Mouthwash, alarm clocks, and uncomfortable silences

by Jonah

As I was replying to a message from one of you lucky corresponders last
night, my hostess came and tapped me on the shoulder. She had to perform
this motion because I had my earphones on listening to George Winston at a
rather high volume because there was some “light” jazz junk on in the room
and I hate “light” junk. Perhaps because it reminds me of waiting in waiting
rooms to see doctors or dentists. Not that I don’t like doctors or dentists,
I just don’t enjoy the inevitable wait for them.

So as George Winston was drowning out whatever “light” junk that happened to
be playing, I felt my hostess try to convey something to me. Removing my
earphones, I heard her say, “Alice isn’t home yet, so don’t turn out the
lights or lock the door or anything.”

“Okay,” I said as I put the headphones back on. I hadn’t been planning on
locking the door anyway, but now I’d be sure NOT to. Alice, btw, is my
floormate. She has a bedroom at the opposite end of the upstairs. We see
each other occasionally, but not too much. Alice seems like a very sweet
person, which makes me very uncomfortable. For some reason, obnoxious people
appeal to me much more, until I get to know them and learn to hate their
guts. “Nice” people make me ill at ease. I’m constantly worried I’m going
to say something insensitive or rude or offend them in some way. I can hold
my own at insults, cutting wit, or perverting statements, but be nice back?
[shudder]

Alice also has this really sweet voice, which makes me laugh whenever I
overhear her saying “Oh, dammit!” though I doubt she knows I’m in earshot.
During most of the conversations we have, she’ll just be polite. “How are
you?” she’ll ask. “Fine,” I say, since I’m afraid anything unorthodox will
cause offense somehow. Then there will be an uncomfortable silence in which
I’ll smile and leave or just stand there until Alice says something like,
“Wow.” She has a tendency to say that whenever words run out. And since I’m
not exactly a conversation wiz, she has the opportunity to say it a lot.
“Wow.”

By the time I was getting ready for bed last night, she still hadn’t returned
home. Not that I was concerned. She comes home late from time to time, and
I greet her if I see her. In the meantime I brushed my teeth and put in my
retainer and TMJ splint. Then I dumped some mouthwash in and went to change
into my pj’s, swishing the stuff around in my mouth.

At this point, an alarm clock went off in Alice’s room. Why it was going off
at that time of night, I don’t know, but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to
go to sleep with it blaring down the hall. Not that it was that loud, but
there’s just something contrary to the laws of nature when it comes to GOING
to SLEEP while an alarm clock, no matter how far away, if still audible, is
beeping. My alarm clock at home will beep for an hour before shutting up,
and I certainly didn’t want to wait that long. No telling when my fellow
boarder would show up, so I went into her room to shut it off.

I’d never been in her room before. It’s at the head of the stairs, so I’d
ventured a couple of glances inside at her habitually unmade bed from time to
time but never set foot inside. It took me a while to find the clock. I
followed the beeping to the bedside table, but the clock was invisible. I
finally spotted it UNDER the bed, pulled it out, and hit something that
looked like OFF. Just then, I heard the door slam. Alice was home. Her
feet sounded on the stairs. And I was in HER room. It’s not like she’s got
a big sign on the door that reads, “KEEP OUT ON PAIN OF DEATH” or anything
like that, but still, to come home and find someone messing around in your
room… it’s just… well, you know. So I shoved the clock back UNDER the
bed and got to the doorway of the room the same time Alice did. Our eyes
locked. She looked tired and surprised but simply said something like, “Oh,
hi.”

My mouth was still full of mouthwash, the retainer, and the TMJ splint.
Speaking was quite difficult, but I somehow mananged to get out, “Uh, your
alarm clock went off, so I turned it off.”

“Oh, thanks,” Alice replied. “Wow.”

I stopped in at the bathroom on my way to bed to spit.

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