My neighbors exist merely as noises. I know them only by their sounds: alarm clocks buzzing in the morning; telephones ringing; muffled voices reverberating through the walls; footsteps knocking and creaking on my ceiling; doors screeching open and slamming shut; windows sliding up and down; silverware and dishes clanking.
I never see anyone. Since moving in, I have only met two people: the underground girl and a man down the hall. The rest of us are content with assuming each other’s existences.
My desk is in the corner of the room, wedged between two windows. To my right I see treetops and rooftops, a distant spire, greens and blues and grays. To my left is a dirty wall, the side of the adjacent apartment complex.
I sit at my desk for hours and hours, with paper laid out before me and a pen in my hand. I must write, but I don’t quite know how. Sometimes I pour myself a glass of whiskey, for this is what writers do. I’ve tried writing articles for the local newspapers, but they don’t want my words. I can’t really blame them: my essays lack conviction. Whatever it is that gives the journalist his certainty, it is not something I possess. But I still scribble in my own way…
This morning, as I left my apartment, I passed a young girl sitting in the grass. Her legs were crisscrossed beneath the billows of her linen skirt, and in her lap rested a book. She had her head bowed, her eyes fixed fiercely on the pages, and when I walked by she didn’t even flinch. No doubt her book was more interesting than my existence.
I underwent the most dreadful experience last night: I went to a bar by myself. It seems that before setting out on this little misadventure I failed to anticipate the pathetic stench that attaches itself to such solitary pursuits. I was made perfectly aware of it, however, once I arrived. The bartender’s face assumed an awkward expression of insincere empathy. The other people in the bar, all of them comfortable members of a group, looked at me as one would look at a man dressed in women’s clothing. It was a good thing that I arrived half-drunk, otherwise it would have been unbearable. I hastily ordered a gin and tonic, then a second and a third. My shirt was dappled with sweat. My head itched and my pants were too tight. After the third drink I left the bar. I walked straight home, wondering all the while what it was that had inspired me to do such a thing.
Thank you, father, for the inheritance you left me. You must have known that I wouldn’t be able to earn a living; you must have taken one look at my face and said to yourself, “Now, here is an odd one! Surely this creation of mine will be an incompetent little outcast. I must provide for him well…”
And indeed you did. For what would I do if forced to find a job? How could I go on living if I had to do it in public, on a schedule, for a paycheck? I cringe at such thoughts; I imagine a thousand different versions of myself—working models, so to speak—men who function, men unfamiliar with the sweet scent of obsolescence. My real self, however, is like an artifact uncovered by an anthropologist. “What purpose could this have served?” he will ask himself while brushing away the dust. But no matter how carefully he turns me over in his hand, no matter how keen his eye or penetrating his mind, he will find no answer to his question.