A Problem In The Pipes

Theodore thought he had found the perfect place, just to the right of the breakfast bar at his hotel. He had stood there for an hour, and so far felt like he was out of the way. He hadn’t drank any coffee that morning, so he surmised that he could stay right there all day without having to leave and use the bathroom. He had checked out of his room and could no longer use the toilet there. He hated public restrooms, there was always somebody else waiting to use it after him. It made him feel terrible.

Two hours after he had taken his station, just out of reach of the juice carafes, a hotel employee came to freshen the croissant with a mist of butter from a can. The woman tried to make eye contact, Theodore could feel himself getting in the way of her eyes, but he made it impossible by swiveling slightly until he was turned to a large, fake ficus in the corner. It was dusty, and there were chewing gum wrappers discarded in the pot.

“Are you waiting for someone?” she asked his back. He did not respond, he hoped she would go away. Feeling the sound of her voice stopped by his body made him cringe inwardly, like she had scratched a chalkboard in his stomach.

“Do you need anything?” He felt sick, in his mind he was shouting ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’ but he would never do such a thing because that would draw too many eyes, like when he asked if he could rent a room in the basement of the building, or sleep on the roof. There had been so many stares he had almost ran from the place.

He held his silence and she walked away after another moment. It was funny, he thought, that when he tried to to stay out of the way, people seemed attracted to him. He tried to blend in as much as possible so that the eyes would glide over him and not leave much of a mark. His dull brown suit rarely drew a second glance, and neither did his flat, forgettable face.

He held his breathe for a time, until his vision dimmed and his chest hurt. It seemed to be a worthwhile way to pass time. He had removed things from his life, bit by bit, so as not to be weighed down. He had given up food two weeks ago, and it had helped him greatly. As he grew thinner it was harder to get in the way. He hoped that soon he could stop himself from breathing so as not to inconvenience anyone else. He could hold it for two minutes now, if he was relaxed.

There was a tap on his shoulder and a burly voice said “Excuse me, sir.”

Theodore forced himself to turn around, but kept his eyes on the floor. The man was wearing dirty work boots. Theodore shivered.

“Could you move a little bit? I got to move that plant.”

As soon as he heard the word ‘move’ he jumped out of the way and banged into the breakfast buffet. All eyes were on him, and he was on fire. He nearly cried as he ran out of the room, into the lobby. It had been the perfect place.

In the lobby he tried his best to calm himself. He had no place else to go, he spent the last of his savings on the month at the hotel. There was no place left for him. He stood near a cluster of chairs in the center of the lobby, away from the traffic that flowed around them, but he soon realized that if someone wished to sit in one of the chairs that he would be in the way. It even felt as though he was getting in the way of the furniture itself, like is was inching in his direction, trying to get by.

He was right! There was someone coming his way, he hurriedly paced to the far wall, narrowly avoiding guests and bellhops. His heart felt like it was going to explode, and he felt faint at the thought of someone having to go through the trouble of cleaning up his remains if it were to do so.

The wall was out of the way, but he soon realized it was possibly the worst place he could stand. All along it were paintings of the city and of mountain forests, alternating. No matter where he stood, he would block a passers view of the art. He made up his mind to follow the plan he had been avoiding for a month.

He began to run. He ran out of the lobby, onto the sidewalk. He dashed down alleys and through shops and cafes, racing up train platforms and jumping over fireplugs. This would work, he thought. He could not get in anyone’s way anymore if he just kept moving. So he ran and ran, it seemed he was making his way toward the lake.

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Brenton S. Harper-Murray  Brenton S. Harper-Murray's website writes stories for the insects that surrounds him, so they may find solace between the yearly catastrophic floods. He has a collection of short stories at poorbrenton.blogspot.com and updates at brentonsnotebook.tumblr.com