Billy the Kid Chooses the Manner of His Own Death

by Kaj Tanaka

The cold seeps under the door of his girlfriend’s little apartment in Brookline. She left for work before the sun came up, and here he is, still in bed. Rolled up in the down comforter he looks like a caterpillar.

The sun creeps under the heavy red curtains of his girlfriend’s bedroom. He rolls to the bedside table where, last night, he placed his cell phone and glasses and his laptop.

He makes coffee in his girlfriend’s cold kitchen, and the white morning light is blinding on the tile work, and he borrows a pair of his girlfriend’s socks because his feet are numb from the cold.

The neighbors are playing Latin music again. His girlfriend complains about this all of the time, but this morning, he finds it strangely comforting. Outside the window, the sun is a round iceberg in a pale blue ocean.

Rummaging through the refrigerator, he finds some leftovers. They aren’t his, but he eats them anyway—not all of them—just small, nearly imperceptible amounts from all of the containers. In this way, he makes a meal.

When one of his girlfriend’s roommates comes home around lunchtime, he hides in his girlfriend’s bedroom, cowering behind the door, listening to the roommate bang around in the kitchen. The roommate seems to be under the impression that she is alone in the house, and loudly sings a number of contemporary pop songs as she—what? Is she making an omelet? Behind the door, he finds himself strangely taken with the roommate. To be honest, he hadn’t thought much of her, but it is always different, he thinks, observing someone when they think they are alone.

He had planned to make it out in the afternoon to run some errands, but he does not. It has become so cold in the apartment by then that all he can do is curl up under the covers and amuse himself with the internet. He loves the internet, he thinks. He distracts himself from the cold by watching videos of tiny owls.

By the time he pulls back the heavy red curtain again, it is already dark outside. The cold has become unbearable. How does she stand it? He does not know how to adjust the heat, so he does not. Instead, he gathers the comforter around him like a chrysalis and makes his way to the kitchen to brew some tea. The floor is fantastically cold. Even through his girlfriend’s wool socks, it aches his feet. Eventually, he gives up on the idea of tea and returns to bed.

It is not so bad in bed, he thinks. He is sleepy. He texts his girlfriend about what they will eat for dinner. She replies vaguely. He realizes that he might be on his own for dinner. The thought saddens him, but sometimes we eat alone, he reminds himself; sometimes we eat alone.

Kaj Tanaka’s writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Electric Literature, The Master’s Review, New South and Midwestern Gothic. He is the nonfiction editor at BULL Magazine.

Photo by: Ana Prundaru