>What is this about? Radiators and Stan.


There’s something to be said for confidence. It is innate and it is reckless, it spreads and fosters risk and reward. There’s no real way to be forcibly confident. You have to practice it. This I found out when I was sixteen after my first real sexual encounter. These are the things we remember, vrai? No, I’ll save you that one for another rainy Sunday. I don’t think, I drink, like my mother. She imbued me with this predisposition in the womb. Part of me always thought it would be fun to be a raging alcoholic, to have the disease. You can blame things on it, you can be drunk, and who knows what kind of crazy lifestyle comes with those two things. And talk about creative! Can’t you see me just thwapping away on the old typewriter smoking cigarettes drinking Jameson neat in gulps? I can. Anyways, where was I – confidence. Just have to put it on, like a suit. It takes time, some preparation, some fixing of the collar, but when you’re ready you feel it. I’m thinking that I can watch the whiskey visibly melt the ice in my glass, slowly bobbing in minisucule modulations barely visible. There are two radiators in my room that otherwise I would not bother describing because they are boring. But with my buddy, oL’ Jamie over here, I’m going to do it. Yes, I’m going to give you an idea of how integral these radiators are to my well being and the character of my room. Here goes: These radiators are about two and a half feet high, and are painted in white paint that looks very old, like it was painted at least before 1970. They have little legs maybe three inches high that make them look like pygmy radiators that could start waddling forward at any moment. When they release heat that is necessary for my comfort, they hiss slightly like a tea kettle before it’s really ready. Too many slits to count, maybe fifteen, line white panels of metal releasing heat and are dark because of dust or maybe just because they are close together and I am looking at them from an oblique angle; I would be four o clock if they were the center of the face. On one side of the radiator is what looks like a small, oblong bell but could also be a CO2 cartridge attached to it. On each end of each radiator are six slits (in two groups of three, a top and a bottom) and on top of the top middle heat releasing slit is what could be a compass, painted white, to direct the little men inside of the radiator where and how much heat to release. Oh, there’s one below the bottom middle too! I hadn’t even noticed that one, probably because it is better painted and just above it and below the top one are screws also painted white, they must get hot, must be some kind of special radiator screws perhaps. And on the other side of the radiator is a valve that can be opened or closed to release the amount of heat. There are two radiators directly underneath my two windows and are bordered by thin white painted wooden frames that are actually in-frames that are framed by the wainscoting of the window which is not at all perpendicular but reaches straight to the floor, making the north wall of my room, look like it has two eyes with two lower eyelashed lids, which are the radiators. It is very symmetrical, my wall, and the two skateboards in between the windows, up against the wall are like a nose, a black nose on a white face.
Well, that was successful, I think. If I wanted to write a very self- conscious kunstleroman, then this would be a part of where the young artist is attempting to write about things that aren’t very interesting, to try to make them interesting in an objective way that is really just his subjective point of view. While drinking, that is. Because drinking is supposed to bring forth creativity, right? I can’t wait to be an alcoholic! That would be a good idea, to write a novel like that. I think that that level of self-consciousness would be good for literature, for everyone, because too many of us are too unself-conscious. Is that a good thing? Isn’t it nice to be unself-conscious? Yes. It is. But, artistic Daniel rejoinders, doesn’t a lack of self-consciousness lead to ignorance? to complacency? Yes. It does. So being able to control self-consciousness in writing, like we do in real life, when we are experienced and older and can contribute positively to social interactions, to moderate it and mediate it, how would we do this in writing, artist? Well, by jumping back as the writer! I poured a lot of Jamie. He’s gonna be my ol’ pal, but I won’t have to get a drink till much later, when I’m out at the bar, and when I do, it’ll be beer, because I may still be tipsy from hangin with Jamie. Boo, that’s no fun. O beer. Hey beer. How ya doin. Ya. That’s cool. Or maybe it’ll be a fun beer! Like a seven dollar ale, from a microbrewery. Hey ale, you’re so hoppy and flavorful tonite! I’m glad you made it!
“Thanks, man. It’s good to see you too. It’s been a while.”
“Ya well, times have been tough, you know?”
