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TRAVEL PORTRAIT 62: June 25, 2017

Out of the Wilderness [one | two | three | four | part five | six | seven | eight] [listen]

FICTION

I

Frank stepped through the doorway of Brian's apartment. Holding his duffel bag in his left hand, he closed the door with his right. Making a clockwise quarter turn, he noticed the kitchen before stopping halfway around and viewing the layout of the apartment proper.

On his immediate right was the bathroom where his host ran immediately because of the need to 'empty the bladder'. Walking forward into the living room, Frank saw another room he thought was Brian's office. The door was open. Frank stood at the jamb to gain a view, a sense of Brian's professional life.

A fairly large abstract painting composed of pointillist mauve, tan and blue pigments hung on the far wall. Beneath the painting was a couch, and, off to the side, a floor lamp. In the center of the office was a work table. Frank noticed loose papers, magazines and books organized in a project-oriented mess. A few feet away along the tangential wall was a large computer monitor perched on a desk. The desk was to the left of a double-panned window that looked onto a building across the street. The computer monitor caught Frank's eye; the screensaver had words flowing as if being touch-typed on a word processor. There was writing/scribbling on a legal notepad tilted on a stand beside a keyboard. On second thought, he was not sure if what he was looking at was a screensaver. Maybe someone was collaborating on a shared document.

Frank heard a flush of water and pipes rattling.

"My office is a bit of a mess," acknowledged Brian as he moved swiftly in front of Frank. He ushered his guest to the middle of the living room between the coffee table and the sleeper sofa.

Frank noticed that Brian's caramel facial skin tone was flushed similarly to that of the painting in his office.

"Perhaps I'll show you what I'm working on later. However, for now, let me show you the rest of the place. First though, remove your coat so that I may hang it up in the closet." Brian chuckled.

Embarrassed by getting caught snooping, Frank did what he was told: relinquishing his coat, sighing at the tiresome joke.

"Here you go," resigned Frank, holding on to his duffel.

"You've seen my office," snarled Brian. "There, past the closet, is the bathroom: toilet, sink, bathtub/shower--oh, and the vanity mirror," he mentioned to lighten the mood.

Frank responded with a quiet guttural laugh through his nostrils, accented with a wry smile and a gleeful eye roll.

"The washer/dryer, obviously. Way over there is the kitchen--spacious, right?! As you can see, I eat a lot of takeout. That is, of course, if I don't eat at the diner, By the way, if you need any plastic containers," quipped Brian.

In the kitchen corner, next to the sink was a trash bag stuffed to capacity. Hard-edges, along with the garbage, stretched the two-ply liner into a deformed sculptural mass.

"There's a chute that leads to a dumpster outside down the hall," hinted Brian, trying to sucker Frank.


II

Brian positioned himself next to Frank on his right side. He placed his left hand on Frank's back, between the shoulder blades, and gave him a gentle shove.

"This way," offered Brian, extending his right arm with palm open to guide in the direction he wanted Frank to go. "Did I mention that the apartment is rent stabilized?"

Frank tightened his grip on the handle of the duffel bag. Instinctively, he balled his right hand into a fist. As they walked out of the living room, Brian continued describing the apartment.

"You might not know--with most apartments in Manhattan, subletting is forbidden, and is strictly enforced by the tenant council. I'm on the council.

Again, Frank was beside Brian, who winked, grinned and nodded. Frank suppressed his adrenaline rush and facial expression as he gave berth to lessen the proximity of what he perceived to be his aggressor, uncertain of what he (Frank) might do next. He wondered where this tour was leading. Was this a real estate pitch, or what?!

"Averse to being touched? Please, pardon me," implored Brian, with his hands positioned where Frank could see them. "If you follow me, please, here's the bedroom.

Brian walked into the chamber ahead of Frank, who shot a wary glance at his guide.

"Whatcha think," inquired Brian. "Beneath the king-size bed are drawers for extra blankets, linens and things. Behind the bi-fold full length mirrors is a closet with shelving. Here, look. These are cubby holes I use for underwear and socks. Through there is the bathroom with a separate shower and tub. Oh, there isn't a TV in here, but the WiFi is excellent if you want to use a tablet or laptop to stream a movie. So???"

"Well, this is better than the hostel for sure, complimented Frank, believing the tidiness of the bedroom was reminiscent of a hotel suite. He placed his duffel bag on a wooden trunk at the foot of the bed.

"Whoa, wait a minute. You can drop your bag in the living room where you'll be sleeping tonight. You're on the couch," declared Brian, not wanting Frank to get the wrong idea, better yet, he wanted to control Frank's ideas.

"Listen, I need to get showered and cleaned up for this evening. We have the concert at the Hall, remember? Don't worry. What you have on is fine," Brian condescended. "On your way back to the living room, you can grab yourself a beer, or something to drink from the fridge."

"Right, Okay. Thanks."

"The TV remote is in the center drawer of the coffee table, next to the coasters."

Frank sulked towards the kitchen with bag in tow. He looked over his shoulder when he heard the bedroom door thud. What was he doing here he asked himself; his confidence shaken.

The bedroom door opened abruptly. Brian poked his head out the door.

"Oh, if the buzzer goes, press the button to let my godchild up. Thanks. Her name is Celia."

Brian closed the door sternly to emphasize the command to his presumed subordinate.


III

Disoriented, Frank forgot about Celia and Carnegie Hall. He began to calm down. Believing that he better remain lucid, he grabbed a glass out of the cupboard, took ice from the freezer tray, and lifted the faucet tap for water. No need to let his awkwardness be augmented by nervous intoxication.

Frank placed his duffel bag beside the sofa. He sat down in front of the television, located a coaster and the remote control. He pointed the control at the flatscreen situated on top of an entertainment home center storage cabinet. Uninterested, he surfed channels. Unawares, Frank dozed off.

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Copyright © 2017 by Edward K. Brown II, All Rights Reserved.