“He explained that he didn’t invite all his patients out for dinner but he liked me perhaps rather more than the others. I was a special kind of person.”
A Biscuit After Midnight
Every evening I wait at the kitchen window. It looks over the street. It is a window that monitors all the movement in this little thoroughfare called Eldon Street and it is so low down that many people inadvertently knock against it when they are standing in front of it briefly, tying their shoelace or speaking on their mobile phone. I have been here for half an hour, on this seat, waiting behind the window, but he still hasn’t appeared. He is half an hour behind time. This is getting on my nerves. He is not usually late. The clock with the green baby owl on it says that it is two thirty a.m. I am going to have to stay here all night until he comes. If anyone thinks this is difficult, let them think what they like. People think a lot of things and attempt much less. I like to have a go. I am not easily frightened but on the other hand I don’t imagine I am all that clever. In conjunction, these two factors don’t bother me as much as Loenia bothers me. Nevertheless I am too short of time to be concerning myself with what Loenia wants. She would do well to have found someone and to have got herself out of my house at long last. Loenia is taking up my space and gnawing away at my soul. Maybe I should stop calling her so often. Or maybe I should stop listening to the others who insist that Loenia is a creature of my imagination. I peer into the darkness and draw my stool closer to the window. I am hidden behind the curtains. Nobody can see me, not that anybody is around at this time, but I can see everything very clearly given that the curtain is lightly imprinted in a checkerboard pattern, like a board game. I would be capable of waiting all night here, but I am tired. There aren’t many cars outside. The doctor’s car is parked opposite my door. A big jeep with leather seats and a huge sun-roof. When he took me out to dinner I accidentally ripped the leather of one of its seats with the prong of my belt buckle. He went pale but managed to smile politely and tell me that it didn’t matter, not to worry – it was no big deal. We didn’t go out together again. It was a quiet evening. We sat in the restaurant and looked at each other. I was more silent than he was and he found this tiring. He talked to me about my therapy and explained what a positive point we had reached and how happy he was for me. He explained that he didn’t invite all his patients out for dinner but he liked me perhaps rather more than the others. I was a special kind of person. “You know what I mean Arkati. You remind me of a very delicate species of plant.” I just gaped at him and then continued eating. I took a big mouthful of veal and mushrooms with Worcestershire sauce and when I had swallowed it I said: “The flavor was simply divine. I love veal when it is cooked that way.” This was one of the weightier statements I made that evening.
Suddenly I heard a noise from the room above. Something had fallen onto the floor and I am sure that it was Clou’s cane. I call her Clou because she reminds me of a doll that I had when I was small. An ugly little doll which I thought had the devil or an evil spirit dwelling inside it. Clou is elegant and gracious. She wears expensive hats and scarves in the latest fashion with various scenes depicted on them. One of them has a sketch displaying two naked men together. Their legs are intertwined and their heads are bent conspiratorially as if one of them is whispering something in the ear of the other. I had studied it most attentively the first time I saw it and Clou had burst out laughing. “For heaven’s sake, my dearest darling, have you never before seen a naked man?” And then she leant towards me and murmured a vile word that quite unnerved me. When someone doesn’t give Clou the attention she thinks she deserves, she curses with incredible inventiveness. She makes up new dirty words and upgrades the familiar ones with breathtaking aplomb. Many a time in the evening, when the visits stop, I hear her launch into a session of tomfoolery, all delivered in the tone of voice you associate with polite greetings: “Good evening, my dear neighbor.” She talks to her electrical appliances, to the walls, to her porcelain ornaments, to her hats and her ashtrays. To herself. “Clou, you are a disgusting whore.” “Clou, you suck.” “Clou, get fucked.” She says all this to her reflection in the mirror as she is applying her lipstick. When she drops her cane I hear her wheezing as she stoops to pick it up. Clou limps on her left foot. I don’t know if she was born that way or contracted some disease and I am not very much interested. She is the age my grandmother would be if she were still alive. She is ancient.
I am going to wait a little longer. I’m sure he will come, even if it is late. He always does. If it were summer I would open the window and that would make the waiting easier. He might have gotten into a fight or been sidetracked while trying to find something to eat. Today I kept two big biscuits for him. Chicken-flavored and in the shape of a full chicken with its puffy breast and the skinny legs wrapped around the body. I go over the moon when I see how pleased he is to see me through the window. Loenia thinks that I haven’t been cured and that the doctor on the top floor did absolutely nothing. As a doctor he is useless. All he wanted was to get me into his bed. One day I told her that I don’t need any therapy, that I am in better shape than she is, and she became so angry that she smashed me in the face with a book. She didn’t speak to me for a month after that. And even though I don’t like her at all, I started to miss her. I am the only person who sees Loenia. She doesn’t let anyone else near her. One day when I was taking out the rubbish Clou whispered in my ear that Loenia is a slovenly old hag whose only friends are the cats that hang around her and they do that only because she feeds them. Just at that moment Olga, the chemistry student on the fourth floor, was coming down the stairs. “Good day to you, Olga. Thank you so much, my dear. It is Hermes. I bought him two years ago in Paris. Give my regards to your mother. You are pretty as a picture today. Good day to you, my dear, good day!”
“Hi, Clou. Thanks,” said Olga and, ignoring me, she made her exit with a light tripping gait. Olga makes me feel ashamed. When I see her I feel ugly and drab, even if the doctor tells me I am attractive. She is always young, always cheerful, always beautifully dressed. It seems that I am the only one who does not receive this treatment. She never speaks to me. Loenia is certain that Olga fancies the doctor and wouldn’t mind sharing his bed, but for some bizarre reason he is not interested. The awkwardness I feel when I see her is like a red rag to her. “Olga,” I asked her one day, “don’t you like me?” “Get lost, you crazy old bitch,” was all she said. Since then I have avoided her and my embarrassment with her has been growing and growing.
I rearrange the biscuits. I have put them facing one another now. Two chickens eyeing each other across the plate. I buy biscuits once a week. A different flavor on each occasion: chicken, beef, fish. The fish are his favorite but this week is the week for chicken. In my father’s house we ate chicken every Thursday. Chicken on the grill with potato chips, chicken and noodle casserole, chicken with cream sauce, chicken with curry and raisins, baked chicken with beer broth. I pick up the box from the little table and smell it. As always a very strong smell hits my nose, like the odor of decomposing rubbish. It is revolting. Putting in my hand, I take one of them out. I gently bite it with my front teeth and slowly start chewing. It wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t have that smell.