A Minor Incident
Vaseline over the lenses
The entrance was a bit... anti-climactic, to be honest. I guess I was expecting this Frank guy to be right on the other side of the door, dancing half naked to a six year old Britney Spears tune or something crazy like that. I was wrong – the apartment was empty, and the lights were off.
Axel exhaled a sigh of relief at this discovery. I grinned half-heartedly.
"I'm a bit let down, Axel! I was expecting something dramatic."
He shook his head with a slight smile and fumbled along the wall for the light switch, as we were still in total darkness. Upon finding it, he flicked it with his thumb and the apartment was revealed to me in a burst of light.
The small hallway we were standing in opened to a dining room of sorts, which Axel chose to hold his piano. It was clearly an antique – a bit of a faded black, but not at all dull. The sight of it reminded me of old classic movies, like Casablanca and Breakfast at Tiffany's. It still had that elegance to it that only the old pianos had. That elegance that just isn't in our generation anymore, it's locked up in the past along with the rest of the world's honor.
Axel beamed at the sight of the piano. "This is my baby," he said, walking a few short steps towards it. He sat down at the bench and extended his arms around it as if he were hugging it. "Family heirloom. Worth thousands, but I'll never give her up, not even if I'm completely, utterly broke. God, this piano has gotten me through so much, I swear..." he trailed off.
"You look like a puppy dog in love." I remarked at his doting.
"I am." He responded, still gazing adoringly at his piano. Then he looked up, seemingly breaking out of his love-stricken trance. "So, let me show you the rest of the house- not that there's much to show, but I-"
"Play something for me." I leaned with my right arm on the piano, my hand holding up my head.
"Play something." I repeated.
"Don't you want to see the rest of the place?"
"We've got all the time in the world." I sighed lazily as if to prove my point. My mind wasn't focused on time – obviously, if I wasn't still under the influence of alcohol, I would've been much more aware that it was late and I had promised to meet Namine in the morning.
And so he began to play. I had no idea what it was, but it was beautiful. His fingers danced across the keys, in their own world, unconscious movements almost. Those green, green eyes were closed, and with nothing else to do, my mind began to wander.
I started thinking about Axel and his life. I really knew nothing about him, but I felt like I could trust him. Felt like that since the moment I met him. It seems like everything you need to know about someone is completely, utterly obvious in the first ten seconds of meeting them- whether you'll like them or not, what kind of person they are. But Axel... I just can't figure him out. What was he to me, anyways? A guy I met at a museum? Or a guy I met in a taxi?
Moreover, were we even friends?
Then my mind, doing a complete one-eighty, shifted to Namine. Pretty, plain, Namine. She's a good girl. She does everything right, she never messes up. She treats everything and everyone with respect and dignity. God, she'd never hurt a fly- even a cockroach for that matter. She'd stare at it and say, "Oh, that poor thing. Just let it go." And then she'd grab my arm and pull me away from it before I stomp on it, making it mush and guts and brains under my sneakers. Namine, she's honorable. And together, we have stability- a perfect relationship built on cupcake compromises and silly sacrifices that don't really matter anyways.
I'm safe with Namine. Secure.
But I can't help but feel like something's missing.
"...as, are you there?"
I open my eyes to find Axel staring at me intently, his eyebrows furrowed slightly. I rub my ear and shift my weight onto my right foot instead of the left, a bit uncomfortable.
"Er, yeah, sorry."
He scrutinizes me a second, studying me with those grass green eyes. I want to ask him what he's thinking but I don't have the courage to. I'm not so sure I even want to know, to be honest.
"...I'll give you a tour of the rest of the place."
"Sure." I nod, backing up a step to give him room to get up from the piano bench.
He stands up and I realize just how tall he really is- he towers over me. He has to look down at me just to talk to me. And suddenly I feel like a little kid. A goddamn nothing kid playing dress up and pretending he's older just so he can hang out with the cool kids and go to all the parties. I feel so small, so useless, that I don't know what to do.
But then he smiles at me, like hey, it's okay, and it really is okay.
I follow him down the small hallway, where pretty much the rest of the apartment is. It's nothing much. The walls are an off-white all over. There isn't really anything separating the kitchen from the living room, and both rooms are considerably small. The kitchen's got your basics, a fridge and microwave (what more do you really need?), and the living room has a leather sofa with a big screen TV that I figure Axel must have saved up all his money to buy.
