Six months had passed since he had accepted the job, a part-time position working nights. The apartment complex where the job was located was one of those relics erected at the height of suburban sprawl, resting on an isolated campus amidst freeways and thoroughfares like a mid-Atlantic island, catering solely to the automobile crowd. There might have been a bus that served it, his co-worker was insistent that one existed, although he didn’t believe it. The complex was simply a world divided. It possessed an indifferent, stagnant quality, with its outdated, bunker-like buildings. It had sat unchanging, immune to the transience of the world for decades. Starkly contrasted with this was the perpetual flux occupying the adjacent roads and bridges. There things were never the same; they were always evolving. There people moved like bullets towards homes, businesses, families and lives.
The environment of the complex couldn’t be a more abrupt change from his last home. His one-bedroom had been cozy and old-fashioned. Sure, it had a stove that was probably from the Eisenhower-era and, if he was really honest with himself, his landlord could hardly have been labeled attentive or proactive. Once, due to a neglected inspection a pipe had burst in the attic above his apartment. It had occurred at night, with water collecting and seeping through his ceiling, causing a bubble to grow ferociously above his sleeping head like a virulent tumor.
The engorged pustule of ceiling water eventually had burst, prompting him to spring to action. He had spent the next two hours changing out pots and pans that had been filled to the brim by iron-laden water, all the while spraying his cell-phone with spit as he bellowed at his landlord to get someone over to fix the damn pipe.
She had been terrified when the water had started to rain down upon them, and became even more so when he had started to go all Hulk-like over the deluge. When the first droplets had smashed against the wood floor and began to coat his sheets she had recoiled. Her small form had pressed back against the far wall of his tiny bedroom, causing the covers to fall away, exposing her naked chest and shoulders which soon became flecked with the putrid liquid.
While thinking about that night he sat in his warm car in the frozen parking lot of the complex. His shift would begin soon. He chuckled about how she always had seemed so terrified and upset whenever he had expressed anything even approaching anger. Of course she hadn’t been completely out of her mind. Ever since he could remember he had been called out for his facial expressions. He just had one of those faces, an angry face, apparently frozen in a savage glower. He was cursed with a brooding mug; a countenance so eternally vexed-looking that it was unfit for society. Perhaps that was the reason why he had always had trouble in the service industry. Shit-eating grins and sanctimony had never been a part of his wheelhouse and it had cost him dearly, particularly in tips and in goodwill from his managers.
Her reaction to his emotions had also been justified that night because he had actually rounded on and barked at her; a deep, booming howl of frustration. It had been rude and unwarranted. There wasn’t any excuse. In that specific situation she had only been trying to help him calm down, which was needed due to him stalking about the apartment looking like a wet, rabid dog.
He looked at his car’s clock, which of course was an hour ahead. He shook his head in amazement. He never could seem to find the Herculean effort needed to set it back for daylight savings time. As the ruby digits moved him numerically closer to his shift he suddenly decided to change it. He reached forward, manipulating the dashboard’s controls until magically his car moved backwards in time.
Outside the vehicle’s window large flakes of snow drifted lazily down to Earth. The grounds of the complex were dark. The black sea was only broken by small islands of light interspersed throughout the grounds, which illuminated small circles of unbroken snow. It was surprisingly beautiful, even mysterious looking. The whole area was profoundly different from how it looked in the day, when the sagging facades of the buildings could be seen and the dirty snow clogging the complex’s parking lot marred any possibility of natural splendor. His eyes darted from the grounds to his side mirror, where his reflection swam about, liquified and ill-formed due to the presence of melting snow.
He remembered how he had watched the snow fall in his Eisenhower-era apartment with her, little more than a year ago now. The flakes had fallen down upon the turn of the century rooftops below him, coating the dark, brick and mortar structures like frosting. One of the great things about his place had been the view, as he had lived on the top floor of a four-story building, surrounded by other homes that predominantly consisted of two. He could see the looming facade of one of the neighborhood’s many churches beyond the smaller homes. Its two steeples reared upwards into a sky set ablaze with the color of an orange peel. The night’s sky was always a mixture of orange and black, its stars blotted out by the luminosity of city street lights, perpetually burning by the thousands.
There had been several nights like that. Quiet nights, beautiful nights, popping up between their fights. Those nights were where he had felt a modicum of serenity. On those nights one’s time felt, in a way, predetermined. But not in a boring or routine way. In those rare moments what was familiar was calming. Everything had already happened before it began. They would eat together, nothing fancy, as nobody was an aspiring chief. They would watch TV together, something light and ephemeral, their eyes drifting back and forth from the TV to each other.
He had felt then, in brief bursts, that he had known himself and that it was possible to be filled. Sitting there in his car he felt barren, weary, certainly a bad combination for one needing to be up all night. He wished that the night could be different. If only it could end like it often did with her a year ago. At the end of those days they would go to their bed, where one felt both old and new at the same time, where he had always known his place and she had always known hers.