Nurse Bella lets me sleep till noon. I then have my orange juice and coffee. I turn on the iPad and scan the morning papers.
The phone rings. The bank again. Every day now. Collection department. Several months behind on my loan. I’ve lost track how many and how much. They remind me. I haven’t got it, I say. All my money is gone. The two hundred and fifty thousand dollar portfolio. My wife’s pension and social security. Dust to dust, I tell them, ashes to ashes, everything went at once. Hospitals and nursing homes got it all. I’m old and broke. Like Hemingway said, ‘A man goes broke gradually, and then all at once.’ I tell them I only have enough money for food. (And gin and Jack Daniels and brandy, but I don’t tell them that part.) They tell me pay up or else. Or else fucking what? I say. They hang up.
An hour later, another bank calls. They keep calling. I’m old, I tell them. My wife is dead. If you want to dun an old man for a lousy thirty thousand dollars which is a minuscule fraction of a penny to a billion dollar bank, then go ahead, keep calling and I’ll keep telling you the same thing: I don’t have the fucking money. They hang up. But they’ll call tomorrow at the same time.
I call a bankruptcy lawyer and he says he’ll make all my debts vanish. No shit, I say, just like that, huh? He says, Absolutely, just send me a check for eighteen hundred dollars and the debts will disappear. How the hell, I tell him, can I write you a check for eighteen hundred dollars when I have no fucking money in the bank? He hangs up. I’ve noticed a trend here. If you say the word fucking to creditors and bankruptcy lawyers, they hang up on you. Good to know.
Before I know it, it’s cocktail hour. Where has half the day gone.
At five o’clock in the afternoon, Bella and I have cocktails and treats—catnip ‘Temptations’ for her and Tostitos and salsa dip for me. And quietly flows the gin, a dash of tonic and the comforting clink of ice cubes. I slide a TV dinner in the oven. Sky-high cholesterol, forty percent sodium. Who gives a shit in the hermit hovel.
To paraphrase Thomas Bernhard: Susan’s dead, nothing matters.