This is part two of a story, this isn’t like when the first Star Wars was called Episode 4, this is actually part two. Part one is here.
Joey tried to coexist with the entity as though it were a roommate who was angry with him but wouldn’t tell him why. There was an ever-present discomfort. He felt like he was being watched. He took to only watching high-brow entertainment for fear of being judged. Masturbation was done in secret off-premises, usually in a work bathroom. His work production increased because he was spending longer days there, avoiding the feeling that someone was watching over his shoulder.
Like in all things in life, comfort was found in the discomfort. At least it’s not an incontinent dog, he would tell himself, giving himself permission to return home. It’s not like a rat or colony of cockroaches, he would tell himself to ease back into the secret foibles and habits people develop when living alone. The onanism crept back to home, tended to hurriedly after defecating, believing the spirit wouldn’t want to watch one so he could get away with the other. Sugary treats inched back with the occasional fun-sized bar, then frosted cereal, then the sodas.
Nothing happened. No voice, no mischief, no physical intervention, not even the feeling of scornful judgement. Joey noticed. And relaxed. Normalcy started to return. So too did the habits he suppressed. The fear dissipated. The looming feeling of judgement lifted. Along with the feeling of comfort, Joey’s habits crept back with increasing allowances. He allowed himself to have a generous pour of wine in a glass with dinner. He then allowed himself to eat dinner while watching television on his phone–a habit he stopped because it led to his mindlessly eating more than he wanted. The one glass of wine became two or three and evolved, allowance by allowance into sangrias on the weekend.
That Sunday morning he found a bottle of red “table wine” left open on his nightstand. The throbbing of his head barely left enough space for the thought that he ought to tend to the hangover with just the slightest sip of the hair-of-the-dog. He groaned his way to an upright sitting position, shakily lifted the bottle to his mouth just as a strange sensation tickled his nose and he sneezed the sip of wine he had in his mouth across his light grey bedspread and the clothes he neglected to change out of from yesterday.
Still in pain, he decided to make a sangria because that would be more classy in his estimation, a bit of effort to prove he wasn’t a full alcoholic. He dropped some ice and pre-cut fruit in a cup, poured some of the wine over it, microwaved a burrito, put it on a paper towel and stood at his kitchen counter as he scrolled through potential matches on his dating app. The first sip of the “sangria” was a careful affair, performed with the precision of a seasoned pilot landing a helicopter in a strong storm.
With the first sip’s success, he felt confident enough to divert his attention to potential mates patiently waiting for his judgement in his phone. As the cup lifted at his lips, the ice at the bottom of the cup became unpacked and rushed at his face. It spilled over his face, cascaded off his chin onto his phone. The panicked response to save the phone resulted in the burrito getting knocked to the ground, beans exploding across the room, splattering on the refrigerator, white cabinets, and area rug. Frazzled and hungover, he couldn’t decide what to clean first, accidentally forgetting what was in each of his hands, thinking he was wiping with the hand that held the paper towel, he instead wiped the cheesy beans with his phone. The phone became the priority, getting wiped down with the paper towel, neglecting the beans. In the movement to retrieve a box of rice from the cabinet below the counter, he stepped to his right, into a bean splatter, slipped, tried to catch himself by grabbing the counter, but used the hand holding the phone, slamming it down on to the counter in what could loosely be called a reflexive action.
Smeared in beans, clutching the remains of his phone, Joey felt a need to take control over an aspect of his life.
~End Part 2~