Story & Film Work by Eric Martin
Photos from Wikimedia Commons
Carl Closes the Blinds
Five nights a week Carl walked a few blocks to the bus stop and went to work on a cleaning crew. Emptying garbage cans, mopping and running a vacuum in the city’s offices, Carl worked all night.
When he got home to his one bedroom apartment, Carl turned down the blinds against the drops of morning sunlight trickling in. He lay down on a mattress on the floor and slept.
He didn’t think about anything.
He had a father who lived across town who had raised him until he was ten years old then given him up. His mother had left long before that.
When he slept, Carl did not dream of them.
When he slept, Carl dreamed of birds flying over the ocean. Sometimes he was the bird. Sometimes he was sailing on a boat that scraped across the surface of the water, barely touching the sea. Several birds raced along with him in utter silence.
The constancy of the birds could have been confused for purpose, but this was not a dream of purpose. This was a dream of complete being.
On the weekend nights, there was the same walk to the bus stop. Then Carl went to a loud bar near the heart of the city. He sat at the bar in the most brightly lit seat, drinking beer and only beer. Occasionally there were women.
They must have seen something of themselves in Carl. But at the end of the night that little bit in common was either too much or too little.
He went home, took a shower, and turned down the blinds against the daylight and never spoke with them again. The few who he did call either pretended that they didn’t know him or that he’d called the wrong number.
He dreamed that the sea was grey and blue and had no smell.
The bus ride was never long and never short. Carl maintained a sturdy balance in his seat, used to the swaying height of the bus above the broken city sidewalks.
Not all the sidewalks in the city were broken, but most of them were.
He no longer listened to music while he worked. The earbuds that a friend had lent him sat coiled on a night stand that stood next the mattress in his apartment.
Nothing could make the nights shorter. He worked until it was time to go. Then he went.
Once, when he was walking the last block to his apartment, Carl decided to send his father a check. He left his blinds open when he got home and found his checkbook and made out a check. There were no envelopes in his house, so he tacked the check to a corkboard that he’d brought with him from his old apartment.
The check with his father’s name on it stayed tacked up in plain sight for a month before Carl tore it up. It wasn’t sad to tear it up. It wasn’t anything.
But the day he wrote it, Carl was a bird in his dream.