I wasn’t made for this filthy life.
Thinking these words every afternoon when I finally pull myself out of bed has become a ritual, a sort of prayer of lament. Otherwise I am only getting up to fool the cat. I splash water on my face and look at my hair. I keep it short but it’s growing out and shaggy. It’s dirty, and I don’t care. Who’s going to touch it? I can barely stand to drag my hand through it once. I pop in a breath mint because my mouth tastes like shit and decide to keep wearing the same clothes I slept in. I spray some cologne so I guess a little part of me still cares what some people think.
I feed the cat who quickly slides through my feet to get at the tuna. It seems easier to spray air freshener instead of cleaning the litter box. The TV is blaring. I haven’t turned it off for days. Who cares what these neighbors think? They’re potheads and junkies anyway. Useless hippies.
I light another endless cigarette off of the stove and heat up some water in a pan to make coffee. My caffeine addiction is still kicking, clinical depression and chronic unemployment or not. One. Two. Three spoons of instant coffee. One cup. Hot water. No sugar or cream and it tastes like ass. The heat makes my gums hurt. I gulp down the cup and pop another breath mint along with the useless happy pill the doctor prescribed for me.
My studio apartment is a hazmat area. Take out cartons and drink bottles are everywhere and I see enough roaches to realize there are probably hundreds hiding in the mess.The door at the end of my long hall leads to another long hall that leads to the dark elevator to the lobby and mailboxes. There’s no check in my mail, and the rest of it is catalogs and coupons, none of which I can use without money. I’ve been using my meager savings to pay rent and buy food, lotto tickets, and cigarettes. I don’t need anything Carol Wright sells. I toss the junk on the floor and push open the front door.
Outside the cold wind galvanizes against my legs and assaults my face and ears. Gray somber overcast skies announce the crash beginning of winter yet again. I sigh and see my breath frost the air in front of me. There’s a bodega on the corner and I pass it. I walk seven frigid blocks to the store that sells black market antibiotics and cigarettes. A pack of smokes is only $5, fresh off of the back of a truck. I buy one and leave to walk another bleak three blocks to the luckier bodega to use $5 more on lotto tickets. This store has more “We Had A Winner!” posters than any place in Morningside Heights. I get a lotto and two scratch cards then step back into the uncomfortable air.
The day is dimming quickly into twilight even though it’s sort of a perverted morning for me. My feet drag as the weather drains my energy. My legs feel like they are covered with wet leather. It’s another eight blocks to Grant’s Tomb and the park bench where I always do my scratch cards. The day is all but gone and the street lights turn on to cast eerie icy shadows through the trees. The park is empty. The dark and the cold have sent people off to their warm, clean apartments. I sit and I scratch the silver film off of the cards. Maybe this time I’ve won, but I can’t see the numbers. I’m sitting on the lucky bench with scratch cards from the lucky store, and now I can’t see the results because there’s not enough light. Disappointment floods me and rushes over my reasoning, It doesn’t matter if I can’t see the tickets because I convince myself that I can’t win anything. When the lottery commercials come on TV with “Hey, you never know”, I already know. I’m not lucky. My deepening depression tints everything to a hopeless hue so I toss the cards and trudge the glazed sidewalks back to my hovel.
I go back to bed and to the only refuge I know.
The TV is blaring as always when I get up. Four o’clock. Is it morning or night? I switch to the local news channel. There’s a story on about a doorman who found two winning scratch tickets in the park last night.