Once I notice the basics of the room, I pick up on the details. There isn't really any decorations- okay, none at all. Nothing on the walls save a window with a shitty view of a brick wall and an alleyway below. But besides that, there's trash everywhere- pizza boxes, beer cans, paper plates with crumbs on them. Chip bags on the ground, and it's almost so messy, so typical that if you looked up 'American Dream' in the dictionary, this would be it. This is reality. Right down to the bread crumbs littering the ground.
"... I never said I was a clean kinda guy." Axel says sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck in apology.
I smile broadly, feeling infinite. This is so different from everything I'm used to – scenic, colonial antique furniture and well-paid actors for family members.
All I wanted was a change. What I found instead was a picturesque fuckup, and I'm loving every minute of it.
Axel narrows his eyes in confusion and smiles too, though he's clearly not understanding. But he says "yeah." Like he knows, deep down, that I'm missing something, and I'm getting closer to finding it. He just knows.
Then he starts walking down another small hallway right off of the living room.
"On your right- that's the bathroom. Then down there, further on the right, is my room, and across from it and down a little on the left – that's Frank's room. I'd show you around in there, but I like to avoid it when I can."
But I didn't have any interest in Frank's room. It was Axel's room I wanted to see, so I walked ahead of Axel down the hallway, dragging my hand along the wall slightly. When I reached the door, I paused with my door on the knob, allowing Axel a second to tell me not to go in if he didn't want me to.
But I didn't hear any word of protest, so I twisted the brass knob and glanced back at Axel, who was still standing at the end of the hallway, just staring at me. I pushed open the door, felt around for the light switch - there it is – and turned it on, watching the room fill with light.
Thank you, Thomas Edison. You're a real pal.
If I could use two words to describe Axel's room, they would be sheer mindfuckery. There was no consistent theme throughout. Paintings dominated the walls, but the subjects in each were completely different. There were photographs as well as magazine clippings and tearouts. The only stretches of wall that were not completely covered with some kind of art were the closet doors and the ceilings.
I was mesmerized. None of it made any sense to me, but everything must have meant the world to him, I was sure of it. Each of these little clipouts, these little drawings – Axel must have had a reason for putting each and every single thing up on his wall.
I walked to the opposite wall – where the closet doors were- and inspected a rather big painting of a goldfish, vibrant and alive. Next to it was a photograph of a girl smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee with her gum stuck on the rim of the mug. Then below that was a cheap poster printout of some famous painting- Van Gogh, I think it was. And then next to that was a hand-decorated card that said "Happy 6th Birthday, Axel!" I was about to untack it off of the wall and open it, when a voice from behind startled me.
"What do you think?"
I jumped slightly, not knowing anybody was watching me. I turned and sure enough, there was Axel, leaning on to doorframe, his arms and ankles crossed.
"It's... its really great." I walked over to the bed, which was one of the few pieces of furniture other than the nightstand and easel in the corner. The bed sat low on the ground compared to most beds, but it was pretty big- probably a full or queen, I'm guessing. The sheets were red and the pillows black. It had a pretty cool effect with the colors all over the walls and the wooden floors.
Above the bed were more pieces of art that I began to look at. Right in the center, no more than a foot or so above the headboard, was a light pencil sketch of a guy sitting on some steps of a brick building. He was laughing like it was the most natural thing in the world, his arms crossed with a cigarette hanging between his finger tips.
I looked even further up and right above the sketch was a small 4 by 6 photograph with the exact same sketch of the drawing below it. The sketch did a good job of capturing the mood of the photograph, but with less detail. Studying the photograph, I could tell that it was winter... and that this guy had the iciest grey-blue eyes I had ever seen. His longish dark hair matched the slightly somber mood. Simply put, he was handsome- even with a large scar running diagonally between his eyes and marring his beautiful features.
I was running my finger along the worn tape that held up the picture. It almost wasn't sticky anymore- like it had been taken off and put back many times, and the hold was wearing off.
"Hey... who's this?" I asked
Axel moved towards the bed and took a look at the picture. After a moment, he laid down on the bed and rolled to his side with his eyes closed.
"...An old friend." He responded, voice quiet.
