Sunrise over the subdivision. The chickadees break the silence first, and then the robins and eventually a cicada or two every couple minutes. The air starts to warm a bit. The streetlights turn off all at once.

Rich is out on the balcony sitting in one of the fold-out camping chairs Cassandra got on clearance from the grocery store at the start of the summer. He hasn’t slept at all. He hasn’t slept at all, and it’s — he checks the clock on his phone — five fifty three. Jesus. This is the third time in the last month he’s had a night like this. Something in his brain must be broken, he thinks. Most people can fall asleep whenever they set their mind to it. Why can’t he? He sips his Tassimo salted caramel latte and takes a hit from the banana-shaped glass pipe Kody’s been lending him since he got back from school. Each makes the other taste worse. He coughs.

The balcony smells horrible. Him and Kody have just been letting the dog out there to shit while Cassandra’s been away in Petawawa seeing PawPaw in the hospital, and neither of them have been outside much, so Rich guesses they just haven’t noticed. Holy shit, though. He wants to get up and kick it off or scoop it into a bag or something, but he can’t seem to make his legs move. It feels like his body has gone into low-battery mode and is only wanting to delegate energy to sipping and smoking and staring off into space. He hopes he gets a second wind at some point. He was supposed to go downtown and actually try to find a job today.

The sliding glass door to the unit across from Rich’s opens up and somebody steps out. It’s the owner. The divorced guy. His name is Manuel or something. Man-well? He’s wearing blue plaid pyjama pants and a shirt with a picture of Darth Vader on it that says “THIS IS MY HAPPY FACE” underneath in bold red font. His hair is messy and dry-looking.

Rich is caught off guard. He thought he would be the only person awake at this hour, and having to share the morning with someone else now is making him feel powerfully exposed. He slinks further down in his chair and tries as hard as he can to not be noticed. He unlocks his phone and scrolls through his “Photos” app. One of the shots he got earlier when twilight first broke looks kind of cool. It would do pretty well if he posted it somewhere, he thinks, probably. He’s been on a kick with the nature content lately.

When he looks up to see if he’s doing a good job of being invisible, the divorced guy is leaning forward against his railing and smoking a dart and staring directly at him. Rich laughs and says something like “Oh hey I didn’t see you there. Beautiful morning, eh?” The divorced guy doesn’t respond. He just nods and ashes his cigarette and heads back inside, closes the door behind him.

Upper Canada / Creative writing student at Concordia University

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