When he woke up from his fever-induced slumber, the sky had already darkened over San Francisco, but the clouds had dissolved. He groaned, shuffled a little in his messy sheets and realised he felt completely dehydrated. The phone was silent. Ezra reached for the plastic bottle at his feet with a faint hope it would contain anything liquid, but the bottle turned out to be empty and he had no choice other than to drag himself to the bathroom and the kitchen. The thought that he, the Universally Ungrateful Beast, probably deserved to develop a full-on head cold, lurked in the back of his head. That'd get his mind off his pretentious existentialism. He sighed.
When your bones feel like they're splintered and your skin is on fire, moving and walking isn't fun. Hanging over the sink, he threw a clouded glance at the mirror. His face was almost always unusually pale, but today a sickly yellow-ish tinge and rosy cheeks ruined the marble white of his skin. Not that he could care less.
The item that saved his kitchen - to use the attribute 'tiny' would already be very well-meant - was a plant with luscious green leaves in a yellow pot that hung from the ceiling. Against the background of little blue tiles and dirty dishes loosing their patience next to the sink, it saved the room from undirected chaos and made it seem like everything, mutinous as it may be, was still under the inhabitants control. It wasn't, though. Ezra rummaged through the cupboards feebly hoping to find anything of nutritional value, but apart from an expired bottle of ketchup - who even bought it, and when? Certainly not him - and a bag of letter soup he found absolutely nothing. He mustered the letter soup. This one he didn't buy either. Veronica did, after she and Ben had played around with his fridge poetry magnets. Currently, they spelled "no carps in this diem pond". He crinkled his nose at this fairly dadaist nonsense but didn't move the letters.
A cold shiver ran over his back. This was a terrible moment to get so sick. He had work to do and papers to write. He boiled water for both soup and a cup of herbal tea, determined to at least uphold the illusion of functioning, and wasn't soup magical when it came to colds, anyway? His kitchen didn't have a table, but it had a stool and about 15 free square inches of space, where he settled with a small bowl. Letter soup. My life is a letter soup, he thought to himself, a mess of signs that mean nothing, the possibility of a good stir ruining absolutely everything and, as a finish, the entire mess growing colder by the second. A sudden buzz almost gave him a heart attack. It was Ben again.
you alive? hopefully not out of aspirin again? junkie
Ezra ignored the message, staring out of the window. In terms of his appartment's view, he was very lucky - on the 4th floor of an old town house located right between two streets, he had the classical San Francisco panorama right before him whenever he glanced through either of the two small windows: two roads hurrying downhill, pastel colours, cafés, the beach somewhere always near, if you walked long enough. The sky was beautiful. An intense indigo bleeding into a wishful yellow tone. If he just weren't so miserable all the time, he could be happy here. He loved this place. "I can sort everything out," he said to himself aloud. Ezra's voice was hoarse. He pushed around letters in his bowl. Hello. Ezra. Help. Pls why. You're ridiculous, he thought. People would kill to be in your position. Eating a few spoons of soup, he picked up his phone and answered Ben.
im good. well kinda
will probably skip work tho
dang man but better get some rest than turn up there tomorrow and get everyone to hate you because you share your flu or whatever it is youre dying from
Ezra's laptop made a bubbly noise. It was sitting on the fridge from when he was watching a film earlier, and the Skype window was blinking. Ezra sighed and clicked to take the call. "Whassup, Benny." Ben's face popped up on the screen. He had curly, brown hair and an abundance of freckles all over his nose and cheeks. "Yo! Nothing, just wanted to check up on you, Hamlet. Have you got some food left? Veronnie and I could drop off some takeout, if you're interested. We're off to the cinema in a minute." Ezra shook his head. "Thanks, you guys got me sorted with a bag of letter soup the other day, so I'm well-fed and on my way to recovery. 'N stuff." "My bag of letter soup?" Veronica's voice off screen startled Ezra for a second, then she appeared right next to Ben. "Hi Ezra!". He just waved his hand briefly. "I'm fine, kind of, I'll better get some more sleep I guess. Today was stressful as hell, I was gonna get some shit done but I ended up almost passing out, it's probably a fever but it'll pass, I just need to sleep." Ben raised an eyebrow. "You sure? You look like shit, to be honest." Ezra nodded, winked at the pair and clicked the red button.
He wasn't doing too bad. He was close to waving university goodbye for good and, in the meantime, working freelance at a hip PR agency where people certainly did realise they were up to something with him. He should be thanking the universe. Something, however, was always nagging him. Even though opportunities came to Ezra every once in a while, they never seemed to be more than that: brief encounters with luck. He pulled a grimace at his own thoughts. When did he become so biedermeier? That's just the way things are in the 21st century, he thought to himself, you should've become a gardener or a baker, if you wanted a contract job and a schedule cast in stone. There were only two ways: come to terms with constant worrying, or just stop. Just ignore the toothache, it's here to stay. Was stability really the nonpareil gold standard for a happy life? Debatable, and how he detested himself for craving just a tiny bit of this meditative, elusive, magical stability in his existence. The unexpected email, assignment, appointment always came round. Things broke. Things didn't work out. Things that worked out didn't always have the best timing. His bank account wept silently more often than not. His folks had their own micro- and macro-disasters to take care of, that sometimes involved him, and sometimes didn't. All the people he was close with were tired more often than not, and by God, he was, too.
i feel like 40 years ago you just had to float along The Great Stream to live your life, and now the world swims in the opposite direction and if your arms are weak its your problem
people 40 years ago probably said the exact same thing about people from 40 years before that
or probably they didn't because world wars I and II
i hate everything
i'll shut up
you're delirious. everything is glittery and fairy-sparkly and beautiful. cant you see
SORRY i said i'll shut up. there. im silent. im sleeping now
He knew that Ben knew what bothered him, and he knew that neither of them had a solution. Somewhere someone might have found some psychoanalytic way to change people's perceptions of their experiences on planet Earth, but not him. Not today. He guzzled down the rest of his letter soup before it had a chance to turn completely cold, picked up his laptop and made his way to the bed. He wasn't intending to sleep, however, not yet. The room was just a few square metres, but Ezra didn't mind. He didn't own anything too much to clog up the place, and he was far from claustrophobic. If he propped up his pillows against the wall at his bedside, he could lean back and watch the city, and the sky. Before covering his pale shoulders with a blanket - he was shaking, and he could feel blood rushing to his cheeks - he pressed 'Play' on his laptop. Only recently, he'd made a playlist that Ben had described as an "acoustic hurricane of wistfulness in the evening sun", and Veronica had subscribed to it and shared it on Facebook, where it, absurdly so, gathered a large following. The varying progressions of major, then minor, then major chords again in the songs he picked did something to him, and apparently to other people, too. He savoured the sounds that tended to all his grazes, reassured him it's fine to feel the way he felt, and that he wouldn't necessarily be stuck with that feeling forever, and he didn't notice how he slowly drifted into a deep, dreamless sleep.