I decided not to breach the subject any longer and studied the rest of the room. It took a good hour or so to look at each individual piece of art, but it was well worth it. The paintings and drawings were fantastic, and I noted that most of them were of people or some kind of scenery. But none of them had the... emotional attachment of the haunting sketch above Axel's bed.
"Axel?" I asked tentatively. He had remained silent the entire time.
No response. He must be asleep.
Done inspecting the room, I began to walk out. As I stood in the doorway I looked at the slumbering Axel, wasting away in dreamland, and turned out the lights, engulfing his figure in total darkness.
I wasn't yet tired. Not enough to sleep, anyways. I walked back out to the living room and sat down on the couch, turning on the TV. Nothing was on except for commercials.
And at only 6 payments of $19.95, this suction packed vacuum is quite the steal! Equipped with – Click.
Hungry for a late night burger run? Well you're in luck; we're open 24 hours at our location down on Eighth Street - mm, burgers. Click.
Outrageous! Wild! Barely legal Yes, it's the Girls Gone Wild Spring Break edition! All gorgeous, and all yours for – Click.
What time was it, anyways? I pulled out my phone and pushed a random button to light up the screen – 2:52 am. Ah, that'd be why there's nothing on.
Without anything better to do, I got up and picked up a beer can, tossing it into the trash can (which sat barely used in a corner of the kitchen. The floor seemed to serve as a better trash can). Then I did it with another.
After that, I decided to just go ahead and clean up the whole apartment. It took a while to find the cleaning equipment. The sponges and sprays I found underneath the bathroom counter. I found a broom in the kitchen pantry, along with extra trash bags, which I would certainly be needing.
First I cleaned up all the used stuff- the cans, the boxes, the plates. I even lifted the couch and found (unsurprisingly) a collection of dust, food, and what I think may have possibly been a dead, decomposed rat. Nevertheless, I swept it up. Then followed the newly swept floor with a mop. I scrubbed dirt off the walls. I wiped the kitchen counters. They were actually a nice tile underneath that layer of grime.
You know, this place isn't as much of a dump as I originally thought. It's actually pretty nice. Probably worth a bit. The chandelier over the piano in the dining room (which I dusted to perfection) was dated 1937- must be worth a fortune by now. Axel should really take better care of this place.
Finally, I was finished. I put all of the supplies back in their respective spots and admired my handiwork. I grabbed at my cell phone, which was beeping madly, about to die of lack of battery. I didn't care though, my eyes hardly staying open any longer.
5:06 am., the screen blinked before it went out for good. Time to go to bed.
I turned off the lights and felt for the couch like a blind man. Upon finding it, I settled down into a comfortable position, inhaling the fresh, clean, citrusy scent of lemon as I fell into a slumber.
Something was poking my left rib.
I swatted at air with my left arm, flailing a bit wildly, and buried my face deeper into the depths of the leather couch.
My awaker seemed to get that I wanted to be left alone, and I fell back into a light sleep for a few seconds- until I suddenly found myself being lifted off of the couch.
And being the spaz I am, I promptly managed to somehow fall in a lump on the ground.
"Hey, it's not my fault! You spazzed out."
I rubbed my ass, sure that there'd be a bruise tomorrow. "Owwwww. What'd you wake me up for anyways?" I asked from my spot still on the ground.
Axel extended a hand to help me up. He was already dressed, showered and everything. "I'm guessing you cleaned my apartment last night, my little French maid?"
I blushed, feeling like an idiot. Why exactly did I clean his apartment last night? "... I wasn't tired. And I was drunk."
He grinned that infectious smile. "Not that I'm complaining! It looks great... I didn't even know this wreck cleaned up this well. Thanks."
"I do have one question though."
I raised my eyebrows and moved over to the kitchen counter, leaning on it.
"Next time, will you wear the whole outfit? Ya know, the short little dress and apron, fishnets, high heels?"
I blushed even brighter than before "Axel!"
"Oh, and the feather duster! Can't forget that, no sir. Yeah, just give me a call when you're in a cleaning mood again, I'll have the outfit ready and waiting for you."
I finally broke out laughing and nodded my head from side to side. "You're crazy."
"I never said I wasn't."
I looked to the side and saw a glass of water with two little pills next to it.
"That's for you, I figured you'd have a bit of a headache."
I sighed. "Yeah, it's not too bad... thanks, Axel, you're a lifesaver."
