By Daniel Vlasaty
The face in the ceiling tells me it’s time to wake up. I roll over to ignore him but he isn’t having any of it. He starts screaming. Just noises at first. Then: “Jeffrey Highfive! Jeffrey Highfive! Wake up. Wake up – it’s time to wake up.” I throw my pillow at him and he disappears up into the ceiling to dodge it. He pops back out like a pimple, further away in the corner. His eyes turn into flashing red lights that whirl around the room.
I hate the face in the ceiling so much. But he is effective.
I get out of bed, throwing the covers off my body like they are spring-loaded. I see the empty spot left by Syd. It makes me feel nauseous. I can hear the face in the ceiling chuckling at my sadness. What an asshole.
In the kitchen I find a man sitting at the table. The bottom half of his face is hidden under a mossy mustache. He is very fat. I am amazed the thin wooden chair is even able to support all of his weight. He is not wearing a shirt, and his chest is so hairy it is basically fur. Maybe this man is the missing link.
I have seen this man before. But never in the house. I’ve seen him hanging around at the bus stop and the grocery store, I think. I’m still not convinced he is even real. He might just be a figment of my imagination, something created by my mind to deal with the loss of my wife. Syd. This has to be her fault. If she hadn’t left me for her second cousin none of this would be happening.
I pour myself a cup of coffee this fat mustachioed man must have made. It is strong and thick, just how I like it. “Cheers,” the man says in a walrus-y voice. It is full and deep, like the words are vibrating through all his layers of fat.
I sit at the table, across from the man. “Hello,” I say, for some reason.
He smiles a big gap-toothed smile at me. “Morning.” I notice that the hair around his nipples has been shaved. There are faces drawn on his nipples. One is smiling. One is frowning.
The fat man rubs his nipple faces and slurps coffee from his mug, thick black liquid hanging from his mustache.
“I’ve been watching you, you know,” he says.
“I thought you were only in my dreams.”
“No.” He shakes his head and his fat cheeks spread out like face-wings. “That’s the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard. Why would you be dreaming about me?”
I shrug. “I have no idea. But I think the more important question is: why are you watching me?”
The fat man shrugs now. “Why not? It’s not like I have anything better to do.”
“That doesn’t even make sense. And it definitely doesn’t make me feel better.”
“Well, what can I tell ya? It is what it is. I’ve been watching you – get over it.”
“Get over it?? Fuck you, man. You can’t just stalk someone and then tell them to deal with it. It doesn’t work like that.”
“Sure it does. It works however I say it works.”
I open my mouth but nothing comes out except hot air. The fat man finishes his coffee and wiggles his way out of the seat. The chair cracks into a hundred pieces when he stands up. I notice that the three other chairs around the kitchen table are just as dead. He walks over to the coffee pot, the floor groaning beneath him. His fat leg crashes through the floor like it’s made of toothpicks and glue sticks. This fat man is destroying my life and my home.
“I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” I say to him. “And to also put on a shirt, please. That’s just gross. Nobody should have to see that.”
“You’re an asshole,” the fat man says, struggling to free his leg from the hole in the floor. “I’m not leaving shit.”
“I’ll call the cops then.”
“You won’t,” he says, standing up. He throws his arms in the air like a gymnast sticking a perfect landing. He’s sweating now. “You won’t because you need me.”
“Need you? For what?”
“You just do, man. I can’t tell you everything. I can’t spell it all out for you. Damn. Some things you just need to figure out for yourself.”
“And that’s why you’re here? To help me figure it out?”
The fat man nods. He twirls his mustache around his sausage fingers.
“Figure what out?”
He stalks over to me, points his chubby finger at my chest, and stabs. “Your fucking life, man. I’m here to help you deal with all your shit, and to get past it.”
“OK,” I say, thinking for a second. “Get out.”
The fat man’s smile breaks. “What?”
“You heard me. Get out of my house. I don’t want or need your fucking help.”
“You do, though.” He wraps his arms around me and pulls me into his chest. He hugs me for far too long, and when he finally releases me I see that the faces drawn on his nipples are all smeared. Smeared across my face, most likely. “More than you can imagine,” he says.
I try to push him away, but am unable to even budge his massive body.
He begins massaging my shoulders and my body melts in his hands. “It’s all going to be OK,” he says, going to town on a thick clump of knotted stress. “You’ll see. I’ll show you what love is.”
I pause at that last comment, but my body feels too good to care.
“I’ll make you forget all about Syd,” the fat man says, “you’ll see.” And I feel his mustache brush ever so softly across the back of my neck.
Bio: Daniel Vlasaty lives in Chicago. He works at a methadone clinic and reads comic books. He is not on drugs. You can find him on facebook if you feel the need to curse him out or tell him he is stupid.