“Dalton, he’s got you by your fuckin’ balls and he ain’t loosenin’ up!”
It was an ugly reflection – no, just an ugly mirror.
Yeah, you tell yourself that, you ugly sonofabitch.
He changed his stance to something more powerful, something that said, look at me now and weep for my forgiveness.
Then he tried something a little more forthcoming - something inviting, like a gingerbread house where you just want to tuck in and eat up, but there were more than just sweets and candy in this house.
Yeah, behind those doors – behind that hard crust – there’s a warm and vulnerable and soft centre.
But soft can be deceiving; fall right into it and you might just wanna hang around.
“And then – bam! I gotcha right where I want you, Sonny.”
He blew finger guns at himself and winked in the mirror.
“No, that won’t do – it’s not a movie scene, you goddamn idiot.”
Or maybe it was. There was a script, after all, that he memorized by heart, rehearsing it at every chance he got; the shower, the drive to the work, the walk to the shops where he’d pick up a six-pack and a bottle of aspirin.
Sometimes the nights were long – too long, and painful. Not physically, mind, only mentally.
The pills were just to suppress that jackhammer-like feeling that his brain went through at one in the morning. Shit, those nights were the worst, when he had to pull himself out of bed before sunrise and head down to the site; start lumbering bricks and listening to Sonny throwing him orders, hey Brickie, get on the high-rise and start lowering, you little rope monkey.
“Fuck you, Sonny.”
Motes of spit splattered the mirror, adding to the smudges and handprints that already dirtied the glass.
“Dammit, Dalton.” He wiped it away and met eyes with the man that looked back, “you’re worthless. I hope you know that, rope monkey.”
He brushed aside several strands of ugly hair that were clumped together in grease.
“That’s right, look at me. Look at me when I talk to you.”
His breath fogged the glass.
He grunted and turned around.
“Those aren’t the lines,” he muttered, “it’s only gonna work if you keep on script.”
He ran out of his room, kicking past the clothes which were scattered over the floor.
“Where the hell did I leave the darn thing?”
It was beside the upturned bin that spilled its contents onto the kitchen floor.
“Oh sweet Jesus!” he said as he covered his nose.
A stench from the lowly depths of hell had plagued this room and deemed it unfit to breath in. He snagged the script which was written on an unfolded cereal box, and headed upstairs without looking back as tears brimmed in his eyes.
He shut the door behind him, took a deep breath and stepped into the centre of the room as if it were the stage in The Royal Opera House.
“I’ve wanted to do this for a while now. It’s like there’s a ticking in the back of my head. The tick-tick-tick which tells me that the bomb is soon gonna go off. And I want you to be there, Sonny, I – shit.”
The next line was smudged and covered in a hard layer of crust which he started scraping away at.
It was his sick. He spewed it up on the second night he was writing this speech.
The jack-hammer was tuned to full power and his brain felt like baking powder thrown into a grease fire. Three aspirins – or was it six?
It was hard to tell when it rested in a festering stew of spaghetti hoops and lite beer.
“You live like a damn animal, Dalton.”
He shook his arms down by his side, loosening up before facing the mirror again.
“And I want you to be there, Sonny, I – I want you to see that bomb go off! Yeah, that’s more like it!” He jeered in the mirror. “And I want you to see what you’ve done to me, fucking rope monkey – screw you.”
The anger was back. He could feel it in his chest, throbbing with heat like a molten core.
“Sonny,” he said through clenched teeth, “I need you to back off.”
“And what if I don’t?”
Dalton snapped backwards, stunned with the reply that left his own mouth.
“The bomb will go off, Sonny. The one in here,” Dalton said as he stuck his finger to his head.
“There ain’t no bomb, rope monkey. You’re full of shit – a useless pile of hot, wet and steaming –“
“Shut your mouth!” screamed Dalton. This wasn’t on script. Forget the script. The script wasn’t going to work if Sonny didn’t follow it.
The anger – it hurt.
“Shit, where are my pills?” said Dalton.
