This is one way to spend the morning. Watching the sun slide across the buildings on Orange Street, like an egg yolk cracked and spreading across the pan. With the light comes the noises of the city – car doors slamming, the jangling of keys as someone unlocks an office building. Sanitation workers bantered in the street.
Nigel tries to hear these things and not hear them. Tries to feel the sun without having to see it. He is sitting on the roof of Simon’s office building. He is trying to meditate. Simon had agreed to renting the office space to Nigel only after Nigel promised he wouldn’t be spending the nights there. “It’s just for my photography work, man,” he’d assured him, “a studio.” But of course, Nigel was spending the nights there, and Simon doubtless knew this. To help keep up the charade, he vacated the buildings interior from seven-thirty a.m. to nine a.m., when all the office inhabitants were arriving in their polyester slacks and pencil skirts, and he made his way to the roof. There, two Adirondack chairs and a low, oblong box of sand made up a sad, bleached-out sort of zen garden. Simon’s doing, no doubt. He was always telling Nigel to find his inner peace and quoting lame platitudes about it being darkest before the dawn.
It’s not that Nigel disliked Simon. Simon was renting him an office space for less than a hundred dollars a month, for one thing, and there was nothing to overtly dislike about the man. He was tall and had a thick head of hair. He was confident. He shook hands like he meant it. He rarely went to the bar, though, and spent weekends doing things like group kayaking adventures or meditation retreats and for these reasons Nigel had a hard time trusting him.
“For fuck’s sake,” said Nigel’s girlfriend, “ since when is being well-adjusted a crime?” And what’s wrong with meditating, she wanted to know.
Though the image of Simon meditating – jaunty chin gone slack, his curly dark hair trembling in a sort of ecstatic shiver – gave him the creeps, Nigel had to admit that there was nothing wrong, per se, with the act of meditating. In fact he’d promised Elizabeth – she’d made him promise – that if she was going to stay with him, he had better find some positive place to direct his energy. “Like a hobby?” he’d asked.
“No,” she’d answered. “Like a practice.” Something, she clarified, that will make you a better person.
So, Nigel was trying. Fuck, he was really really trying. Spine straight, legs crossed. He kept having to shake out his hands to relax them, stop them from reaching into his pocket for his phone or a smoke. His eyelids, too, fought to stay open and he scrunched them closed like a child pretending to sleep. “Ommm,” he said to himself, mortified by the sound of it which was thankfully drowned out by a garbage truckrolling past on Orange Street. “Better get a move on,” one of the trash men was yelling to his partner, and Nigel could hear him slapping the side of the truck with his palm, and the truck wheezing as it moved forward, towards the next alley, the next dumpster. The smell rose up through the streets and found Nigel where he was sitting – the smell of rot and decay – an almost sweet smell, if you thought about it the right way.