I'd been working for years for the same outfit, long hours, tired when
I got home and not much appetite left for people. I huddled in and
didn't want to look out the window or to see anything moving. Even at
work I kept my head down and seldom let myself get involved in
A new guy named Mark sat in a cubicle near mine. He liked to talk,
which was bad enough, but he had a nosy angle in a lot of things he
said. He asked questions that would have led to other questions if I'd
answered him, and he told me where he'd lived and about his brothers
and sisters, implying I should share the same type of information with
him. Mark was about my age and wanted, or maybe needed, someone to air
his thoughts with. After months of failing to coax any personal
revelations out of me he grew resentful, seeing it as unfair that I
wouldn't talk to him when he was willing to tell me almost anything. I
dreaded seeing him every day and when I got home enjoyed the silence
and not having him nearby.
One Sunday around midday I heard a knock on the door. I usually ignored
knocking, figuring it was a salesperson with some opportunity I wanted
no part of. I didn't invite people over, and opening the door would
lead to an awkward effort to drive away the intruder. In this
case the knocks became more insistent, so I crept to the door and
looked through the peephole. I saw Mark, unshaven, giving me a wave
with his fingers. He must have heard my footsteps.
I counted to ten, but he stayed put. I opened up and his head dipped
"I just made a stop in the neighborhood and thought I'd drop by. Am I
I didn't ask where he got my address. I never asked him questions,
fearing reciprocation. Alarms were going off inside my head.
"Invite me in? I know you don't like talking when we're on
the clock. It's more rigid at work."
I didn't answer and waited for him to leave. I asked myself what he was
"Come on. Can I just use your restroom? It'll be quick."
He made a face as if he really had to go. I let him stand
there awhile, but he didn't move.
I pulled the door back without speaking and he hopped inside,
pretending to be uncomfortable. I shut the door and pointed toward the
"I hope I'm not disturbing your family," he said, taking a right turn
into the hallway. "I'll just be a second, I promise."
He probably knew or guessed I didn't have a family and lived alone. He
meant to provoke a reaction and then build up a dialogue from there. I
admit I stood by the door and listened to estimate his progress. I
heard nothing and was bothered by the idea that he could be sitting on
my toilet. He stayed in the restroom far too long and I suppressed an
urge to barge in and see what he was doing. What if he was naked and
gazing at himself in the mirror? What would I do
then? I imagined I'd tell him to leave when he came out,
without seeming agitated, a simple demand.
He finally emerged, no flush, no hand washing.
"False alarm," he said. "That bathroom is spotless, not a single hair
on the floor. Not bad for a man who lives alone. You do live alone,
don't you? I've never been completely sure."
He started down the hallway, asking for a tour. I choked down my anger
and followed, deciding to hold my peace, not to get tangled in his
reply and my reply to him and his reply to me. He walked into my
bedroom and looked at the walls and furniture.
"Your bed's made, and on a normal day no one would even know it except
He nodded and sniffed, and I tried not to let his sniffing provoke me.
He passed by me in the doorway without a glance, I suppose daring me to
start an argument so he could unleash his thoughts. I let him lead, as
if he was giving the tour, and he turned and entered my living area,
taking it in without a word.
"I knew I smelled food," Mark said as he approached my table, my lunch
plate still on it. He picked up the last tater tot and popped it in his
mouth, chewed it with relish, and watched me watch him chew, waiting
for me to react, wanting me to feel he was closing in.
In the kitchen he looked at the sink and down the drain. Then he moved
to the refrigerator and looked at the three magnets at eye level. He
chuckled, noticing I'd begun to come toward him. He opened the
refrigerator door and crouched behind it. I heard him shifting things
on the shelves.
By the time he stood and shut the door I was close to him. I dropped
down and grabbed the bottom of his pant legs and yanked them forward.
He fell on his butt, and I spun him around and dragged him, his head
bumping the floor. He cursed me, squirming, and I gave him a kick in
the balls to get him quiet. I pulled the door open, rolled him on his
side, and shoved him over the threshold. I slammed the door, Mark
jerking his reaching hand away, and locked it.
I listened to him yell at me. He called me the usual names and said
he'd come back. I looked for blood on my floor, repulsed that he could
have left a wet trail behind
Glen Pourciau's new collection of stories, VIEW, will be out from Four Way Books next month.
See more of his work in the archive.
Detail of photo on main page courtesy
of German Blanco.
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