It was Nap Time, which my roommate knew, because I put a reminder in his iPad. I actually put six reminders in his iPad, four of which should’ve gone off by then. His iPad didn’t have a passcode, which he told me at the beginning of the year.
This is because I trust you, he said.
Ok, I said.
Only use it if you absolutely have to, he said.
Ok, I said.
I put six reminders in his iPad every morning, before he wakes up. Each one of them says something like, Remember, Ben is going to be asleep at 4pm, be prepared to stop making sound, or, 4pm is right around the corner, which is when you will stop making sound, or, It is currently 4pm, which means you will no longer make sound.
It was 4:05, five minutes into Nap Time, when my roommate came back. I knew this because he was making sound. He made a door sound, and then a backpack sound, and then a taking-out-his-iPad sound. And then the iPad made an iPad sound, which was a reminder sound. And then it made a turning-off-a-reminder sound, which I resented.
Jesus, he said.
I would’ve said something snarky, maybe something about using the Lord’s name in vain, maybe something about how he was going to Hell, but I said none of those things, because I was supposed to be asleep. I would be small, so small, and so unconscious, and his soft maternal core would melt him from the inside out. He was my roommate, and I was his child, and he would protect me from the harsh cacophony of consciousness. Sleep, sweet child. Sleep.
I went to the gym. I smiled a smile at everyone at the gym, a smile that said, Yes, me too. My body is a temple, just like your body temples. It was a different smile to the smile I would smile outside the gym, a smile that said, No, not me. Not ever. I do my exercise at the library. But the library was too far, so that was actually a lie. I did my exercise at home, on the internet, which is kind of a stretch for an exercise analogy. My doctor said that I should stop using analogies to replace health practices. I said, maybe you’re just not an intellectual, like me. He said, I am a doctor. I am an actual doctor, who went to actual medical school, and broke up with my girlfriend, or she broke up with me, but really, I broke up with her, because I had committed to medical school, my true love, truer than my love for her. He didn’t actually say that, but he almost did. I saw it on the tip of his tongue. What he actually said was, Maybe you should get out of your room every once and awhile.
I threw myself on the bed, like someone throws a corpse out of a car. I was dead, as they say at the gym. Dead as a corpse that had been killed, and thrown out of a car.
I am dead, I said.
I see, said my roomate.
He did not see. He was watching a movie on his iPad. He loves his iPad. He loves his iPad so much that he forgot to buy headphones. I bought him a pair of headphones at CVS, which was a selfish present, like buying your spouse cheap lingerie. But instead of layering my roommate’s flesh with lace and silk, I just wanted to layer his head with headphones. I explained that the headphones would count as his birthday present, whenever that was. He did not open them.
His movie was about a spy, who was friends with lots of other spies. I knew this because all the characters were talking in whispers, with occasional gunshots. And there was sexual tension. I knew this because the whispers were sexy, and no one spoke more than four words at a time.
That’s How It’s Done, said one woman, winking. I couldn’t see her wink, but she was winking.
Let’s Rock And Roll, said another man. But he didn’t mean music, he just meant more gunshots. Gunshots were the music of these spies. Also jazz.
The spies were eight feet tall, and wore black turtlenecks. They were trying to kill a vaguely Eastern European man who owned a lot of cats. They approached his house, which they called a lair, with large rifles.
The Eastern European man was stroking a cat, which showed his tender side. Who was the bad guy? Who was the good guy? Was it us, the spies, the spies with the large rifles? Or was it this Eastern European man, stroking a cat? And what exactly did he do, anyway? Why are we shooting him, and all of his cats? Did they say we were shooting the cats, too? They definitely weren’t in on it, if there was even something to be in on.
I stepped in front of the rifles.
Wait A Minute Guys, I sexy-whispered.
Stop Second Guessing This, said the woman.
He Needs To Die, said my roommate.
That’s A Good Point, said the woman, shooting me in the chest with a high-powered rifle.
No, The Other Guy, said my roommate.
Oh, Well, My Mistake, said the woman.
I Am Dead, I said.
I See, said my roommate.
It was Nap Time, right around the time that my roommate likes to watch his iPad. Actually, every time is right around the time that my roommate likes to watch his iPad, because he is never not watching his iPad.
I was lying, curled up, in a fetal position around my favorite pillow. It’s dense, and cold, like a ball of dough. Sometimes I like to imagine I am the saran wrap, sealing in the freshness of my cold, dense pillow. It’s an easy and forgiving job. Sometimes I fall asleep on the job, but that’s ok. It’s part of the job.
He was watching his favorite video, Top 5 CRAZY Science Experiments You Can Do At Home, except he wasn’t home, and had no interest in doing science experiments. What’s important was that these experiments were the Top 5, and anything that’s a Top 5 is good enough for my roommate, apparently.
Number Five, screams the video.
A man pours a bottle of red bull into a champagne glass. Moments later, he returns with a gallon of whole milk, which he attempts to pour in the champagne glass. A horrible caffeinated curd forms, which he presents to the camera, and then feeds to his children.
Number Four, screams the video.
A beautifully begoggled woman pries open a watermelon and begins to macerate it with an industrial dremel. It splatters on her cleavage, and she giggles. She dremels the watermelon again. It splatters on her cleavage again. She giggles. Back with the dremel, and her cleavage is filled with watermelon. She giggles. This goes on for about four minutes, and then it just sort of ends.
Number Three, screams the video.
A cowboy cracks an egg on the sidewalk. He watches it for about three minutes, while it sizzles. Then he leaves. About thirty seconds later, a homeless man walks into the shot, and eats the egg off the sidewalk. The cowboy returns, and they shake hands.
Number Two, screams the video.
A man pours a bucket of sodium acetate into his sink. He turns toward the camera and winks, to let us know that we’re in on it. Some time passes. His girlfriend, an unsuspecting ditz, goes to wash the dishes. She sticks her hand in the sink.
Oh, God, she screams, struggling to pry her hand from the metal surface of the sink. Heavy layers of leathery skin strip from her arm as she collapses back into kitchen, shivering, cradling the soft flesh of her stomach.
Help, please, God, anyone help me, she screams. Our protagonist turns the camcorder back to himself, and gives us another wry wink.
I think we got her, he whispers.
She tears at her arm, like a wounded dog, scraping through a slurry of emulsified skin and bone splinters.
It’s burning, please, someone — she begs, blood pooling in her mouth. She grasps at the kitchen island, fingers cracking and sliding off the cold granite. We hear a gentle thud, and a final wet gurgle.
Number One, screams the video.
My roommate is standing over me as I sleep. I am small and naked, the size of a pea. I take in small, pea-sized breaths. He smiles. Gently, he places his iPad on top of my body. Pressing firmly against the bed frame, he tucks me in.