Jan 27, 2011

Social Lives

After getting no answer from the hostile neighbor, Alex began racking his brain for who he could call.

The lack of names that came to mind seemed to indicate a lack of friends. On any normal day he would have reminded himself that getting close to people tended to end badly for him, and he tried not to get too close to the people he occasionally slept with.

Normally, work kept him busy enough not to notice this lack of personal relationships, but sitting in his empty house, he was forced to look at his life without distraction.

At least he stopped seeing his abusive ex… ex-whatever they had been. At first it was difficult not answering or returning the phone calls. Jeff made him feel wanted, at least for brief moments. Even during Jeff’s rages, Alex felt like at least he was being noticed.

The first night he met Janet at the support group, she gave him her number, telling him to call if he ever wanted to talk, or just needed some company. He had never taken her up on the offer, but now he tried to dial her number.

It didn’t go through, just like the office.

Alex wondered if he still had a phone book. After digging through a pile of unopened junk mail in the living room, he found the phone book, and looked for Janet’s name.

It was there, and with a full address.


When everything was normal, Nicholai worked in an office. He entered data into spreadsheets and completed forms which were sent to various people for approval. No one talked to him at work, and he was not invited to happy hours or other after work get togethers.

After work, he went home to his empty apartment and turned on the tv. He hated watching television, but he liked having it on. Often he would sit and flip through the channels for hours, never really watching anything.

Dinner was usually a heated frozen dinner.

He met Damien at work.

Jan 20, 2011

She Caught Him Watching Her

One day Grace caught Nicholas watching her practice her fire breathing routine. When their eyes met he looked down and walked away. Later the same day she found him sitting in front of his trailer, reading a paperback and smoking a cigarette.

“Hi,” she said. “My name’s Grace. I don’t think we’ve met.”

She’s flirting with me, thought Nicholas, I wonder what she wants.

He was polite but distant, not showing a hint of the interest which had caught her eye earlier.

“I noticed you were watching me practice,” she said.

He said nothing.

“What did you think?” she said.

After studying her face for a moment, he said, “You looked good.”

Her attempt at further conversation was met with polite but firm coldness.

Over the next few weeks she tried to start conversations with him, tried to make him laugh, but he remained distant. Finally, one day, she walked up to him and said, “Let me cook you dinner.”

He agreed but afterwards chastised himself. He hated eating in front of people and yet he had agreed to eat with this woman, this beautiful, funny woman who would not leave him in peace.

She made pasta with marinara sauce. He hated messy foods.
Eating very carefully, he took small bites and covered his mouth with a napkin while he chewed. The idea of drool or food escaping his mouth in front of her was mortifying.

“Is it okay?” she said.

He assured her that it was good. She suggested they watch a movie at which point they discovered they both liked classic monster movies.

Sitting on the couch next to her, all he could think about was wanting to touch her, running his fingers through her hair, or touching her face, but he remained on his side of the couch and did not reach out.

“What are you thinking?” she said.

“I always feel sorry for the monster in these movies,” he said.

“I cried the first time I read Frankenstein,” she said.

“Which part made you cry?” he said.

“When the family chases him off after he helped them,” she said. “I had to stop reading…  I did finish the book eventually.”

Jan 13, 2011

Out of the Ordinary

When Alex woke up that morning, he didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. He sat up on his bed and stared into space for a minute. Then he walked into the kitchen and started the coffee pot. As the coffee dripped into the pot, he looked out the window, which was slightly smudged and had a film of dust. He should really clean the windows soon.

Something seemed odd, but he couldn't put his finger on it.

Once the coffee pot was full enough, he poured himself a cup into a Darth Vader mug, and then replaced the pot to finish brewing. The rich coffee smell brought him further awake.

It was quiet. Was the neighborhood usually this quiet? It was early, that must be it. He want's usually up this early, but he hadn't been able to get back to sleep.

He took his steaming cup of coffee to his home office, set aside the mug which was one quarter full of cold coffee, and logged on to his computer. He started his email program to check his emails for work, but no new emails appeared. Server must be down, he thought. He had tried to convince his boss to switch service providers.

Alex picked up his cell phone and dialed the office. The call didn't go through. The phone had a signal, but after trying to dial the office three times, he gave up.

Odd that both would be down at the same time, he thought.

He wandered back into the kitchen. There were dishes in the sink and the coffee had finished brewing. Alex was struck once again by how quiet things were. He wanted to ask someone what was going on, or to have the reassurance of someone else agreeing that something was off this morning.

Maybe his neighbors were having similar problems. On one side was a middle aged couple who he never talked to. The guy always gave him semi hostile looks. On the other side was a woman in her mid thirties with a couple of young kids.

The woman always said hello to him and smiled when she saw him, so he decided to start with her. Now what was her name?

After checking his reflection in the bathroom mirror, and running his fingers through his long, dark hair, he ventured next door. He had decided to ask her if she was having problems with her phone too. That would be a good place to start.

There was no answer when he knocked, which was odd, since her car was parked out front. Maybe she got a ride somewhere, he thought, and then decided to try the hostile gentleman next door.

No answer.

Jan 6, 2011

Support Group

Alex stood just inside the door of the church basement. He tried to make his feet walk forward, but it was all he could do to keep from turning around and walking out.

There were women seated in a circle on folding chairs. The expressions on their faces were a mixture of fear and suspicion. Alex couldn’t really blame them. He was 6’4” and wearing a trench coat and combat boots.

I don’t belong here, he thought, but he found that he could not force his feet to move on way or the other.  Alex felt panic rising in his chest, and he felt intensely alone.

“Why don’t you have a seat over here, sweetie?” said a middle aged female voice with a smoker’s rasp.
Alex looked up to find the source of the voice. A woman with permed red hair and a colorful blouse patted the empty seat next to her.

He managed to walk to the empty seat, head down, deliberately avoiding any other faces. Sitting down carefully, he tried not to jar his broken ribs. The woman could now see the bruises on his face, which were only partially obscured by his long, dark hair.

The red headed woman gently touched his forearm and said, “You want some coffee hun?”

Alex nodded, keeping his eyes on the ground. Some of the women still eyed him suspiciously, and he overheard snatches of whispered conversation. He caught the phrase “What is he doing here?” a couple times, and also heard “police” mentioned, but he didn’t move from the chair.

“Here you go, hun,” said the red headed woman, placing a Styrofoam cup filled with coffee in his hands.

“My name’s Janet,” she said.

“Alex,” he said, “My name is Alex.”

He didn’t plan on saying much, but then the group leader asked him if he wanted to introduce himself.

“He’s not my boyfriend,” said Alex, “I mean, it’s not like we go to dinner and movies  together. We just meet up sometimes. I’ve never met any of his friends, and he always tells me that he’s not gay.”

The words kept tumbling out.

“I don’t know why I don’t fight back. I guess I feel like I must deserve it, but I never know what’s going to set him off. This isn’t the first time he’s put me in the hospital, but this time, when I got home, my dog was dead.”

His voice started to tremble, so he stopped for a moment.

“I came home, and my dog had a gunshot wound in his chest. He must have bled to death, alone. I didn’t think he knew where I lived, but I know it was him.”

There were murmurs of sympathy from the group as he talked and fewer suspicious looks.