Monday, May 18, 2009

An old one that I like because I haven't finished the new one


They came today. The birds! Through the closed window I could hear them, singing as sirens sing. But it was still cold out—it’d been freezing for weeks—despite the arrival of the birds. It was February. Nick was pulling on his thick socks, moving through the bedroom door. He didn’t shut the door after him.

“Nick,” I called. “Nick, you didn’t shut the door.”

He said nothing but reached in and closed the door. The gas heater in the apartment isn’t working like it used to. We had to put a small electric heater in the bedroom—we keep the door shut always. The rest of the apartment feels twenty degrees colder. It feels like changing continents, just moving through the doors. In the one-inch gap between the floor and the apartment’s front door we put as insulation the alpaca-wool sweaters that Nick bought in South America. The sweaters match.

A few days ago I heard Nick call the landlord about the heat. The landlord hasn’t come yet. This landlord I met only once. He told me to call him Pinky. He didn’t knock when he came in the apartment—Pinky just came into the apartment, saw me without socks, saw my bare feet! He has his own key, he explained to me. Pinky’s voice was quiet, like the student’s voice in the back of the classroom.

So I asked Nick to call him about the problem. Nick was in the bedroom when he dialed.

“I don’t want you to listen to the call,” he said. “I don’t know why.”

“Okay,” I said.

I heard him through the door, figuring he was talking louder than usual because, on the other line, Pinky was using his normal voice. I brushed my teeth. Nick came out and opened the closet door to get to the heater. He turned some switches and flicked a fingernail on some steel frames. I remember thinking it sounded like coins falling on a counter. Coins by the million! Nick came in and touched my head with his palm, put his fingers to his lips when I turned up to him. I looked at him and touched his stomach. He pointed at the running water. I turned off the water.

Into the phone Nick said, “What?”

I left the bathroom and went into the bedroom. It was so warm! I pulled off my clothes, looking forward to waking up naked and sweating. I looked forward to Nick pulling up the covers—sweating himself so terribly—to turn off the electric heater. He’d be careful not to wake me. But I’m pretending to be asleep, he knows. Then he’d lie down and look in my direction, and I’d hide my eyes like every other night, slowly revealing them to him. I’d watch him do the same.

“It’s hot,” he’d say. “Fuck, I’m so hot.”

And I’d laugh like the night before and go back to sleep touching his foot with my own.

That night when he talked to Pinky Nick said into the telephone, “I don’t see anything like that. I see a green light. The light’s blinking. I’d need tools to get in there.”

I heard him through the door. I heard Nick waiting.

“No,” he said, “I don’t see anything like that. Really, Pinky, I don’t. I see just the green light.”

After another minute he came in.

“That man speaks like a child,” he said. “He speaks as though it’s wrong to hear him speak.”

“I know,” I said. “Oh, Nick, how I know.”

And then today the wind stopped after two straight weeks of horror. And the birds—the birds sang as birds should sing.

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