Chapter 2: 2

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 18

My eyes snap open to the call of a fucking annoying bird right outside the bedroom window. The stupid alarm hasn’t even gone off yet. It happens every goddamn morning, earlier and earlier as the days get longer. Some people find the singing of birds delightful. I think they’re pathetic. They’re mating calls. Advertisements. Broadcasting to the entire neighborhood, “Look at me! I’m hot! Buy me!”


I’m feeling out of sorts. Again. This happens pretty much every morning when I wake up, like I was fighting my way through a bad dream. Not a nightmare, really, but a dream that made me uneasy. Like there’s something I should be dealing with but I’m not. 




The song birds go off at dawn, but after a while the crows come on, with their drama, bitching about a hawk or a neighborhood cat or letting each other in on some new place to eat––a garbage can that got knocked over or a squirrel dead in the road. The crows take breaks every once in a while, like a reality show cutting to a commercial break, and the song birds go at it again. I argue with myself about this all the time, but can’t come to a definitive conclusion about which I like less. Sure, the song birds are more pleasing to the ear––better production values, bigger budgets––but the crows get points for gritty authenticity, even if their braying is grating.


People like to say that there aren’t seasons in LA, but if you live here long enough, you get to realize that there actually are. Not snow, flowers, hot, and crisp, the seasons they show in the movies––the seasons of America––but rainy with occasional hot-and-windy, clear with the scent of jasmine, gloomy skies offset by purple jacaranda, and hot. Funny how the place that makes movies makes movies with seasons that are entirely different from the seasons in the place where the movies are actually being made. 


It’s spring and spring in LA comes with glare. The sun rises hot and bright, hotter and brighter than during the rest of the year, maybe because the smog or the haze is less present––all those agents and managers and actors and directors off on ski vacations and film festivals, not spewing exhaust into the air from their sports cars and SUVs. Whatever the reason, the light comes blasting through the east-facing windows earlier and earlier, reflecting off of every surface and waking my lazy ass long before I want to be out of bed and starting my day. 


The glare through the window this morning is super intense, making me want to close my eyes again, to shut it out, but the light is too bright. I hate the light, but I’m a fucking photographer. I can’t live without it.


Candice is amazing. The light never seems to bother her. She can sleep through anything––not just the light and the fucking bird songs and the constant shush of the traffic on the 405 two blocks away, but even car alarms, Angela, the slutty neighbor downstairs having sex with a different man every night, loud and proud, like she’s showing off, and the Bap - Bap! of car tires on the loose manhole cover which for some reason they seem to aim at just as I’m dropping off to sleep and the rev of Chris’s motorcycle, every night at midnight, when he starts it up to head out to the bars to troll for the fat chicks visiting from Iowa he has a thing for. She sleeps through clouds of acrid cigarette smoke that waft over from Amir’s place, a six-foot high fence not enough to keep it from rolling in on the still air into the condo even when all the windows are closed and the air conditioning is on. She sleeps through the police helicopters––oh, those goddam police helicopters!––patrolling the neighborhood just about every night, piercing the darkness with their spot lights, setting off chain reactions of barking dogs. And yeah, she sleeps through the mating calls of the fucking birds. Especially the mating calls.


I heave myself out of bed, wander into the bathroom, and pee. Then I snatch up a cup I keep in the bathroom, fill it with water, and bring it back into the living room to pour onto the roots of this little tree by the window. Watering the toilet and the ficus, I like to think of it. Back into the bathroom, where I put down the cup and take a shower. 


Then coffee. 


When I first found out that Tony had decided to sell the studio––and that I’d come into some money as a result––I thought about buying myself an espresso machine. Not just any espresso machine, but an Elektra Microcasa Semiautomatica, the most beautiful espresso machine ever made, all copper and brass, with elegant little copper pipes and a golden eagle, wings spread like it’s coming in for a landing on the domed top. I first saw one in a pasticceria in San Gimignano, a place that felt like it was stuck in a time warp, like when you walked through the door you were suddenly in black and white, like it was1953. The machine is stupid expensive, and I actually came this close to ordering one. 


But then I found il orfano. 


Il orfano was free, discarded, among a neat pile of stuff along the curb that had been left for someone––me––to collect, like maybe somebody had renounced all their worldly possessions and moved into an ashram. Or maybe got sent to prison. Or maybe they’d died and whoever was responsible for cleaning out their things never heard about Goodwill. 


I didn’t see il orfano it at first. My eyes went straight to an old end table with its inlay and intricately carved legs, but the damn thing was too heavy to carry, so I took inventory of the other items available. Hiding behind a tidy stack of dress shirts, not my size, there it was, almost like it was cowering. The poor thing was old, brown, and beat up. Its cord was frayed. 


