Incite Magazine – October 2016

Page 84

WORDS by COBY ZUCKER ART by HAMIT YUKSEL

The Man in Nine Ninety-Five Nine storeys up, on the balcony of an apartment at the corner of Lake and Church, room number 995, a man takes a lengthy drag from his smoke. He taps off the ashes on the railing overlooking the street before dropping the butt and flattening it beneath his toe. The man himself? Worthless. Less significant than the expired cigarette staining the underside of his loafer. Even he considers his existence dull, but that doesn’t mean he cannot have an interesting life; no, quite the opposite, the man leads innumerable interesting lives. Sixty-two to be precise. He pulls out his pack of Camels and glances inside. Last one. He eases the lighter from his pocket and, with practiced fluidity, lights up and inspires gently. As he exhales, the puffs of smoke temporarily obscure his vision of the lofty condominium across the street. As the last tendrils lose themselves in the air, the man catches sight of movement on the condo’s nineteenth floor. Ah, the old lady’s out. Like clockwork that one. Must be her 6:00 PM appointment. Mrs. Smith, as the man had labelled her, is a perfectly ordinary wife and mother. At 9:00 AM, she would leave for work, always exiting the building with a Grande in her right hand and a briefcase in her left. Prim and neat, she would kiss her kids good-bye in front of the double-doors and walk off in her black pumps. Mr. Smith would take the ankle-biters to school. Ordinary. Exceedingly so. Almost. Mrs. Smith shares a nasty tendency with the man in apartment 995, which often takes her to the balcony. That is to say, Mrs. Smith is an avid smoker. Though she is a Marlboro woman, the man cannot find it in himself to fault her. The twist, the real kicker, is that Mr. Smith does not know about his wife’s twice daily trips to the balcony. And that is the way Mrs. Smith prefers it, to the extent that once, upon being nearly caught in the act, the man had seen her fling an entire pack of cigarettes to the street below. This is the woman who draws his attention now as she abashedly takes another pull, committing adultery with her ashy cowboy.

Mrs. Smith puts out her cigarette, taking pains to douse herself with an extra coating of perfume, and returns to the loving embrace of her nuclear family. Not five minutes later, the man’s eyes are drawn to a flurry of motion three floors down. Oh-ho, what do we have here? I’m in for a treat. It’s been a good, long time since I’ve seen him. A couple, both young adults around thirty to thirty-five, are in a shouting match on the balcony. Their voices do not carry over, but it is plain from the frenzied waving that they are upset. The man, the bachelor, he recognizes. Mike, the bachelor seemed like a Mike, was always entertaining some woman from an ever-changing rotation. Today, it’s a slight brunette with high cheekbones and pursed lips. She looks like a Daisy or maybe a Rose. Some sort of flower. At the moment, Daisy-Rose is hitting Mike in the chest over and over. No doubt she has learned about her paramour’s philandering. He would be trying to talk her down. The man from 995 mentally supplies the dialogue: “No! No. The others aren’t like you babe. You think I take those girls out? You think they keep toothbrushes in my bathroom? You think I make them eggs in the morning? Most definitely not. They’re not like you Daisy-Rose. You say the word. Say the word and I’ll never see any one of them again. Cross my heart.” As quickly as it had started, it’s over. Now they are hugging and Mike is peppering the top of her head with kisses. He takes her by the hand and leads her back inside. Skank. The man from 995 backs away from the railing and sits down in his recliner lawn-chair. Sometimes he has to wait hours for a peek into one of his sixty-two unfolding dramas. If he’s really lucky, every couple months or so, he glimpses a brand new life. Sixty-two becomes sixty-three. Or sixty-one if someone kicks the bucket or stops visiting the balcony. These are the many lives of the man from apartment 995. x


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