The apartment’s living room was a wide rectangle. Across one of the wide sides was an equally long single pane window which looked into the shabby courtyard one floor below. In the courtyard, the circular fountain had stopped flowing many years before, the grass had turned yellow and just the hearty oaks continued to thrive. Daylight was beginning to break into an electric spectacle of brilliant blue. It came in through the unobstructed window and added a tint of dim light to the room.
He sat on the tall wooden backed chair stolen from the kitchen. It was the only bit of furniture in the room. He sat nearly straight, but for the small hunch in his upper back. An unfiltered cigarette hung from his lip, just as they had hung from the bristly upper lip of his father. He took a long drag, holding the cigarette with his thumb and index finger, his eyes rolled across his loot, they rolled across it like a pilot surveying the curvy hillsides far below.
It had been a good night, a productive night. There were a few TVs, one old VCR and three nearly new DVD players. In addition, there were a handful of CDs and a few necklaces. One of them had some pearls on it and he made a mental note to check their worth.
This was what he liked about his job, the tangibility of it all. The rock solid possession. There was no abstraction, no maybes, just good solid atoms that came together to form recognizable shapes. He would sit on the same chair every morning, when the light was just cracking through the horizon, he would sit back with a swirl of smoke and ash about him and survey the bounty.
He likened it to being a hunter and having something tangible at the end of the day, having something to show for the effort, something earthly and real and solid, something he could pound his fist on or throw across the room. It was real and he liked it.
He avoided numbers on a check and their abstractions. He didn’t play around with banks that promised money on little slips of paper. They were all promises, and above all, he hated promises. Promises depended on someone to fulfill them, they implied vulnerability and trust and patience. He dealt only in the real as much as he could help it.
The TVs were real. He could plug them in and watch them or sell them or, as he sometimes did, throw them from the window in a fit of madness. He would watch them splinter and send their screams through the courtyard and he would know they were real.
He had no time for the objectless, for the illusion of accumulation and wealth. The world would not provide for him, the world would not keep its promises, so he made sure to take what he needed. He never asked, he just took.
When he found he needed something, he went out and got it. He took it. He made it happen. The night shadowed his intent and he moved through it like an animal, sniffing out what he needed, finding a way to shift past the obstacles unnoticed and then, as the light changed to blue, he would slink back into his cave, bringing with him the prey he had killed.
He needed… he took. He wanted… he took. There was no need for patience, no need to slave away as a salesman or beneath the hood of a car. If he needed it, he would get it. It was simple. There just wasn’t time for patience, a gentle finesse, or even a polite “please.” It was now or never and he never waited an extra day.
The light came through the window in a brilliant mess of blue, it caught the smooth glass of the TV set and he saw his reflection. There he was, in his chair, in his white T-shirt and rumpled blue jeans and short brown hair.
He saw himself and remembered another. The man he had seen walking past the bookstore two nights before. It was so dark that night, but the man’s white hair was shining in the darkness like a gleaming orb of promise and knowledge. He himself was hidden behind a car on the other side of the street, hidden in the dark shadows of the city, waiting for the perfect moment to take what was about to be his.
But for a moment, he forgot his intent. He watched as the old man walked slowly past the dim illumination of the store’s window. Walking as though there was nothing else to do, nowhere else to be, nothing more important than the one step he was taking at that exact moment. The long white hair fluttered slightly with each step and each one was taken with a deliberate slowness. It was a slower gait than any he had ever seen, almost like a dance of liquid.
For a moment that seemed to continue forever, the man walked, trailed by little specks of white light and a blue trail of dust. The man took the world like a drop of water smoothing a stone. It took more than a moment for him, more than a lifetime perhaps, but the man could ultimately bend the world into the shape he envisioned. It was not now or never, but just a matter of time.