I took the espresso machine home, thinking I’d come back in the car for the end table, but of course I had to plug it in and see if it worked and it did. It made a pretty crappy espresso, but I found out with a lot of practice that I could make a better one if I ground the beans just right and tamped them into the thing hard, but not too hard. So it probably took me like twenty minutes to get back to the end table and by the time I did, the end table had been smashed. It looked like somebody had taken a sledge hammer to it. The clothes, too, were scattered and torn. The whole thing made me sad and that’s why I took to calling the espresso machine ‘il orfano’––the orphan, in Italian––at least to myself. 


I knew, of course, that the espresso machine was female. Not just because of the way it (she) looked, sleek and sexy, but also its (her) name: La Pavoni. Said so right there on the front of the base, in that circular metal signet with the midcentury modern type and the adorable crown. The model was a Europiccola. Also feminine. But “la orfana”  doesn’t roll off the tongue the way “il orfano” does and besides, maybe she (it) identified as a he.


Maybe, but who was I to presume, I asked myself?


I saw the point. But I decided to ignore what I told myself. I do that a lot.


When I got back home after seeing the smashed up end table, Candice was in the kitchen, staring at il orfano. “What’s that?” she asked.


“My new coffee maker,” I told her. 




“New to me.” 


She smiled, but I could tell she was disappointed. She’d been talking about getting a better coffee maker, one that would make her life easier, and this––il orfano––is definitely not that, so I went over to Best Buy and bought her one of those fancy Keurig coffee makers, along with a chrome rack to hold the array of plastic single-use coffee pods she could choose from. She loves that Keurig coffee maker. She tells me just about every time she makes a cup how good it is. Sometimes she’ll even make one for me and yeah, they are good. But there’s something special about il orfano. It’s one of the two things Candice can’t get me to let go of, the other being the ficus. My realtor had given it to me when I bought the condo and I was determined, obligated, to keep it alive. 


Okay, three things. There’ss Ernie the chair. 


Ernie the chair is an armchair that I came across at a garage sale. I was walking by, talking to myself, and when I saw the thing––a big, overstuffed beast with slashes where some cat had used it as a scratching post––I kind of just blurted out, “What an awesome chair!” 


The woman running the garage sale heard me and called from over by the kitchen stuff, “Oh, that’s Ernie.” That’s what I heard, anyway. In retrospect, she’d probably said, “Oh, that’s Ernie’s.” She came over and appraised the chair with me, like she was thinking of buying it herself. “Shame he had to go off to prison,” she said, probably talking about Ernie the person and not Ernie the chair. 


“How much do you want for him?” I asked, meaning the chair and not the person.


“Fifteen bucks.”


You couldn’t beat fifteen bucks for a chair like that, so I bought it. I had to carry it the seven blocks to my condo, upside down on my head, thankful that the seat cushion didn’t smell like urine and was well-stuffed because the weight already compressed my spine, and placed it in the living room where it looked… like shit. But about a month later, I got booked on a job to shoot a series of stills for a cat litter ad. A woman in a chair with her cat. The ad agency didn’t like any of the chairs that the stylist provided, so I brought in a snapshot of Ernie the chair. And they loved it. The stylist hired an upholsterer to recover the chair with thick tapestry fabric he’d found in the catalogue from some obscure factory in Japan––pink with gold starbursts––at a cost of four times what they would have spent to buy a chair outright and ten times what they would have spent to rent one, but nobody batted an eye. And after the shoot, Ernie the chair came back home to our condo––my condo––where he didn’t look like shit, not anymore, but he certainly didn’t fit in with the rest of the furniture. 


Candice says Ernie the chair is fine, but she refuses to sit in him and for a while there she tried to get me to stop calling him Ernie the chair. But I held my ground and eventually she and Ernie the chair entered into a kind of detente, where neither one acknowledges the existence of the other. 


Of course I notice. I can’t help but notice. So to make it up to Ernie the chair I sit in him pretty much whenever Candice isn’t around. The thing is, and I hate to admit it, she isn’t entirely wrong. Ernie the chair really isn’t all that comfortable. So rather than sit like a normal person, I have to do this thing where I sort of lie across, my back against one arm, my feet dangling over the other.  


Where was I? 


Morning ritual.


Candice always manages to sleep through my morning ritual, so she can’t mount a convincing argument for me to make a change. Regardless, I’m always careful to close the bedroom door behind me after I shower and dress. 


I don’t know what’s different about this morning, but this morning it occurs to me that all of my morning rituals, from the toilet to the ficus to taking a shower to making his morning cappuccino, all of them involve water. The annoying bird outside seems to chirp some version of “that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you” and then stops.

Submitted: August 06, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Brian Belefant. All rights reserved.


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