By John Clise
In a nearly empty room, above an out of business dry cleaner, he sat quietly on a worn out orange couch watching a black and white TV through the window of an apartment across the alley. He couldn’t really hear the audio very well but he could see the grainy picture and that kept him company. The stranger across the alley doesn’t seem to mind sharing the TV. Or he may not ever have known he was sharing the TV. The man in the empty apartment figured he was sharing the TV because he kept all the other curtains pulled tightly shut. Maybe the stranger with no furniture kept him company.
The apartment was missing furniture save the couch and small brown night stand he used as a dining room table, coffee table and any other purpose that might come up. He didn’t want any attachment to the apartment. He did enjoy the TV though.
There was a pile of newspapers in the corner he always intended to read but never really ever got past the second or third page before pitching it on the pile.
He slept on the floor using a crumpled up corduroy jacket as a pillow with no blanket and no cushion. He liked sleeping on the wooden floor. There was no commitment there. There was no family there. There was nothing permanent. It suited his frame of mind.
The truth is he never slept that much anyway. A few hours here and there. He shut his eyes and drifted here and there.
His only true enjoyment came when listening to the rain on the tin roof. It reminded him of fonder times. It soothed his soul and relaxed his mind. The voices weren’t so loud in his head.
Sometimes he could hear a cat meowing below in the alley that reminded him of an old friend. He never could quite see the cat but he could him singing off key for anyone in the alley to hear. He put food out for the cat every day, and any other cats that might come along.
It reminded him of a time before he gave everything up. It was a time before everything was taken from him. It was a time that was happy in his life.
He was different after he crossed the river in his heart. Crossing the river was more of a metaphor he used when he talked to himself. It was more comforting or Romantic or something. He never really did worked out those details., except to know nothing would ever be so bright again as it had been.
The apartment was mostly clean and generally quiet. No one questioned him, but he never came in before 11 p.m. and was gone early in the morning. If he couldn’t get out before the sun came up he stayed in all day. It was easier than seeing people or having to talk to anyone. It wasn’t an annoyance. It was more of a struggle to understand what people wanted or needed.
During those days he entertained himself with the neighbor’s TV, drawing in pencil and ink and other such things. The only thing he had in the apartment to keep was a scrapbook from years gone by that he kept under a couch cushion. A few pictures of family, friends, childhood vacations, newspaper obituaries of family and friends. It held a few pictures of him. A picture of him on his dad’s lap when he was still and infant was one he adored. Another after he was grown and his dad shortly before everything went south was a treasure. There was a years old leaf caught between the pages from a date he’d had in high school. He’d picked up on a walk with his girl after homecoming and a Sadie Hawkins dance.
What he loved most though was listening to the rain. It calmed his mind and brought him back to happier times. In some ways it perhaps washed him clean.