He wasn't sure when it first happened, but Henry's life was turning to sh*t. He felt like he was being buried alive, gasping for air between heavy choking mouthfuls of dirt.
The job as night watchman paid nothing after rent, cigarettes and food. He had no friends to speak of, and even the crack hungry hookers he had been paying to talk seemed to be loosing interest in him. Laying in his bed unable to sleep, his eyes chasing cracks across the ceiling as the sun rose, he came to a decision.
Climbing out of bed Henry pulled on a stained pair of boxers and a sweat faded tee-shirt, opened the red and white Marlborough Carton. Empty. Dirty jeans and Converse trainers - no socks. Felt morning snot rise in his chest/ throat, spat it yellow into the small kitchen sink.
It landed on the dirty plate from the previous evening's meal. Sat there. He didn't bother to rinse it away. Went to the corner store: Marlborough, matches, and a litre of milk with faces of missing teenagers on the side.
Walked back to his building. A wino had sat on the steps, and was recovering his breath. As Henry approached the drunk held out his hand for change. Henry wanted to scream, kick him, but instead ignored the stinking imbecile and entered the building. Ran up the two flights of stairs to his room. Locked the door.
In his room Henry smoked two cigarettes, one after the other, before he realised he had forgotten to make his coffee.
Around 9:00am, during breakfast, Henry heard a noise outside his door. He looked through the fish-eye peephole, which offered a distorted view of the landing and staircase. The fat girl from upstairs had just walked past his door, her breath wheezing as she struggled with an armful of groceries.
Henry felt his crutch heat - his eyes widening as he looked at her swollen ankles and legs - watched as she walked up the stairs until she was out of sight. Henry pulled his c*ck unconsciously, realising only when he felt the hot thin liquid across his hand and drip its wetness down his unzipped trousers. Henry looked at the cum on his hand, raised it to his face and sniffed it.
Then lost interest and wiped it across his tee-shirt. Walked back to the table, had a second bowl of cornflakes. Made more milky coffee, and began to smoke his way through the rest of the Marlborough.
By mid-day he had finished all but one of the cigarettes, his mouth was dry raw. Chest aching. Henry picked up the telephone, dialled the warehouse. Told the secretary who answered the call that he couldn't make the night shift. He tried calling the garage where his brother worked but the number had been disconnected.
Henry decided not to write to his brother.
No other calls to make, and nothing to live for, Henry smoked his last cigarette then climbed the last four flights to the roof.
- Illustration by David Fredenthal, 1935