Martin Major supported his upper body on the teak vanity in the stylish bathroom with the toilet that was so expensive that he used to say it inspired him to shit gold and he stared at the mirror trying to determine whether he liked what he saw, his pajama bottoms in a wet heap on the floor, not soaked but wet enough to soften the crust that had formed sometime after his earlier masturbatory episode back in the livingroom how long ago? In Martin’s mind it had never happened, and he was already past any recollection of the puddle on the hallway hardwood and the beads and smears of moisture on the fancy bathroom tile, he’d made it to the toilet, finished urinating without touching himself after pulling down his pants, he’d sighed, forced himself straight, retrieved his dumbbell from the vanity top did a few curls and fixed on his reflected image, painting out in a fuzzy gesso all the details of the room behind and beside him. He didn’t smile.
The face he gazed at appeared peaceful enough, the hazel eyes steady but no longer penetrating, grey hair still plentiful, combed straight back, he could see the longish ends hanging out a bit behind each ear, skin not deeply lined, smooth, he’d shaved that morning, Toni had placed the electric shaver in his hand with playful housewifely indulgence that aroused some laughter, a too infrequent sound lately, he gazed at the image but that’s not what he concentrated on. He was thinking without words who is this guy who’s lost his smile, who can’t remember his wife’s name, who can’t identify the singer or the aria he was hearing from speakers all throughout the house, let’s see. Name: _____ (Gary, Garth, Michael, Cody? . . . It’ll come). Date of birth: ____ ’55 I think. ’52? No no, late 40s sometime. Job: . . . Law. A silent snort, a cursory nod. Moment of silence. Ecce fucking homo he thinks. Nods again, barely perceptibly, numerous times smiles almost imperceptibly at the rare profanity. It has a strange taste. A little ginger, a mild jalapeno, a sprinkle of garlic. Something else, unidentifiable. Martin Major never cursed, vulgarities were always disagreeable to him, unpalatable. His life he had tried to shape into something smooth, clear, something one could embrace, admire for its cleanness, the elegance of its organization, a Brancusi life rather than a Lipschitz, a life that a fine person like his wife Toni or his more refined colleagues and clients would be pleased to slide their hands along, lips parted, mouth moist, a life like a sleek feather of flawless silver. The end too would be lustrous. He’d always wanted, and prepared for — well almost always — through the cultivation of solid friendships and of amiable acquaintanceships, through impeccable manners and invariable kindness, a death that would be all sunshine and lilies and graceful dancing, a death that would invite the Earth to welcome him home with understated delight, that would be the simple, elegant little dot at the end of a life well lived. Instead, he knew as he peered at the face and narrowing shoulders in the mirror, it would turn out to be all empty and dark and trudging. Either way.
What was left of his mind kept returning like a scratch on a vinyl LP to the phrase almost always. ALMOST always.