Everything In Its Place
Fiction by Stu Mark
Walking up the 75 steps he thought of what she had said to him before he left her room. It wasn't that she was being overly cynical, but her tone had become darker over the past few days and Dylan wasn't sure what to do. Or if there was anything to do. This was the nature of things, wasn't it? Certainly life was unfolding before him and he couldn't control it, try as he might.
Dylan walked along 5th Street, feeling good about things. It had gone well and she was better in the long run, wasn't that what it was about? He felt sorry for her, sure, but what was he to do? "It's all a matter of time" he thought. "It's all a matter of time."
The doorman at his flat opened the door with a "How's your day?" and a brief nod. Dylan wasn't partial to men in uniform; they made him nervous. He wished the doorman would wear a suit instead of that security uniform, but he never mentioned it and he tried not to let his discomfort show on his face.
"Hi Larry," replied Dylan. "How's your mom doing? Better, I hope."
Larry smiled gently and said "Sure, sure. She's coming along great, thanks for asking. She's a real soldier, my mom."
Dylan smiled, nodded, and walked through the lobby to the stairway in the corner, near the men's room. He lived on the fifth floor, but he couldn't handle elevators. Certainly not after all that he had been through last summer.
Eight months ago Dylan was on the subway heading home from work. It was well after 7 pm, but the subway was still packed. There was a power failure midway and the train stopped and all the lights went out. At first it was OK, a few folks making jokes about forgetting to pay the electricity bill, nervous laughter and small talk. But they stood there for an hour and things got a little heated. Eventually two men, started arguing and pushing each other. At first they were far enough away, but eventually the jostling got closer and closer to Dylan. The rest of the crowd tried to calm them down, but their voices just echoed in the sealed subway car. Then, just as the men were close enough to Dylan for him to smell the sweat pouring off of their bodies, a shot rang out.
That was the last Dylan remembered until a paramedic woke him up with a gentle slap in the face. The lights were back on and he was laying on his back, blinking, trying to figure out where he was. It turned out that the gunman had pointed up before he fired and no one had been hurt. Dylan had just simply fainted. But it left him with a ringing in his ears that didn't go away for a few weeks. It also left him with an aversion to confined spaces.
Walking up the 75 steps -- he counted them every once in a while, when he was bored -- he thought of what she had said to him before he left her room. It wasn't that she was being overly cynical, but her tone had become darker over the past few days and Dylan wasn't sure what to do. Or if there was anything to do. This was the nature of things, wasn't it? Certainly life was unfolding before him and he couldn't control it, try as he might.
"Maybe I need to let it go," thought Dylan. He inserted his key into the dead bolt and jiggled. After half a minute or so it gave way and he was able to enter his apartment. Taking off his jacket, he remembered the way her hair would fall in front of her face when she was embarrassed about something. He smiled and took off his tie, hanging it with the jacket. Turning, he headed toward the kitchen.
He passed the answering machine on the counter without checking for messages. He knew that the machine was full, and he knew he should clear out the old messages, but they were from her and he just couldn't get himself to do it. Sometimes he'd listen to them, especially late at night when he couldn't find sleep. They were like photographs, images that conjured other images, a magician's trick that pleased the innocent.
Several years ago a man had come to the door, selling insurance. Dylan was a bit afraid at first, as the man was impossibly tall. However, he'd been very gentle and seemed genuinely concerned for Dylan's well-being. It seems that the man lived in the building and was offering discounted rates on life and property insurance. Dylan listened to the entire sales pitch, nodded at the appropriate intervals, and then signed where he was told to sign.
It took Dylan more than two days to realize that his wallet was missing, and when he did his thoughts ran to the impossibly tall man. But Dylan was too intimidated to do anything about it. He just called his credit card companies and canceled the cards, but they had already been run up and the credit card companies said that Dylan was responsible for the debt. Not wanting to cause trouble for anyone, Dylan simply transferred funds from one of his money market accounts and let the matter rest.
Now he stood at the door to his refrigerator and considered heating up some leftover noodle casserole. Instead, he poured himself a glass of water and took it into the bedroom. He sat at the edge of the bed, sipping at the water. "What if I'm wrong," he wondered. "What will become of her?"
Dylan got up, walked down the hall to the kitchen, poured himself another glass of water, drank it quickly, poured another, then set it down and reached for the phone. He dialed a succession of numbers and then started to pace around the kitchen, waiting for the call to go through.
After a moment, Dylan spoke. "Extension 143 please ... Thank you." Another moment and then Dylan spoke again. "Hi, yes, it's me ... I know ... No, you're right ... Absolutely. I'll sign the papers ... Yes, I know. I know. Tomorrow? Yes, I can come in tomorrow. Yes ... Yes. Alright. Thank you. Goodbye."
Dylan put the phone back in its cradle and drank the rest of the glass of water. He walked back to his bedroom, then back to the kitchen, then to the bathroom, where he threw up violently.
After a moment, he flushed the toilet and wiped his mouth with a towel. He walked back to the kitchen, poured himself another glass of water and reached for the phone. He gagged slightly, dialed some numbers, then put the phone back down. He sipped at the water, then picked up the phone and dialed again. "It's me. Yes, it's done ... Yes, just as you specified. No, thank you. Just finish what you need to finish, please. Thank you. Good day."
Dylan put the phone in its cradle again, sighed deeply, sipped at the water, then sighed again. Then he laughed out loud. Surprising himself with the noise, Dylan dropped the glass, scrambling to catch it as it fell to the ground. Water flying in every direction, Dylan lifted his leg and popped the glass back up into the air, as though it were a soccer ball. This time Dylan caught the now empty glass. With shaking hands, he placed it gently back on the counter and laughed again. "Everything in its place," thought Dylan, and then he turned to walk back down the hall to his bedroom, chuckling to himself. "Everything in its place."