Instead of sleeping, I started increasing the frequency and distance of my walks with the hiker's backpack from Lester full of books. I even switched out some of the books with larger ones, like the anthology of Tennessee Williams, the "N" encyclopedia, and an artbook of Van Gogh's complete collection in full color.
When I come back home, I pull the straps of the backpack and let it crash to the floor as I collapse next to it, stretched out, watching my chest rise and fall quickly, licking my dry lips to make them wet like my sweat-drenched T-shirt, basketball shorts, underwear and socks. I like the way my arms glisten and I squeeze my calves because for a half hour after walking, they are firm and defined. I pretend like they are always like that and imagine girls noticing them.
I stare at the ceiling above me and imagine animals and plants in the swirls. When my breathing slows I stand up and spend twenty to thirty minutes in the shower and sometimes I just imagine everything I can that is sad so my tears can mix with the water streaking down my face and go down the drain. I bought a creme that is supposed to help with my acne and apply it meticulously every day in front of the mirror. So far I have seen no effects. But I made sure to buy the most expensive creme in the store, so I'm sure it will work in time. Sometimes when I don't walk, I do crunches.
On Friday night, I strapped the backpack to my shoulders and walked directionless around the town. Young people going out for the night in their nice shirts and summer dresses looked at me. Some kids pointed and one even ran up close to me in the wobble-walk small kids use. I smiled at her and she wobbled away into the arms of her young bearded dad who whisked her away. Two women around my age were standing outside a bar as I walked past them. They wore makeup and revealing dresses and eyed me and I thought about asking them if either of them needed a date for the night, and they'd giggle, and agree because I was so intriguing in my backpack and had romantic notions for a care-free and wild night, that certainly, someone who looked like me could provide.
Instead, I walked into a gas station and the clerk looked at me and I looked at the products behind him. "Give me a pack of Newports," I said, trying to sound like I was someone who purchased cigarettes often and had tried them all and could give opinions on the flavors and strengths of them all. "And a lighter."
Outside, in the dark, cool summer air I lit the cigarette and smoked it like a pro. The used cell phone I just bought a week prior rang in my pocket.
"Hey, Ray. It's Lester."
"Hey, what's up?"
"Anna just called. She wants to know if we want to go out for blueberry pie tomorrow afternoon. She wants to introduce us to her new boyfriend."
"And she asked you to ask me?"
"Yeah, I guess so. So, you want to go?"
"No," I answered.
"Well, you're going," he said."
"Okay," I said.
I put the cell phone back in my pocket and walked back home. When I passed a trash can, I tossed the pack of Newports inside.