Roger ate some bad oysters.
The actual eating happened at about five o’clock. His stomach turned on him sometime around seven. The sun was just beginning to set, and Roger was working at his desk when the oysters first attacked. He tried to ward them off for a while, pushing through another half-hour of work. But eventually, he failed and had to lie down on his couch.
Roger lived alone. In the silence of his apartment, and in the swirling, bloated feeling of the bad oysters, he felt, for a moment, like he might be the only person left alive. For a moment, the suffering inside of him was endless.
He stared at the ceiling. Listened to the traffic outside. The traffic reassured him that he was not, in fact, alone. Of course he wasn’t. Because then, obviously, there wouldn’t be any traffic. Thinking about this, Roger realized that he must be far from being the first person to eat bad oysters. In fact, thousands had probably gone through the same sickness before him. Thousands, throughout all of time, had probably lain alone on their couches, trying not to puke.
That made Roger feel slightly better.
But the more these specific oysters railed against his innards, the more Roger thought, How can I know that for sure, though? How can I know, for sure, that I am not completely alone with this very specific, very painful feeling?
He considered this. Outside, the traffic honked and roared.
Finally, Roger stood. He clutched at his gut as he staggered out of his apartment. He walked purposefully to a busy street corner and vomited. Milky white strands splashed across the pavement, stained here and there with thin black lines. He wiped his mouth with the back of a hand. Leaned against a lamppost and admired his work.
It felt better to have it all out of him. To have purged the bad feeling and to have left it where people could see it.
Several people walked by. They gaped at Roger and at the mess. They strode on quickly, ignoring the stench. Ignoring Roger. They knew he was the culprit, of course. And, of course, they recognized what the puddle was. This was a rich part of town. These people would know oysters anywhere. They just didn’t care. Roger wasn’t their problem. They had other things to do.
The sun set. More and more people went past, looking at Roger and his mess. They all turned up their noses, hurrying away. So Roger continued to lean. He continued to wait.
An older man walked by then, when the light in the lamppost had flickered on and the sun had flickered out. He stopped right at the edge of the puddle of vomit. The toes of his shoes brushed up against its surface. He bowed down to it. Sniffed. Coughed. Looked at Roger.
“You poor thing,” the older man said. “I completely understand. I ate some bad oysters just last month. It’s awful, isn’t it?”
Roger nodded appreciatively. His shoulders sagged with relief.
“Simply terrible,” he said. “I feel better now, though. That it’s out. That you recognize it.”
“Oh, yes, I see it.” The older man shook his head. “Quite dreadful. I do know the feeling. I sympathize.”
Roger nodded again. “Thank you. Good to know I’m not alone.”
The older man nodded back.
“Of course,” he said. “Feel better.” And he went on his way.
That was all Roger had wanted.
Roger went back inside and continued to work at his desk. He felt much better now. Lighter. Freer. And less alone.
The older man felt better, too, knowing for sure that someone else had just gone through the very specific, very painful feeling he had undergone himself only a month before.
Sam Rebelein is the co-founder of the sketch comedy group, Crebuland, and is an active member of A Howl of Playwrights in Rhinebeck, NY. Both of which you should Like on Facebook. He is currently working to achieve his MFA at Goddard University and, proudly, has not vomited since last October.
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