There was a man on the balcony. I watched him standing there. Feet shifting on the cement, flickering light from the tiki torches. Two feet, black shoes. The bedspread was damp from humidity. It was a hot night.
–You fly a lot, right? Cheky, you fly a lot?
I wiped my forehead with a crumpled paper towel I’d just blown my nose with. It smeared a little of the blood.
–Yeah. for work.
–Hey, me too. For work. I can’t stand airports. You noticed how nobody’s ever happy in airports, except to be leaving em?
–You notice how nobody’s ever happy in airports, I said. Except when they’re leaving em.
–Right. Whatever. Anyway, my niece, she got me these special headphones that block all the electrical sounds, air conditioners, escalators, things like that. I couldn’t believe it. Makes everyhing like a dream. You ever try those?
–Uh. I don’t know. I don’t think so. They’re headphones?
–Jesus Christ, Cheky. Pay attention. How’s your face?
–I’m not surprised. So these headphones, you’re walking around in a dream, right? You can’t hear anything, just floating along like Denzel Washington, remember? in Malcolm X, where he knows they’re going to kill him?
I tossed the paper towel in the bin under the nightstand. It made a wet thump. There was a pitcher of water on the table.
–Can I have some water?
–To clean out my mouth.
He walked over to the table, and without even really looking knocked the pitcher onto the floor. The water splashed mostly onto the bed. It made little pools in the polyester.
–Cheky, pay attention. This is not a long story. I’m making a point. The problem is, how do you make a point about waking up to somebody who walks around in a dream all the time? Are you paying attention?
I couldn’t quite keep my knee from jiggling.
He whacked the back of his hand into my face. Hard.
–Good. That was the point. Do you get the point?
–Good. I’ll be back tomorrow.
I have some debts.