Tonight, dinner is a stolen frozen pizza from the corner store. Jeremy brings it home after work and leaves it on living room floor. He slips off his jacket, the one missing a zipper, and leaves it crumpled in the corner. He retreats into the kitchen and opens the tea cabinet. The door falls off.
“Careful with the cabinet,” I say from the bathtub, “it’s been tricky.”
“Nice trick,” he says.
“Gets me every time.”
I unplug the drain and, careful not to slip on the bare floor, wrap our towel around my waist. We threw our other towel away because it started growing things, along with the shower curtain, and most of Jeremy’s winter clothes. At first, I thought this one was wet from Jeremy’s morning shower until my nose told me that it was something else. I shout to the kitchen, “Spraying the towel with cologne doesn’t kill the mold.”
“It’s got a high alcohol content?”
His cologne came in a 16-oz plastic bottle. He uses it as his miracle product; all-purpose cleaner, face wash, body moisturizer, mouthwash…etc. I understand toilet bowel cleaner, sure, but his toothbrush wafting the scent in the morning, no.
I drip into the living room and read the instructions for a conventional oven. “Will you preheat the oven to 350?”
“I don’t think it does that trick.” They had turned our gas off weeks ago.
He comes in with a sharpie, picks up the box, writes something, and places it back down.
Cooking Instructions: LET DEFROST ON LIVING ROOM FLOOR. THEN EAT.
I hang the towel, spray it with cologne.
I sit cross-legged in the living room. We say it is fung shui’d, that we are minimalists; Last year, to make rent, we sold our furniture to the new Chinese couple downstairs for $50 and a home cooked meal.
Our furniture is now the pizza box and a zipperless coat lit by an exposed bulb that blinds. We had a fixture on it, but it was too heavy and pulled the bulb out of the ceiling. Now it hangs low. On nights of too much wine, we use it to star gaze.
“Pay day,” he sits beside me and waves his check. “They take too much of my money.”
“…for schools and education,” I say.
“No, for smart bombs and predator drones.”
“I’ve never pegged you as a pessimist.”
“I’m not; I’m an optimist starting at a low base camp. I’m just saying, if they are going to take my money, use it toward something… like NASA.”
“I read today,” he pulls a rolled newspaper from his jacket pocket, “that NASA’s Voyager just crossed the termination shock.”
“’The termination shock,’ apparently,” he begins reading, “‘is the point in the heliosphere where the solar wind slows down to subsonic speed causing compression, heating, but most importantly,’ and listen here, ‘a change in the magnetic field. The termination shock is the boundary of the sun’s magnetic pull.’ Said differently, Voyager is the first human-made craft to leave our solar-system.”
“You are happy that a piece of metal is far away?”
“‘In case it’s encountered by extra-terrestrials,’” he continues, “’Voyager is carrying photos of life on Earth, greetings in 55 different languages and a collection of music ranging from Gregorian chant to Chuck Berry. Included was Slow Were My Feet by Cripple Nellie Thompson, a bluester from the 20s.’”
I am watching the pizza defrost.
“Listen to this,” he tells me, “just listen. ‘Cripple Nellie Thompson lost the use of his legs at age seven when his stepfather beat him after finding his mother with another man. He died, penniless, after surviving his house burning down. He was unable to move without his wheel chair; He starved to death in the ruins –’”
“—But,” he says, “his music just left the solar system.”
He falls back to, gazing up at our star shine. It seems to hang even lower than last night. I watch his pupils contract. I shift positions and notice my foot is asleep.
“Pizza ready yet?”
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