A good morning

It was sunnier than usual. A deceptive sunlight—a photograph of which would have you reach for your shorts and flip-flops with hands made frictionless by extra layers of sunscreen. But it was one that wouldn’t brook liquid water. Sam sighed as he glanced out the large circular window of his tiny square room in the cramped SoHo apartment. He was sharing it with two others, both of whom had demanding jobs, the stress of which they rebelled against by passionate, amorous wrestling. The floor was hardwood, but with the nails holding the boards generously offering their opinions on foot texture.

He opened the refrigerator and reached for the milk that his roommates kept in the door despite his reproaches about temperature fluctuations and bacterial growth. It was, strangely, in the middle shelf, preserved and ready to lighten his morning coffee. Perhaps one of his roommates’ overnight guests had stumbled on to his blog. What did people do before the internet became fast enough to overcome cognitive drift?

His eyelids had just barely surrendered to the sun, and he realized that his nose was a little slow on the uptake as well. The smell of coffee, not unlike their usual Sumatran, but with a little more body, and maybe a hint of cinnamon, hit him no sooner than five minutes after he entered the room. Smiling, he opened the door to pick up the Times. Waking early usually ensured getting a virgin, rubber-banded paper and the faint almost-escaped smell of ink. Today, all he saw was a bare welcome mat. Apparently, the cost of home-brewed coffee was going to be the trouble of reading news with an iPad balanced on four fingertips and the thumb around the center pole on the uptown 6 train.

He stepped out of the shower with red eyes. Somehow, the post-doctoral fellow in charge of knocking out specific proteins in laboratory mice had not mastered the art of closing his eyes before soaping his face. The roll-on deodorant seemed exhausted, but he rubbed it on anyway, vowing for the third time that week that he would buy some on his way home. He unslung his blue denims from the arm of his chair and put them on. A creature of habit, he sucked in his gut and appraised himself in the mirror. Nodding as if to pump up for one of many monotonous days, he got dressed, queued the audiobook version of Atlas Shrugged on his phone and left for work. He needed a new peacoat; this one felt like it was designed for a thinner man.

Giving in

I opened the door and went in,

With a guilt inexplicable within;

To get something I knew I wanted

By giving in to temptations undaunted.

The old lady saw me and smiled.

She knew I vacillated a while,

Knew how much I resisted coming,

And yet she knew what was forthcoming.

There was a finality in her glance

As if she knew I had no chance

Of limiting myself, of tethering myself,

Or ever winning a debate with myself.

She had an expression of disapproval

As if, since last time, I’d grown a soul

And decided against this path again.

She would oblige me but with disdain.

I told her what I was looking for

She sent me to a corner unseen before

I went obediently and stood aside

To let hedonism and resistance collide

With a clear winner, as always

Favoring satisfaction over malaise

I took what I wanted, the heathen pleasure

I felt satisfaction beyond measure

During my vulgar enjoyment of my fill

(Must every desire we fulfill?)

When I was done I considered me

With utter revulsion and some pity

I had self-control and discipline

But, for this I knew I would give in

I exited the place with irritation

(This was of course an aberration)

I swore in life, I’ll do anything

But I’ll never go again to Burger King