The fridge light hurts. I push past feta, grapes—where is it? I’m hungry. I turn my head. It’s late. How does it get so late?
I straighten up, and it hurts my spine, as if one bead can’t fit into the next, like I’ve used up all the juice somehow. Now it’s just bone on bone all dry and aching. Exhausted. I swivel, and the stickiness clings to my foot. I pull hard but my skin’s stuck ’til there’s that loud smack. It’s cold.
I walk over to the john to take a leak. It’s not the best bathroom—it’s small and cramped, but it’s all pink so if the sun hits it right and if you’re stoned enough you might think you’re shitting with starfish or something. Right across from it are two other rooms—my friends’ rooms, my housemates.
I put a hand on the doorknob and wait as if testing my bowels. Waiting? For what? I don’t know. Prolonging satisfaction is my new masturbation nowadays. It’s late. I throw a hand into my boxers and scratch, scratch. I’m itchy.
There’s something enjoyable about watching a tiny white bowl suddenly inflame with yellow piss, urine so ultraviolet it’s proof that you’re dehydrated. The type that makes you recount your day, tracing back to lunch, dinner—did I eat breakfast?
I had put a picture of the New York skyline above the toilet because I like to stare at it while peeing. My whole house hopes to go there at some point—soon, we say. We said graduation first. But now, well, we learned we had to make some money. But then it’s time for New York City. Get out of this shithole and go to the city.
I flush, it swirls, bubbling slightly because our landlord still hasn’t fixed it. As the murmurs die down, I wash my hands. I lift my head up, and it meets my face in the mirror.
I puff out my chest, bigger, inflated. My pecs barrel out, spotted with that 25-year-old fur that just doesn’t know what to do with itself. I lean in and smile. Aren’t I too old for pimples? Two hands on my nose and, wait, I can’t see. My hands. Grace always talks about my hands. They’re big, she says. I grin when she says that.
Before I can get it all the way to a gooey head, I’m starving again. Famished. I’m always starving unless I forget I’m starving in which case I’ll remember again. But that’s how man works. We’re just doing one thing after another to survive. We have to shit and then we get hungry so we have to kill so we can stop being hungry and then we have to shit and then we get hungry again.
I push the door open too hard for this late at night and hear Sam in his room snoring. I pause and find the pattern. The inhale-exhale tempo fits well for some reason. I breathe too. Surviving. You can hear it in the kitchen, too. His sleeping. It’s following me, like that stickiness, I can’t shake it. I just enjoy it.
It’s so deep in the background that I can’t tune it out. But what if I could? What if I could give up a sense? Smell? Hearing? Sight? Touch? Hm. My thoughts go back to Grace. And what about the other senses that no one talks about? Like fear and thirst and hunger? Could I give those up too? To go through every day starving and shitting but never terrified of anything, not worried that you were starving or that you had to shit in the first place. To be too proud. The hubris of unhunger, to stare at your reflection all day with no reason to ever leave. To never go on dinner dates or never make a meal for someone. To never bask in fridgelight and search for sustenance.
I decide on a combination of the feta and the grapes, dipping the latter into the former like little eyeballs in glue. They drop into my stomach one at a time, small stones filling me up. Salty, sweet. It’s good.
“Jerk” is an excerpt from David Schwartz’s creative writing English senior honors thesis.