"You look a right wreck, to be honest. You want a shower?"
"Sure. Sounds great, actually."
He moved towards the bathroom. "There are towels in the closet there, and shampoo and stuff's already in there."
"Aren't you just quite the host."
He laughed. "I guess I have motherly tendencies?"
"Something like that, yeah." I smiled and headed into the bathroom, shutting the door behind me.
About ten minutes later, I emerged cleaner and refreshed.
Axel was sitting on the couch, watching the news. "You know, I had this kind of... fear that you'd wake up and regret ever talking to me or something. You'd suddenly realize that I was a total weirdo and just... never speak to me again."
I furrowed my eyebrow. "What makes you think that?"
He continued staring at the TV, not once looking at me. "It's happened before."
"With people you've just met?"
"No, actually. With people I've known my whole life."
I didn't know what to say. Should I push the subject further, or just let it go? Ultimately, I decided to let it go, for lack of anything to say on the matter.
"What time is it, anyways?" I asked.
"Um..." he fumbled for his cell phone in his pocket. "Ten-thirty."
And suddenly, I remembered. The color must have drained out of my face, for Axel noticed that something was wrong.
"I... promised someone I'd meet them this morning... shit." I said.
A funny look came over his face, though if you asked I couldn't explain it. "Girlfriend?"
"I, um... yeah." I rushed over to my phone where it lay on the counter, and realized it had died late last night. "What kind of phone do you have?"
"Can I borrow the charger really fast? I just need enough to check my phone..."
"Yeah, sure." Axel said with what was clearly a forced smile. He didn't sound that happy.
He went to his bedroom and came back a few seconds later with the charger in hand. I smiled in thanks and plugged my phone in, turning it on.
After the little intro theme song, I was alerted that I had 4 missed calls as well as 1 new voicemail. Sure enough, all of the calls were from Namine. The first one was at 7:02 and the last at 7:53.
Guilt took over as I dialed my voicemail. I entered the password, then waited to hear the inevitable message.
"Hey, Roxas, it's Namine. I... I guess you're not coming. It's not a big deal, though I wish you would have called. I'm worried, actually... usually you're not one to not show. Are you alright? If you get this, call me back so that I know you're fine. I'm not mad, don't worry. I just want to make sure you're okay. Okay... bye."
I shut the phone, feeling like I didn't deserve someone as amazing as her. Any other person would be furious that they were stood up. But not Namine. All she cares about is my well being.
Guilt lapped at me from both sides. One was ditching Namine, the other was that now I was ditching Axel. I turned around, where he was watching me with a... look on his face. I couldn't describe it.
"You have to go?"
"...Yeah. I was supposed to be somewhere this morning, but I forgot."
"No problem." He walked around me into the kitchen. "I shouldn't have kept you out so late anyways, let alone bring you back here."
I smiled, not knowing what else to do. "Hey, I let you kidnap me." I joked, trying to lighten the mood.
It seemed to work. "Thanks again for cleaning up the place."
"Don't worry about it. Even I don't know what I was thinking."
He opened a drawer and rummaged around before pulling out a napkin and scribbling something down on it. "This is my cell phone number... call me if you want to hang out again." He said.
I looked at it as he gave it to me and put it in my pocket.
"Well... bye then."
"See you later."
I nodded and walked down the hallway towards the front door. As soon as I opened it I paused, turning around to ask Axel a question. I found that he was watching me leave. "Oh, and one more thing."
"Yeah?" He tilted his head to one side, arms crossed. His green eyes studied me intently.
"All those paintings and drawings- you did those?"
"Yeah. Did you like them?"
I nodded. "They're amazing. You're great."
He seemed to beam. "Thanks... that means a lot. But we can talk about art another time, you get going."
I laughed. "Always the mother, you are." I said, and gave him one last nod before walking completely out the door, letting it swing shut behind me.
Um... dodges tomatos Yikes. Over four months. I'm not even going to bother making an excuse this time. Except for that I suck. Sorry about that.
But anyways, I'm hoping that I'm getting back into writing. This chapter was fun for me (as well as good therapy!). Mostly description more than dialogue, but it sets up the plot, which I have almost figured out completely. Hope you enjoyed the chapter, and maybe if you're lucky I'll get the next one out relatively soon :)
Like it? Hate it? Tell me in a review.
Until next time...