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he is grilling
"life is a video game"- surely someone has said that by now
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the key rattles and the door opens. A boy comes in, and he looks stoned. but he just looks that way, he’s not really. One time he smoked weed because he wanted to try it. It was fun, but he never got around to doing it again. That was a couple years ago.
In the hallway outside are hoots and hollers of likely inebriated neighbors. the door slams shut, and Z cringes because he didn’t mean for it to slam that loudly. The party rages on outside.
The lights are on inside the echoey apartment but nobody is home. Z knows this, because if someone was home, they would have made it known. He walks to the kitchen sink and slips out of his shoes and socks with a mastery, leaving behind a trail of dirt and grime that will rightly be the cause of a fight tomorrow morning.
He turns on the faucet and takes out a glass cup. Then he stops. What was he doing? Z turns off the faucet and puts away the cup. He opens the fridge and takes out a root beer. It was the kind you find a in a glass bottle. ‘Gourmet Root Beer’, the bottle boasts. Z twists off the cap and takes a swig while leaning on the counter. He slams the fridge door with authority.
The hallway extends into pure and utter darkness. Z stares into the void, as if trying to look through the black mass. Hesitating, his bare feet slap on the hardwood floors and he walks into the dark. along the wall, he hits a switch and the hallway is instantly illuminated. The darkness is gone and the mystery is solved. There was nothing there, nothing at all that he couldn’t see. Why would there be? Z was sad for a moment, but then walked into his bedroom and shut the door.
A voice: people who don’t understand..
he looks up. what? maybe he didn’t get enough sleep. Z turns off the blinding fluorescent light that bleaches the white walls of his room. In the mellow vibe he sighs.
voice: ..aren’t worth your time are they?
the desk lamp turns on. Z’s flustered face is lit up, his finger on the switch. He turns his head and looks all around, making sure he went 360. He spins his entire body. He picks up the lamp and uses it as a flashlight, scoping out every dark corner and crevice of the room. He checks even under the bed and behind his dreary rainbow of dis-colored sweaters hanging in the closet.
Feeling like a fool, Z sits on his bed before frantically checking under it one last time. He can hear the ruckus outside. Z laughs at himself. He must have looked insane. child-like, pathetic. He switches the lamp off and is submerged in darkness again. He lies on his side.
voice: TV, movies, the internet; they get you. they make you happy because it’s all there, they give you everything you want.
Z squeezes his eyes shut and tries to force himself into his dreams.
voice: why call them friends anyways? you know they come with air quotes. all of them.
Z doesn’t open his eyes. He lies atop his blankets, frightened stiff.
voice: you hate them, but you are the worst kind of people.
His eyes squeak open from their prior squinting manner and he finds himself in a new place. Z holds a real beer in one hand and a ping pong ball in the other.
voice: you know that you are the same
With skill and a precision developed over thousands of previous attempts, a small white plastic sphere gracefully rainbows over an ill-fitted netting and into a blue cup. A tremendous cheer. Z cancels his fear with a sip of his beer and hides again.
another plane disappears. and then another. then another.
"I know nobody wants to say it, but what about Aliens?"
"that’s unrealistic" some said.
others were briefly interested and replied with “maybe”, but then thought nothing more of the matter, dismissing it as only a fun and unrealistic jab on the situation.
"shut up and do your job" the manager barked.
and so the janitor kept his head down and mouth shut, keeping his unrealistic dreams to himself. The floor was never mopped cleaner.