blood, part I

            I pick up the plate, and then turn to the sink.  I shuffle along, still only barely awake; my bare feet cold against the tile, and I’m nearly tripping over them.  All the crumbs go into the garbage bin, and the plate goes on the counter.  I pick up my clothes for to-day and go into the bathroom.
            Oh, that’s right.  I was going to clean it to-day.  A quick look at the shower tells me the cleaning can’t wait; that I can’t or at least shouldn’t wash myself before I clean the bathroom.  There’re no two ways about it.  But it’s Sunday, so there’s no rush.
            I carry the cleanser and paper towels and window cleaner into the room and dump them onto the floor.  I’ll have to sweep, too, it seems.  I reach under the sink for the sponge, and turn to face the shower.  Man, that’s really disgusting.  I have no idea how I let it get so bad.
            Maybe I should start with some thing easier, like the floor (but I don’t want to go get the broom just yet), or the mirror (but I’d have to do the sink first), or—aha!  I’ll start with the garbage.
            I pick up the bathroom garbage and bring it down the hall to the garbage chute.  I’ll just dump it in, and then get back to the bathroom.  Maybe then I’ll do the floor.
            What’s this?  I stop walking and stare intently into the bin.  There’s some weird thing in here, some thing pink.  I put the bin on the ground, and bend down to this pink thing.  Carefully I pick it up and bring it closer to me.  Oh my god, it’s a maxipad.  I instantly drop it, but it bounces off the rim of the bin, and bounces next to 204’s door.
            I shudder a bit, but manage to pick the thing up and put it back into the bin.  I lift the bin and hurry over to the chute.  I wonder how this thing got here…
            Wait a minute.  How DID it get in there?  I don’t know any girls.  Okay, well, that’s not true but none of them have come over recently.  Yesterday I was out over at Tricia’s.  I don’t suppose I could have brought it back…?  No, that’s ridiculous.  What else did I do this week?  I must have had SOME one over…
            I stop walking for a minute to gather my thoughts.  I turn toward my apartment to focus them.  My door is open.  Oh my god, an intruder!  It must have been!  I run back into my place and close the door behind me, locking it.  How often do I leave the door open?  When ever I take out garbage…when ever I visit the Carmichaels…when I—oh, two nights ago I had Raheem over, and I walked him down to his car.  I think I left my door open the entire time!
            That’s what it must have been: some one must have come in and had to change their pad…no, this doesn’t make any sense.  But still…  I stare at the door knob.  I turn on the hall light and examine the knob closer.  I look at my fingertips.  I can’t notice any one else’s fingerprints on my doorknob.  I open the door and check the other side.  None…but not even Raheem’s, so that doesn’t say much.
            I go back in the apartment, garbage bin under one arm.  How could this have gotten here?  It doesn’t make any sense.  I walk into my living room and see the balcony door.  It’s unlocked.  I put the bin down and go over to the door.  Is it possible?  I pull the door back and step out onto the balcony.
            My eyes scan the floor, the ceiling, and then the railing.  If some one had climbed up here, would they’ve left any trace?  I don’t see any thing.  I look down to the ground.  I’m only on the second floor…how difficult would it really be to climb up here?  I turn to my left and look at my bedroom window.  Some one could have gone in there, too.
            This is assuming some one broke in here.  But seriously, there has to be a more reasonable way for that maxipad to get there.  I mean, c’mon, why would some one break in just to use the bathroom?  In reality, they’d take all my electronics and stuff.  My stereo IS still in there, isn’t it?  I thought I saw it to-day…
            I go back in and turn to the wall where my stereo should be.  It’s still there.  As is my television and VCR.  See?  No one stole any thing, therefore no one could have come in here.  Unless…unless she’s still here!
            I look behind the couches, then go into the kitchen, double-check the bigger cupboards.  I run down the hall and check my room.  No thing under my computer, under my bed, in my closet.  Closet…  I run back to the hall and check the coat closet.  No thing there, either.  Of course, I know she was in the bathroom at one time.  I run into the bathroom and pull the shower curtain back.  No thing.
