I lived with a girl for three years in the late nineties.
It was in a ridiculously minuscule smudge of an apartment on 33rd street off of First Avenue – a joyless neighborhood devoid of anything remotely interesting, except for a hospital which lay mere steps away. During most of our relationship, I barely left the apartment as I was catatonically depressed. My aspiration to become a published writer was falling apart and I was flat broke, awash in a sea of crumpled rejection letters. I barely had enough scratch to scramble up a cheese danish and coffee in the morning. I could only just summon the energy to walk the half block to the local deli on the corner, stooped over like a question mark – an old man at 22. The guy there would give me my coffee for free sometimes as he felt sorry for me. I didn’t really do much during the day besides watch TV, play Madden football on the Playstation or maybe slap my salami if the urge hit.
At night when my girlfriend got home from work, we would usually order in a pizza and a rice ball for dinner. It was from a cheap place that was always getting shut down by the Health Department for being a feculent hazard, but that was all we could afford. At night, we would eat our food silently in front of the TV, hardly acknowledging each other, except an occasional grunt about paying a bill or passing over a condiment. By this point, we had stopped having sex and now merely existed side by side in a roiling, hostile death rattle. It’s funny though, we hardly fought. We just lived like shadows on a wall, nary a passing word exchanged.
One morning, I woke up and the entire apartment was swarming with little flies. I was practically choking on them. I mean, it was shocking. It was like something out of “The Amytiville Horror”! Terrified, I sprung up from bed and started scrambling all over the apartment to find where they were coming from. Finally, I noticed a major cluster spilling out from the kitchen.
I looked down at the half eaten rice ball from the night before that was still sitting out in the empty pizza carton and nearly puked when I discovered that it was absolutely teeming with maggots and baby flies. Panicked, and fearing that I would be blamed by my girlfriend for leaving the rice ball out overnight, I grabbed some Windex and started spraying into the clouds of baby flies. To my astonishment, it actually started to work. The flies started dropping down to the ground where I would then smash them and sweep them into a pile.
They were literally dropping like flies.
When I was done, I gathered all the baby carcasses and maggot infested, half eaten rice ball and threw it all outside. It felt good to be outdoors for a change. I took a walk up my block and inhaled a deep sigh of relief knowing that I would escape my girlfriend’s reprisals. After few steps. I had had to sit down, I was weary and I was smoking too much. I found a bench and rested for a spell. It was morning and people were busy, on their way to work, leading their lives. I was despondent. I started to think of ways of offing myself. Which would be the least amount of work? I had pretty much decided that jumping off of the George Washington Bridge would probably be my best bet, when all of a sudden I heard the most agonized wail I’d ever heard in my life.
It was a man, coming from the direction of the hospital on First avenue. He was weeping ungovernably…gut wrenching, soul crunching yelps. I’d never heard a human being go on that way. He sounded like a gut shot dog. I thought to myself, he must’ve had some bad news at the hospital. Part of me wanted to try and comfort him but he looked completely inconsolable, and besides, I’m not sure I’d want a stranger intruding upon me in such an obvious state of blinding grief. Off he went, stumbling down the street, pausing every few seconds to emit a heart breaking sob. I felt shaken and I temporarily forgot about killing myself.
I got to my feet, and stood for a moment, swaying in a state of vague unease. I wondered to myself if I had gotten all of the little flies. I had used up all the Windex and didn’t have any money to pay for another bottle. I concluded that I could probably whip up a solution of water and Palmolive and fill up the empty bottle if push came to shove.
So I continued on, shuffling my question mark of a body to the end of the block to get my cheese Danish and coffee. I’d think about the baby flies later. Maybe I’d get lucky and the guy would give me my coffee for free.