitability of death a shame. You can’t get into the ring with life, it will put you to the fucking ground.

It’s all a big pile of horseshit. This world like a huge manmade tumor in space. The things that are exciting are gradually decreasing. Nothing is enough but the pain, the loneliness, the boredom.

“Where the hell are my panties?” screams the boozer from the other room. Her voice is hoarse, aged. I hear bottles tumbling all around.

“And my car keys? Where are my car keys?”

I don’t have enough sense of humor to see her right now. So I sit on the crapper and take a dump. 

“I don’t know where your car keys are!” I yell back, “and as for your panties, I don’t think you had any.”

She continues braying questions about her missing keys and panties. I don’t listen.

My phone starts to ring from the living room where I’d left it. I can hear the sound coming closer. Shit. Did I lock the door? 

The door opens wide and there she is, her hair a wild mess as she hands me the phone.

“My name is Mary by the way.”

“Nice to meet you,” I say with my best attempt at a smile.

And just when I think the situation can’t get any more uncomfortable, she enters the bathroom and climbs into the tub, squatting to piss down the drain. I feign indifference, as if something like this happens often in my life.

“Who is it?” I answer my still-ringing phone.

“Is this Jack Pearce?”

The voice from the other end is feminine, young but discouragingly professional.

“Yes, this is me.”

“I’m calling you from Saint Teresa hospital. Your father has fully recovered and we think it’s time for you to take him home…”


“… Excuse me?”

“Yes, I’ll be right there.”

“Okay. Good day sir.”

I hang up the phone. Mary is still pissing in the tub.

“I feel like shit,” she says. “Who was it?”

“My father had both his legs broken in an accident. Had surgery. They want me to go and pick him up from the hospital.”

“What about your job?”

“What job?”

“What do you mean what job?” she asks, staring at me.

I swallow.

“I’ll go to work late,” I reply.

“I can take you to the hospital, since I’m leaving anyway,” she says. “You’re too much of a dog to be employed,” she continues. “And besides, it’s Sunday.”

I just look at her for a few seconds, until I realize this is one of those times where telling the truth is more advantageous than lying.

“Alright Mary,” I include her name because I’d read somewhere it indicates honest gratitude, “Thanks.”

Of course, it takes us a while to find where her car is parked. And when we finally do find it, I’m in for another surprise — Mary has a red Mercedes CLK Cabriolet. 

“You didn’t steal this, did you?”

“There’s a lot you don’t know about me,” she laughs, getting in.

I smile. I resist the urge to jump into the convertible because I don’t want to vomit, and so I just enter the old fashioned way — through the door.

We take off into the deserted streets. She wears these large black, sunglasses that make her look like a tired old fly. It is after we’ve passed the second red light that she says:

“Get me that bottle from the glove compartment.”

What bottle, I ask myself as I open the glove compartment to find a small bottle of Smirnoff looking back at me with its catty smile. This is the third surprise of the day, I might add.

I hand it over. She puts it between her thighs and with one hand twists off the cap, draining 1/5 of the bottle down her throat. She extends it to me and needless to say I receive it graciously, and needless to say that now 2/5 of the bottle’s contents are forever lost.

By the time we get to the hospital, the bottle lies shattered somewhere at an intersection. 

Not many words were exchanged along the way. So I just say thank you Mary, including her name again, looking at her, already caught in the web of my alcoholic sentimentality. She looks back at me and says it’s alright.

“Goodbye, one night stand!” she says as I exit the vehicle.

“ I hope we didn’t gift each other any aphrodisiac diseases,” I tell her with a smile.

She throws her head back in an explosion of hysterical laughter that I find slightly worrisome.

“Hope your dick doesn’t fall off,” she says, “it’d be a shame.”

She then steps on the gas and takes off like a mad woman, almost running me over in the process.

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