“So you’re taking pills? Why? You scared of me?”
Dalton spun around, swatting at the air. “Where are you, Sonny? Tick-tick-tick.”
He clutched his head, wincing in pain. The anger was too much to contain.
“Stop crying, rope monkey.”
“Go away, Sonny – I won’t turn up to the site on Monday,” said Dalton as he dropped to his knees, “I’ll never turn up again.”
“What site? There is no site, you sick sonofabitch. You don’t even have a job. You sit on your ass all day, talking to the mirror and complaining about people who don’t even exis–“
“STOP IT!” Dalton lurched forwards, head first, and crashed into the mirror.
It cracked, but no pieces fell. A cobweb of lines seamed onto the glass.
He held the top of his head, feeling the sticky wetness that started to sap between his fingers.
“I don’t feel turgood,” he said. His face was flushed, “pills, wheremapills?”
He was splayed out on all fours and started dragging himself towards the bedroom door.
The landing was an unfriendly place: sweet wrappers and drink cans and bottles and clothes were strewn across the wooden boards.
“Shtairs” he mumbled, peering over the three-metre drop. The top of his head was still wet and sticky.
“Sonny, I hatechoo.”
“No. Y’hate yourself.”
Dalton lifted his arm with whatever marginal strength remained in his body and brought it around his side, beating at the emptiness around him, hoping to connect a fist to Sonny’s face. He stumbled. He twisted. His body rocked and he fell.
Each step down the stairs took a harder toll on his back – each sharp wooden edge had made a pool noodle out of his spine.
He was unconscious before he hit the ground.
It was as he became aware of the red hue that broke through the darkness; Dalton realised he was still alive. Dead people have no conscience, but he would argue otherwise.
Dead people could still have heartbeats and wander among us.
As Dalton opened his eyes, the urge to swallow some pills had brought him back onto all fours. Every muscle felt raw and weak, as if it had been run through a wringer and spat out into a cement mixer.
“Brickie, Sonny ain’t gon’ be here soon – put the blame for your useless ass on someone else.”
“But Sonny’s mean,” said Dalton as his head hung to his chest, “Sonny bosses me around all the time, telling me I’m a worthless piece of shit – it’s because you are.”
He looked around, startled. It wasn’t Sonny who said that. It left Dalton’s own lips.
“No,” he said to himself, “Sonny, where are you? I know you’re still here.”
He stirred in his own silence, waiting for a response.
Dalton pulled himself back together once he swallowed a handful of pills.
The anger was kept at bay and the jackhammer had been turned off, for now.
He sat in his bedroom and faced away from the broken mirror, clutching the script and reading over what he had written.
“Waste of my goddamn time,” he said.
Dalton tried looking around the house for Sonny, but he was nowhere to be found.
Maybe it’s time you go for a walk in the park – you used to love those.
“Dammit, Dalton,” he said to himself, “get it together. If you go out for a walk now, you won’t have time to file off all your goddamn paperwork – Jamie even called you in early for tomorrow, just to question the punk who was stole liquor from the corner store.”
The heat simmered in his stomach – the anger grew.
“I hate Jamie, that sonofabitch,” said Dalton, “really knows how to keep a man down.”
He looked at the script one last time.
This is no use. It was for Sonny and no one else. Gotta write another.
There a was heap of inside-out cereal boxes and frozen food packets with writing on, all left in the corner of his room.
He dropped Sonny’s script on top of the pile, catching a glimpse of the other names that rested beneath: Marty and Wayward Jr and Pete and – David.
Dalton winced at the name – David was the manager of an industrial engineering firm who prioritised work hours over his employee’s mental wellbeing – a real douchebag.
Now, back to Jamie.
There was an empty packet of spring rolls without any writing on.
He picked up a pen and started at another speech.
I’ve had it up to here with you Jamie. You’re driving me crazy with these early starts.
Dalton paused and turned to the mirror. It was fractured into a hundred pieces – so many pieces, each holding a tiny and different reflection of himself.
Yet not one was whole.