Through heavy eye bags and red, veiny whites, Oscar looked at his reflection in the mirror as he brushed his teeth. Blasted bird, he thought to himself as, without much enthusiasm, he brushed back and forth, back and forth. Above, on the roof of his mouth, the tip of his tongue, below. Back and forth. Spit. He turned the water faucet on and nothing but a weird gurgling sound. There was no water though. He rolled his eyes and grumbled. Blasted drought. It rains all the time but there’s no water on the pipes. He took a deep breath and looked around the small washroom. He spotted a plastic one-gallon bottle on the bathtub and picked it up. It was way too light to have any water in it. He shambled out of the bathroom, drawing every step out little by little.
“Wow, so that’s the mood this morning?” he heard his wife asking. He turned around, his back arched and mouth uncomfortable with caked toothpaste that he couldn’t rinse off.
“I’m just gonna get some water from the tank in the balcony,” he said.
“Yes, yes,” she said as she was walked into the hallway to face him, both arms above her head while she placed a black fuzzy rubber band in such a way to create a lavish ponytail with her long, frizzy hair. She was wearing a cropped tube top that exposed a large, almost perfectly round belly with a bulging belly-button. “You may want to put on some pants before you go out there though!” she exclaimed. “I don’t want the neighbors getting an eyeful of pale, hairy ass!”
“That’s not my ass! It’s my back!” he protested back.
“I swear you have the longest, deepest crack that ever existed,” she said in a playful tone. “Why, you should pull those boxers up to your nipples to hide that crack!”
“Har har har,” he said in a mock chuckle as he went through the hall while holding the plastic bottle, turned right at the entrance to the living room, walked past the 50-inch TV suspended on the metallic arm, towards a door at the end. He turned a key that was set on the handle-less deadbolt, feeling a satisfying amount of resistance as the latch turned and popped with a loud metallic clang. He pushed to open the door and went out into the small, 48-inch wide balcony. He yawned and stretched, then walked towards a large black plastic container with a yellow lid, the kind they sell at hardware stores, and pulled the lid off after some effort. “Damnit,” he complained as he hurt a finger in the process, causing it to bleed a little. He set the lid aside on the floor, upside down, and submerged the water bottle inside the container, filling it with the water within it. It was still mostly full. He took the lid and set it back into the container. He could hear the rooster announcing the morning louder from the balcony, so he peeked around, trying to find it. “Where the heck is that blasted hellion?” he blurted out. It was still too dark to see properly. He shrugged, went back into the living room, and closed the door by pulling on the key. He then walked back to the bathroom while sucking on the middle finger from his left hand.
He used the water to rinse his mouth and to wet his hair. He then proceeded to comb it, style it, trying to imitate Manolo’s handiwork. Maybe he should have asked for the usual buzzcut. His wife peeked in from one of the open doors, the one that leads to their bedroom, and made a few gestures at him, trying to guide him on how to style it.
“I’m not so sure I should have asked Manolo to leave so much hair in front. I’m not used to leaving so much hair in front after a haircut,” he said.
“I really like it when you have enough hair to run my fingers through,” she cooed. “I wish he hadn’t used the trimmer on the back of your head though; it leaves your hair a lot coarser than it should be.”
“Maybe next time you should come with me to give him precise directions.”
“Absolutely not!” she snapped at him. “I don’t want them to think that you can’t make your own decisions!”
“Maybe that’s one decision I don’t feel that I need to handle on my own,” he said as he grabbed the can of hair spray and applied it liberally to create a hold.
“You don’t have to use half of it in one go!” she yelled while coughing and waving her arms at the invisible mist of hair spray offending her sensibilities. Giving up against her non-corporeal opponent, she ran to the windows and started cranking the handles as fast as she could to open the shutters in the louver-style windows to let some fresh air in, taking in a deep breath as she did. “Oh great; the neighbors still don’t know how to pick up their dog’s crap,” she remarked.
“So which is better? A whiff of the spray or a whiff of Coppernicus’ processed lunch?” he laughed as he asked. She rolled her eyes while looking at him.
“At least Coppernicus is rather cute. For a weiner with legs anyway,” she said. “I just wish his owners would actually walk him instead of sending his kids to do the deed,” she shook her head. “One of these days they’ll pick up the land mines. I hope. Oh crap!” she exclaimed after looking at the clock atop the nightstand to the left of the bed. “Traffic’s gonna kill me,” she yelled as she hastily started to iron the dress she had set up on top of the ironing board.
“You know you really should be doing that before the day that you actually need to use it?” he asked while grinning from ear to ear.
“Oh hush you! I was tired last night, so there! You’re not the one that has to carry this big boy in his belly!”
He smiled as he left the bathroom, walked over behind her, and cradled her in his arms in a wide hug. “You know I can iron the clothes if you just set them out where I’ve told you to do so, right? Right here on the top of the rocking chair.” She pouted.
“I know. But I just decided I wanted to wear this,” she smiled as she frantically went about ironing the dress. “And you’ve burnt a few of these by mistake before,” she added.
“Only once! He protested. And that’s because I didn’t know how to do it then,” he said as he removed his arms and stepped away from the hug. He perused through the closet and picked out a green polo shirt with a gray logo and a pair of black jeans. “It’s just 6 AM anyway; you have plenty of time to get ready.”
“You’ve never driven on the 52nd this early,” she said with a hint of panic in her voice. “I’m not gonna make it if I don’t up the pace!” she protested as she took the dress off the ironing board and inspected it.
“Ok, ok. I get it. Let me get some coffee ready,” he said. He hung the green polo shirt on the doorknob and stepped into the black jeans. He took a deep breath, pulled them up, and forced them close. Shirtless, belly spilling from the top of the jeans, he walked through the hall and towards the kitchen. He inspected the coffee maker, raising the lid, and then shook his head. “We forgot to clean the filter again,” he said aloud and then removed the reusable plastic filter and cup its cup from the coffee maker and proceeded to pour dishwashing fluid on them. Then he opened the faucet and, barring the sound of rushing up from the pipes, nothing happened. “Damnit!” he yelled. He looked at the ceiling and let his arms drop to his sides as he felt an embrace from behind.
“Don’t worry sweetheart,” his wife whispered in his ear. “I’ll buy myself some coffee and breakfast from the sandwich joint next to the office dear. Take it easy for a few minutes, ok.” A smile formed on his face as he let out a sigh. “Anyway, I’m taking heading out. Love you!” she exclaimed, then kissed him on the lips. She let him go from the hug and grabbed her purse from a hook on the wall next to the door and took her keys out.
“Love you too Jess,” he said with a wide smile as he looked at her. She went out the door, then slammed it shut with a loud bang. “I wish you also loved the door,” he added in a low tone of voice. Hands full of dish soap and old compacted coffee grounds, he grabbed a length of paper towel and cleaned himself as much as he could. Then he grabbed a brass pitcher and went back to the black container where he had been storing water out on the balcony. He looked outside and saw the neighbor's kids walking Coppernicus out on the ground level of the complex. He shook his head as he noticed the small, elongated dog squatting down with its back bent. “Another land mine,” he said while shaking his head.