The Price of Pieces
By Mark Mika
My name is Pablo. If I told you my real name you would remember me as a child. My parents were very famous; you might have watched their funeral service on television last week as I did. Of course I wanted to go to the services; I loved my parents very much. Very much indeed. The problem you see is that I cannot leave my apartment. I have not left my apartment for any reason for over fifteen years.
I do not know why, not really but I do know the thought of walking out my door, leaving the sanctuary of my four walls and entering the filth and despair that is the outside world leaves me terrified to the point of paralysis. I wish it were not true but it is maybe the only true thing about me. My neighbors think I am crazy, that I am hiding from the world. Crazy? No, I am not crazy, I hide from nothing! I simply choose not to participate in madness.
As for my parents I will miss them terribly. They were not bad people, they loved me and cared for me and left me a great amount of money, most of which I will never spend. I have written many stories about them. That is what I do. I write stories. All day, every day and sometimes for several days at a time when I cannot sleep. I sit here at my desk and look out through the massive floor to ceiling windows that make up the majority of the wall that faces out across the boulevard below; onto the billions of slithering filthy people doing their slithering, filthy things… and I write stories.
I have stacks of them piled up like paper pillars through the house and many of them are absolutely about my parents. Well, not specifically, completely or utterly about my parents. That is silly. I take little pieces of them, small fractures and of their heart, tiny fissures of their souls and put them into the characters I create. That’s what we do you know. Writers I mean; we take pieces of truth and wrap them in paper lies, like presents. I remember reading somewhere, once – when I was young and still out there in that- that fiction is a lie and that good fiction is the truth behind the lie. I don’t know who said it but I think sometimes that it could have been me.
So that is me, a wrapper of truth, and it suits me well. At least it did until recently, before they started deconstructing the building across from my own. It is an old, old building; historic actually and the papers sang for weeks its old praise and its vivid history linked arm in am with this sin filled city. It mattered little. In the end, those who do the adding said the cost to make it whole again didn't’t “pencil” and it was cost effective only to bring her down. I made no thoughts about it when it started. They started slowly and it has been taking them now over three months to get to the final day, which is tomorrow.
I’ve watched it all from my desk and through my window. It started with the removal of furniture. Old, fine furniture of all manner where marched out and down the old cracked stone steps. It’s a smaller building than mine, only 12 stories and so from my 33 rd floor perch I watched the workers as their continuous ant like line paraded out the desks, beds and chest of drawers.
Then they began to tear out the guts of her. The copper plumbing, wiring, beautiful gold fixtures and all the other things that make a building a home came out in the hands of ants just like the furniture and as I watched this, this deconstruction occur each day two things happened. The first was that with each sink and chandelier I saw carried out like dead soldiers I became sadder and sadder. The second was that ideas poured out of my head like at no other time in my life. I would create seven, eight, sometimes TEN stories a day! The pace was frantic, I could not, at times, type fast enough to keep up!
It was as if each thing removed had a tale to tell and I could see them. I could see all of the different people.
The wrinkled black hands that washed themselves in that porcelain sink, washing the blood and birth off his hands… to late to save the child but at least the mother would live.
The young couple groping each other with passionate fury on the four poster bed, the cries of passion erupting from the mistress as the foul cheater entered her from behind.
The old couple rocking back and forth in the two identical chairs, holding hands in the quiet peace of their loves reminders.
I could not stop if I wanted to. I sat there, day after day, often in pants soaked with my own urine and watched the parade of people’s memories and wrote about them. I had to; it is after all, what I do. At first it was joyous! O, how I loved the sight of it all, the clicking of the keyboard in my ears was beauty. The pure beauty of truth wrapped in lies.
But then it became tiresome, like a death march that couldn't’t be stopped and I felt myself getting hollow. That’s the only way I can describe it. I started to realize which each story that came from me, I would in turn, have to give something away. The pieces of them required payment of some sort and that payment was myself. I became smaller and smaller each day, I felt like a pumpkin slowly being scraped of its meat.
And then it was over. One morning the ants did not return. Everything that could be taken was and only the shell of the building remained. The next day the monstrous metal machine showed up, its wrecking ball dangling with delight in it’s patient promise of destruction. That was yesterday and the papers say today it will attack. I do not expect it to take long; the ancient, crumbling, hollow building will not put up a fight.
My name is Pablo as far as you know and like the building I stare at in this pale morning light, am under deconstruction.
Editor's note: Price of Pieces has been published previously at: New York Review.
Mark Mika is a soggy-headed writer of fiction and non-fiction and resides in Southern California with his loving girlfriend and equally loving, but lazy, cat. They frolic by the sea daily. Contact him at: Marlin Mark.