He opens his eyes wide, his body’s shuddering, he wants to vomit is afraid of what will come out, he pictures things reptant, things serpentine and largetoothed and scaly erupting from his guts through his mouth, he shakes, his left leg pounds as though struck over and over by an oversized thghbone, he sinks against the wall exhausted, his eyelids sink , he waits for the pain to subside and the fear, it doesn’t take long, just some minutes, he has a shitload to spare. His thigh still throbs a bit, he lets his tired gaze drift down to his left knee, just above it there’s a scar like a wellhealed old bullet wound, he sees and hears and feels the snake swishing the air around him, it hasn’t gone away, it never will, at any rate he’ll never forget it that’s for sure. He sits there for some time, the present is very long but he doesn’t want it to end, is afraid of what might follow. The thing that he always wanted to forget is still there, it’s still inside, the expulsion of the snake didn’t get rid of it, it’s like a broken bottle slicing up his lungs. How he wishes ______ would come home, he works hard, his numb face doesn’t change but he works hard to remember: Toni, Toni, yes, god she would hold, she . . . He looks upward, sees a limited edition print on the wall, the back of a seated naked woman after Picasso, she looks like fruit, he tries to concentrate on it but impulsively begins the hard labor of getting up. He knows where he must go. The den. The dog will be there. The dog. He’d forgotten all about her, he’s forgotten her name too, he hadn’t heard a sound from her all this time, all he’s heard have been orchestration and loud voices and his own groans and whimpers.
As he struggles on his hands and knees to raise himself he spots the black dumbbell on the fleckedwhite tile floor, reaches for it like a child for a gift, finally manages to stand and does a few curls. Maybe if he does enough of them it’ll erase the dull discomfort in his thigh, he closes his eyes, grimaces, forces more curls until his bicep hurts.