Excerpt, edited

His window faced the other windows in the building. Very little light filtered in, just enough brightness to tell a change from night to day, and vice versa. Otherwise, he couldn’t tell you if it were sunny, if it were a cold or hot day, if there were clouds in the sky. The other windows were always shut, and the only other thing that entered his windows–besides the anemic light–was the smell of cooked food, that unique scent of hot oil bubbling around meat, garlic, onions, giving him a gentle nudge, as if asking him he was hungry. He usually would find that he was, and go into the kitchen to collect some Spanish ham, some cheese, and stale bread on a small plate. Because of this, his mealtimes followed that of his neighbors.

He hadn’t grown up in a city. If he had his way, he wouldn’t be living in one now. But a city was where men could live as indistinguishably as their shadows, their voices indistinguishable from the daily discord car screeches, crashing plates, rock bands in cramped bars. There was nothing about him, physically, that attracted attention, either. Though he was in his thirties, his hair was still full and thick, with no receding hairline that was so characteristic of the other men in his family. His age, to anyone looking, was ambiguous. He could be either in his twenties or his late thirties depending on how he dressed. He was thin. His body was incapable of putting on weight. The only thing that had changed about him through the years was the slight puffiness around his eyes, and the slight sagging around his jaw, as if someone had drawn a sharp line for his jaw, then smeared it. He was missing the angles he had when he was younger. He knew it was the alcohol that did it, but these were not enough changes to make him stop drinking. He didn’t drink heavily, except on occasional nights, when the darkness around him pressed too hard, and he couldn’t shake the heaviness from his muscles. Mostly, he would just drink a thumbnail of whiskey, or a few cans of beer before bed, either when he was reading a book or watching the television. Just enough alcohol to warm him, the way another body might.

Every few days, he would check his mailbox. He did this with some anticipation. Since he was in elementary school, he always liked receiving hand-written letters, cards, and packages in the mail. It was comforting to look at someone else’s handwriting on paper intended for him. There was something physical about it, as if they had reached over, and touched him, just lightly on the cheek, and said, “I’m thinking of you.”

For as long as he could remember, however, he hadn’t received a handwritten letter, or a card, or anything intended for him. However, occasionally, among the bills, the bank statements, and the usual useless newsletters, there would be a letter from a non-profit organization asking for a donation, and they would be individually signed.


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