That tiny continuous drip in the back of his consciousness was making it next to impossible to drift away into the infinite cloistered confidence of sleep. “In the back of his mind?“, he thought. “No!” It was in the back of his head. Or the back of his throat? Wherever it was, he had been awake for what seemed like over an hour. The telltale thump of his heart pumped away its power propelling an oversupply of blood to his temples. He lay in a clammy sweat. The last person on his end of the floor had moved out. He was now alone. “Splash, splash, splash.“, the annoying sound continued on uninterrupted like ‘Bigfoot‘ in oversized galoshes. He thought that he wanted to cough and his throat spasmed. But the impulse to complete the spontaneous impulse passed. “Force of will!“, he replied to his inner thoughts. “La forza del destino!“, his mind automatically recited. It had carried him through before. He could here the sappy violins doing the best to emote within the reverbarance of a large concert hall. “Verdi!“, the picture of the old Italian flashed behind his eyes. “What a setting?“, his mind added with an innate sense of knowing. “Splash, splash, splash.“, continued the pair of gargantuan feet. He was in motion before the thought had been decided upon. His feet over the bed he swung up to a sitting position. Then crouched over elbows on his knees to get a better estimation of the floor. It was still there since the last time that he had gotten up from the bed to go to the potty. “Don Alvaro.” He rose to his feet initially cantering a step to the side in dizzy recovery. “Indeed!”, his mind rung like an unanswered phone. “La vita e inferno all ‘infelice!” “Hell indeed!” the dark hallway door a portal to the hall the porcelain throne some paces down the hall reflecting the dim reflection of sparely posed external light playing upon a row of dim countenances from old framed photos. “O tu che seno agli angel!” “Splash, splash, splash.”, the footsteps ignorantly followed. “Pace, Pace mio Dio!“, his bottom confident of a proper landing pad within the reigning darkness. Could his choice of dinner be to blame for this infernal hell march that seemed to continue on uninterrupted? No! He sat there in the fractured stillness looking at the distant street lamp’s glow rebounding about his hallway from without. Something else was on his mind. The stillness of the moment gathered upon his shoulders like an old woman’s shawl. What awful thing can it be?
The day before in review had brought no solace. “How odd that you could know someone for a decade or more and then within the span of less than 24 hours they were worse than a stranger?“, the hollow thought echoed alongside his distress. He had been sick for four days. Violently so. Past generations might have casually referred to such violence simply as, ‘the grip‘. The racking cough that had roughly animated him unexpectedly throughout the previous day like a Punchinello had left the mark of its violence upon him. He had barely been able to keep his eyes open beyond the onset of early evening. All seemed equitable for the hope of recovery until he had awakened. Cold clammy his back wet with the distress of a lingering fever. His internal brain matter feeling dense and hard like a dried out sponge. “Saliste bella incolume!“, his mind protested amidst the constant sway of the maddening internal rhythm. Was it true that events one suffered in life were the prime mover behind one’s own fate? The loss of his friend had bothered. Him. Could he call him a friend in truth though? So many had passed along through life. Bright momentary flickers bending the ultimate consequence of his life through the distraction of momentary sojourns when happiness seemed a regular visit once again. Now he seemed entombed int he isolation of his own encapsulating silence. “Splash, splash, splash.“, the sound reminded him. “Fuggir potessi!“, his head echoed back. He stared back into the darkness to the other side. It dawned on him that almost all the old timers that once been central to the life of the apartment were no longer evident. One by one they seemed to drift into an vague emptiness of any recollection of the recent experience of their presence? Later finding out that death and old age had been supplemented by an inexplicable need to simply disappear. Now he seemed the last one here. “Morir tremenda cosi!” “Thud, thud, thud!“, answered the impenetrably fractious mental rhythm unexpectedly. The man spun about and rose impiously from his seat. His head seemed to clear out of all thought and assume a dark blackness. The heavens appeared above him revealed from the constant fog of Midnight into sparks approximating a sky full of stars. Infinite for a moment and then gone.
The new neighbor had noticed a peculiar yet cloyingly familiar odor for the second day. Something at his end of the hall seemed particularly nasty. The weather had been particularly bad for weeks now and it was rare to find anyone who did not evidence some hint of a sniffle. The movers had been none too careful where they tread transferring his boxes format their truck past the grassy median that led through a back entrance to the service elevator. Someplace he reckoned that the building’s residents walked their pets both day and night. He would have the building’s ‘super‘ check. The miserable fits of rain causing havoc of all sorts. He had heard that there was some old operatic impresario living on his end of the floor. Some old fossil, possibly older than his dad? It was hoped that the old geyser wouldn’t be inclined to play his stuffy old music at all hours. God forbid! The old place had a few unrepentant Tony Bennett fans that smoked like chimneys in the midst of the wee morning hours. It had gotten so bad that his polite entreaties being ignored he felt inclined to giver the wall a tap or two without he palm of his fist to impotently pose his ongoing discontent with their geriatric sense of license. He was hoping after what had been a financially traumatic move he would not be faced with yet another situation equal or perhaps even worse? The memory of past experience stuck in his head he navigated through the warren of stacked boxes to the wall connecting to the other portent and put his ear to the wall. At first there was silence. Then the internal Conch-like roar of the virtual sea that inhabited his inner ear. Then the faint sound of a woman singing. Something in Italian or Spanish. Nothing disturbing and probably from a unit much father up or down. He walked back into the bedroom and shrugging his shoulders automatically in consort with the inertia of a previous thought set about unpacking further. Two days later during the afternoon the building superintendent greeted the new tenant with a low voice as he opened the door. “I just wanted to let you know that the former tenant from the unit beside your own was just found.“, the man explained repressing a compressed wrinkled sneer. “He is in a bad way and the city had to call a Hazmat squad to remove what was left of him.” The man looked apologetic at the tenant. “This doesn’t happen often her as most of the older tenants in the building are long gone.“, the man continued. “He was the last one.“, the man’s expression assuming a wistful faraway glance. The neighbor looked back blankly at the balding attendant in his dated green overhaul attire. The older man looked back towards the new tenant as if roused from some momentary muse by the man’s glance, “Thanks again for letting us know.“, he added returning to the previous businesslike apologetic tone, “These things happen now and again.” “We’ll have the other unit up to snuff again, nice and fresh in a couple of days.” “You’ll never know anyone was there!” “It’s just the force of nature!“, he suddenly added.