You & I
Jake stared into his fizzing glass of solpadeine and let the sound fill the room, holding his breath. It was early, not even 8am yet, the sun not yet up, the birds sleepy and clumsy in the dark. He gave a quick glance around the room. Stacks of self help magazines, a boom box style radio from the 80s, jars of hardboiled eggs. The room looked exactly the same as it had the night before – but he saw it in a different light now in the early morning under the stuttering electric bulb above. Everything was changed.
It had been an ordinary evening. He had come in from the farm and sat silently horsing his dinner into him, his mother, equally silent, at the stove. Their non-communcation was companiable. They had been resting in it for years, working out their grooves of silence as someone might form a shape in the couch they’ve sat in over a long time.
He glanced behind him at the stove where his mother had worked while he got his dinner into him. She stuck so firmly in his memory at that particular spot that he felt like he could reach out and touch her. It didn’t seem strange to him that he’d want to do that only now, when she wasn’t really there.
The solpadeine was slowing down, the fizz becoming more of a rumble than a roar. He picked up the glass and admired it against the light as though it were a fine wine, and gave the contents a swirl. A line of powder from the soluable tablets had congealed near the rim and he studied it gravely before removing it with a fingertip, turning the glass full circle to get it all, and sucking his finger. It was important to get the powder, he figured. That’s where all the painkilling power was.
He ran his hand through his hair, remembering too late that one of his fingers was now covered with saliva and painkiller, but shrugged it off. What did it matter anyway. The window was black with night and he could see his reflection in it clearly. His hair stood on end like an angry bird’s and he tilted his head slightly to see if it would change but it didn’t. Even in his blurred reflection his face was all gaunt lines harrowing down to give him a general look of sickness but he didn’t care about that either. Nothing that a few days of good eatin’ wouldn’t fix.
He knocked back the shot of solpadeine in one movement and set the glass back down gently on the table while he was swallowing. The bitter taste flooded his mouth and while it made his mouth twist in distaste, something inside him was having a parade. The house made no sound around him. He’d kind of expected someone to come in and tell him to stop, or something to crack or change in some way but there was nothing to it.