Bob longed for death, and freedom from wine and bread.
He slurped down few more gulps before falling back onto the couch. The half-empty wine bottle rolled out of his hand and fell to the floor where it lay chugging its contents out in a growing pool of violet. A warmth spread outward from his belly. He shoved the cork into his pocket.
Wine and bread.
He lurched to his feet and staggered over to the television. It didn’t work. It never had. He turned the knob. No use. In a sudden fit of rage he kicked its battered surface. It tipped over, revealing an empty shell—a replica—a display in a store. Bob paused at the thought. A store.
Wine and bread.
He set the television back in place. Better. Everything in its place.
His apartment had white walls, a white ceiling and a white floor. The furniture was all white as well. A sterile cage.
He moved toward the kitchen. In the hall he paused in front of the mirror. His appearance always startled him. Hair long and unkempt, beard matted with bits of bread caught in it. Bread.
Bread the color of wine.
His business suit was stained and crumpled. Where was his tie?
Now he remembered. He had tried to hang himself. But it had just snapped and left a nasty welt on his neck.
He went to the sink in his kitchen. Out of habit he spun the faucet handle. No water. Never had been any. He took an open bottle of wine that was sitting on the counter and poured it over his purple-stained hands, scrubbing them thoroughly. As he dried them on his suit lapels he wondered why he bothered.
He turned around and opened the double doors to a sizeable pantry and found himself facing a wall of bottles and loaves.
Row upon row of wine and bread stared back at him. Each bottle of wine was identical. The bread was neatly packaged in yellow and white plastic bags, like you get at the grocery.
He always thought of the grocery when he opened the pantry.
Once, Bob had gone to the grocery. On his way home.
Home—a different place than his apartment. His eyes misted as an image of a woman with long, dark hair formed in his mind. His thoughts were fuzzy and incoherent. He could hear her telling him to get bread. On the way home. Stop at the grocery.
He remembered the crinkly sound that the paper bag made when he put it in the car. The brown, paper bag from the grocery.
There was wine and bread in the crinkly, brown, paper bag.
On the way home a light in the sky blinded him, made him stop the car and get out.
That was where the dream always ended. But he was awake, so was it a dream, a delusion, or a fading memory?
He looked at his watch. It had stopped...yesterday? Or a hundred years ago?
Grabbing a loaf of bread, he walked to the front door, eating listlessly. He paused, trying to remember what was next.
His confinement in the apartment was torture enough, before his watch quit working.
He twisted the knob on the door. It was always locked. Nothing had changed.
Time to go to the bedroom. As he walked back through the living room he dropped the loaf. The wine bottle from earlier was already gone, the mess cleaned up. He snickered. They thought they had him.
After his watch had stopped, he had tried to stack wine bottles, to keep time. But every time he left the room the bottles were gone when he returned. At first, he thought they were just cleaning his cage. But in time—ha! In time he realized they were toying with him—torturing him.
No windows to show day and night. No clocks, no calendars. A nightmare!
He would sit on the couch, for hours—or days—or weeks. He didn’t know.
But he had a plan. Once he entered his bedroom his steps quickened. He looked around furtively as he emptied his pockets onto the neatly made bed.
Wine and bread, wine and bread.
If only it took him an hour, maybe it was close to an hour.
First he would drink a bottle on the couch. Then watch television next. Check out the mirror. Wash up and eat lunch—or supper—or whatever. Check the front door. Back to the bedroom. That had to be an hour. Close enough, anyway.
He counted twenty-four wine corks.
Twenty-four hours! A day! He’d done it! He’d beaten them! No matter what else they did to him, they could no longer deprive him of time. He would continue to add to his collection. Soon he would know when a week had passed. A month! A year!
This was a cause for celebration. He ran to the kitchen to get a bottle of wine. As he walked back through the living room he actually hummed—until he entered the bedroom. He dropped the bottle and fell to his knees in front of his bed. His empty bed.
Back to wine and bread.