COPYRIGHT Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder. All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.
There didn't seem to be any reason to go back to work, so I went home. It felt strange to be on the subway at one in the afternoon, with the old people and the students, the moms and kids. My head was still spinning, and I felt queasy.
My apartment was a good ten-minute walk from the subway stop. It was a bright day, ridiculously cheerful.
My shirt was still damp and gave off a funky sweat smell. A couple of young girls in overalls and multiple piercings were tugging a bunch of little kids around on a long rope. The kids squealed. Some black guys were playing basketball with their shirts off, on an asphalt playground behind a chain-link fence. The bricks on the sidewalk were uneven, and I almost tripped, then I felt that sickening slickness underfoot as I stepped in dog shit. Perfect symbolism.
The entrance to my apartment smelled strongly of urine, either from a cat or a bum. The mail hadn't come yet. My keys jingled as I unlocked the three locks on my apartment door. The old lady in the unit across the hall opened her door a crack, the length of her security chain, then slammed it; she was too short to reach the peephole. I gave her a friendly wave.
The room was dark even though the blinds were wide open. The air was stifling, smelled of stale cigarettes. Since the apartment was street level, I couldn't leave the windows open during the day to air it out.
My furnishings were pretty pathetic: the one room was dominated by a greenish tartan-plaid sleeper sofa, high-backed, beer-encrusted, gold threads woven throughout. It faced a Sanyo nineteen-inch TV that was missing the remote. A tall narrow unfinished-pine bookcase stood lonely in one corner. I sat down on the sofa, and a cloud of dust rose in the air. The steel bar underneath the cushion hurt my ass. I thought of Nicholas Wyatt's black leather sofa and wondered if he'd ever lived in such a dump. The story was that he came up from nothing, but I didn't believe it; I couldn't see him ever living in such a rat hole. I found the Bic lighter under the glass coffee table, lighted a cigarette, looked over at the pile of bills on the table. I didn't even open the envelopes anymore. I had two MasterCards and three Visas, and they all had whopping balances, and I could barely even make the minimum payments.