            Okay, let’s get a grip, here.  It couldn’t be any sort of intruder.  That was a crazy idea to begin with.  Now, who do I know who’s a woman?  There’s my mother, but she hasn’t been over here since March.  My sisters, but I don’t think they’ve ever been in my apartment.  Tricia, of course, but I went over to her place last night.  I don’t think she’s been here recently.  Raheem’s girlfriend, Kara.  She was by last week or so, but just to drop Raheem off.  I don’t think she even came in the door at all.
            My landlord.  Of course.  She has a key and every thing.  She was probably on the floor and just suddenly had to chg her pad really badly, so she went over to my apartment to use the bathroom.  But she has keys to every one’s apartment, so why would she use mine?  Unless she was snooping around my place!  She’s not allowed to do that.  I march over to the kitchen phone and pick it up.  Okay, what’s her number?  I’m going to give her a piece of my mind.
            I look at the page with all the numbers.  Hey, here’s a good list of all the women I know.  Maybe I’ll just make sure it couldn’t possibly have been some one else.  Tricia, no.  Maeve, haven’t seen her in years.  Dorie, she’s still on vacation…although she does have a key…no, no.  Kara, no.  Mom, no.  Win, my sister, no. Ace, my other sister, no.  Gramma, no.  Okay, I guess I’m done.  Pick up the phone and start dialling:  3.  6.  5. 4—some one’s knocking on my door.
            I put the phone down slowly.  This is it.  The intruder’s back.  What do I have to protect me?  A quick look around reveals no crowbars in the kitchen.  But there’s a baseball bat in my room.  ‘Just a second,’ I call as I run past the door and then I hear ‘no problem,’ and it’s Howard Carmichael’s voice.  I stop going for the bat, and go and answer the door.
            ‘How are you, to-day, Mr. Carmichael?’
            ‘Fine, Ben, just returning your movie.’  He passes me the video cassette I lent him.
            ‘Thanks.  Wow, that was fast, I just gave it to you yesterday.’
            ‘Yeah, I’d really wanted to see it, so I did so last night.  I quite liked—why is there a garbage can in the middle of your hall?’
            ‘I was just about to take it out.  Won’t you come in?’
            ‘No, the wife wants me back soon.  We’re all going down to Mannheim to-day to visit relatives.’
            ‘Yours or hers?’
            ‘Well, they’re all mine, now technically.’  Mr. Carmichael shook his head.  ‘For better or for worse.  Hey, I’ll take your garbage out for you, if you like.  I’ll be going by the chute any way.’
            ‘Uh…thanks, but I’m not ready for it to go out just yet.’
            ‘Oh, okay.  Well, I’ll see you later, okay?’
            ‘Sure, Mr. Carmichael.  See you.’
            I close the door and take a look at my video.  It’s The Blood of 200 Men starring Kruys Manner.  I go over and put it back on my shelf in the ‘B’ section.
            I was over for dinner at the Carmichaels.  I’m there often.  I had brought the movie because Howard had mentioned he’d really wanted to see it.  Bonnie had wanted to see it, too, but I don’t think Pam would’ve let her.  Little Bonnie, such a cute little…oh my god.
            When I was over there yesterday, Pam was in the shower, and Bonnie had to go to the bathroom, and I told her she could use mine, oh my god it’s Bonnie Carmichael.  She’s the intruder.  But…but she’s only…I mean, she’s so YOUNG.  Surely she’s too young…?
            I guess not.  Oh no, that’s so gross, I’ll never be able to look at her the same way again.  That’s just sick…Door knocks.  I go over and throw the door open.
            ‘Hi Bonnie.’
            ‘Hi, Ben.  My mom said it would be all right for me to see Blood of 200 Men.  Is it all right if we borrow it for a little longer?’
            ‘Sure thing, Bonnie.  No problem.  I’ll just go get it.’  I walk over to the video shelf.  Don’t think of the pad.  Don’t think of the pad.  I pull the video out and look at the cover.  She’s the same little girl you’ve always known.  Don’t treat her differently.  Don’t THINK of her differently.  I turn back and see Bonnie is standing over the garbage bin, staring down at it.
            She looks up at me.  ‘I’m sorry,’ she says.  ‘I didn’t mean to, I wanted to use our bathroom but mom was in it.’
            I take a deep breath.  ‘Don’t worry about it, Bon’.  It’s a completely natural thing.  Here’s the video.’
            And once she’s gone again, I exhale.

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