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Had he been accustomed to such sudden expressions of noise, Raymond would have groaned when the relentless pounding at the door did not cease after he ignored it for several minutes. As it was, he merely frowned and stood to let Jonathan in before he dented the front door again.
“Hey, buddy!” Jonathan nearly shouted as he waltzed into the house for the second time that week. “Have you left the house today?”
It was Saturday, one of the few days a week Raymond was not required to show up at his office and pretend that his job required more than a few hours of work a month.
“Yes,” he lied.
Jonathan didn’t bother turning to face Raymond, who still stood motionless in the entryway, as he made his way to the kitchen. “You’re lying,” he called back over his shoulder.
Raymond paused for a moment of indecision. When he heard the pop of Tupperware opening, however, he stalked into the kitchen to take the tuna salad he had made that morning from Jonathan’s hands.
“You need to get out,” Jonathan informed him, shoving a last stolen bite of tuna in his mouth and tossing the fork in the sink. Raymond gave him a disapproving look.
“I don’t,” he protested flatly.
“You do!” Jonathon exclaimed. “Let’s go to McGruff’s tonight. You’re an eligible bachelor. You need to show the ladies that you’re on the market.”
“I’m not on a market.”
“You are. Get your coat. I’ll drive.”
Raymond frowned again but obeyed, not bothering to change out of his day clothes.
At McGruff’s, Raymond successfully managed to avoid conversation for a good fifteen minutes before he was approached by a blonde woman with dark roots who tried to cover the fact that she was quickly nearing middle age with overly-applied chemicals and cosmetics. She took in his average face, average body, and average brown hair and eyes and straightened her shoulders in determination.
“Hi there,” she drawled, leaning on the bar and looking at Raymond with an over-friendly expression that made him cringe internally. “I haven’t seen you around here before. You new to town?” She continued when Raymond didn’t respond. “I’m,” she paused meaningfully, giving Raymond a sad attempt at a slow, mysterious smile, “Candy.”
Raymond was silent for a moment. Then he blankly said, “Oh,” and, spinning on his bar stool, walked away without further reply. He briefly scanned the crowded bar before seeing Jonathan beckoning to him dramatically from a booth surrounded by laughing, drunk people. Raymond resisted the temptation to roll his eyes. He gave no outward expression as he approached Jonathan, took the keys from his pocket, told the bartender to call him a cab at midnight, and drove away in Jonathan’s car.
Raymond stood alone off to the side of the nearly abandoned subway platform. It was his third time this month. He breathed slowly, trying to limit his intake of the soiled underground air, another disgusting effect on nature by humans.
He heard the distant rumble of an incoming train and began tapping the thumb-side of his right palm against his pant leg in time with the old-fashioned grandfather clock at home that ran a little bit slow. The clock was not an antique. It was not inherited from his family.
Tap, tap, tap.
276 slow seconds later, the train came blasting through, not bothering to stop at the derelict station. Raymond let his head fall back, closed his eyes, and pulled in two unexercised lungs full of damp, fetid air.
When the air left his body, it took with it the dry, haunting scream hidden deep in his stomach. It lasted only as long as the barreling train could be seen from the station. As it disappeared from view, with a rush of air it pulled the last empty, screechingly silent notes from the platform and human ears.
As usual, Raymond didn’t wait for the last rumbles of the now invisible train to fade. After a moment’s meaningless pause, he turned to climb the broken escalator. He was late to feed his cat.