I sit in my coffin of a flat and drink barley sochu and watch television I don't understand because there is nothing else to do at sunrise. When I knock the bottle over the clear liquid spills onto the torn tatami floor, puddles for a hesitant moment, and disappears between the gaps in the mat leaving only a wet stain and a regretful odor.
The early sun is oppressive, the harbinger of one of those awful days that everyone loves, where the alley beneath my patio buzzes with smoke and airy foreign voices, inevitably commenting on just how beautiful of a day it is. I force my curtains shut and collapse on the bed while personalities on the screen across from me giggle like children being chased in a park. Cartoon suns with broad smiles dance across the screen with predictions of gentle weather, ignoring the ominous clouds with equally-ominous smiles at the back end of the week.
Two mouthfuls of sochu are left in the bottle. I gulp the first and take the second into my cheeks until they blow out wide. Droplets dribble from my full mouth and down my cheeks and neck. I imagine I look something like a squirrel, prudently ignoring the suns on the screen and saving his hoard for the dark times on the horizon. But then greed gets the better of me and I force the rest down my throat until my eyes and nose burn and I'm sputtering sochu on the sheets.
I light a Seven Stars and lazily smoke, waiting for the drink to kick my brain. The few drinks already in me are the warm-up, a pleasant, floating feeling. Next comes a pressure on the front of my face and elation. The road gets rocky from there, but right now everything is pleasant and smoke hangs above my bed like a netting waiting to be unfurled.
Bang bang bang. A knock on my door. No, a pounding. Someone with purpose. I take a deep drag on my cigarette. Do I get up? Bang bang bang. Perhaps it's the landlord, although rent's not due for another week. Or maybe it's my neighbor for whatever reason he has to bother me. Did I wake him? Doubtful. He needs to get ready for work. Bang bang bang bang. This person is insistent. Now I'm curious. Maybe the building's on fire. That could be fun. I sigh and rise from the bed.
"I'm coming, I'm coming," I mumble. On the way to the door I stop at the refrigerator and pull a can of Asahi. Sochu's working, but not fast enough. This will speed things up. "Hang on!" I say a bit louder. I pop the top and drink and the beer spills out of my mouth and runs down my chin and bare chest.
I amble to the door, lean forward, and peer into the peep hole. Empty. I open the door and look out into the hallway and it's the same emptiness, a gray concrete and stucco corridor. Around the corner I think I might hear heavy footsteps, maybe a man wearing boots or carrying around significant weight. I stand for a minute and let the breeze that pushes already-warm air down the hallway run over my face and chest. Then I nub out my cigarette on the door frame, sip my beer, and retreat into my hovel.