“Sure, it’s a recession. But it’s good of you to drop by.”
“I had too dude. Bud Heavy was with Coors Lite, and they were talking about going to some cockfest out in the woods man.”
“Dude, you made the right choice. I mean there are some beautiful girls here tonight!”
“O hey Alex. Ale, this is Alex, she’s my girlfriend.”
“Hi Alex, I’m Ale.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Ale.”
“It’s a pleasure, Alex.”
Alex places her hand beneath my elbow and wraps it around my bicep.
“So what were you guy’s up to tonight?
“Well, we were at this lame bar in the east village; it was loud and the music was dece,” I tell Ale. “What were you doing tonight?”
“We were just hangin’ out at Sam Adams’, shootin the – hey man! It’s Stan the Janitor!”
“Eyyy! (Like the Fonz.) Stan is the janitor. He wears loose grey trousers, beige boots, a green t-shirt, and a kind of vest that only covers his belly and protects it from hernias; it has shoulder straps and looks like a marsupial pouch. He can be seen pushing a garbage can on wheels, running through the hallways of my brain, cleaning up all of the refuse that accumulates over the course of the day as well as Coles Gym, where I work, and his tools, which shake on his belt are: a yellow flashlight, gloves attached to a carabeener attached to his belt loop, a radio and a silver chain which runs across his left leg and keeps his wallet in place. He is of about middle height and is from Brooklyn, an doan fuhgedid. Stan’s demeanor is blithe, proven by a cachinnation that follows after about half of everything he says. He’s loud and gruff but he’s really a sweeheart – he gets off on the Chewbacca groan he affects so well. He is balding on top and when he’s had a long day the stray hairs of his sinciput become unruly and dishevelled, rising like his pate had been rubbed with a balloon an though his ears look as though they’ve been pinched and pulled, are about half an inch wide, almost elfin, and have cropped black tufts of fur in the areas most visible, he is still a not unattractive. His eyebrows are thick and black, and his eyes are large, brown and unintelligent, though not dull. His nose is aquiline, but broad and somewhat cucurbitaceous. Like his hair, his beard is gray, but jet black high around his cheeks, a remnant of his youth, and runs eagerly down his neck into the clumps of chest hair spilling loosely from his collar. He swears freely and casually and talks to himself when no one listens.
“Eyyy!” Stan’s gait has a bit of the waddle about it and he greets me and Ale with a dap, takes Alex’s hand like a gentleman, with his unoccupied hand behind his back and a farther torso lean forward. Removing the square lid from the garbage can, he whips open a bag and asks me, “Ya know wha tha new word is fuh tha new yea? Neudral.” Stan turns back around bends his torso slightly forward and pauses, holding up his index finger. “Neudral. Ya know why? Cuz errybody roun heah eitha likes ya uh they doan. Thas why.” Wieldy, he throws the full bag of garbage on top of his overflowing wheeled trashcan. He finishes balancing it and stands in front of me while I have sitten down in a chair and turns to me as he says, “Ya god tha? Neudral – right uh wrong?
We agree.
“Cuz errybody iz alwayz lookin fa whaz right.” He roars gauchely. We laugh too.
“Fuckn doo many people doinza wrong.” Again, we weakly follow his laughter.
“Yezzaday I wuz on da zubway. An dis piece a shit comes up and dozen even lukka me. Putziz stuff down nexta me, duznt say scuze me uh nuthin. So I lookz at im, I zayz, Scuze me, ow bou a lil commun curtezy? E lookz a me, takez iz stuff an zitz zumwheya elze. Fuckin pizza shit. Do many peoplez, dey ain’t got no curtezy. Looka me, Ima uman bein, I doan cayuh wha ya do, just ave da commun curtezy ta lookame. Right uh wrong?”
Stan turns back to the teetering garbage can and begins to push it down the hall toward the secret janitor’s lounge. As he walks past us he says as he daps me goodbye, (don’t tell Ale, and Alex, it was her first time meeting Stan, so…but I’m his favorite) “Ahright, you be good. Eyyahaha.” Stan knew it was safe to speak like this to us, to tell us his how he was feeling, what was on his mind. He seemed not to care what people thought, but only of their thinking about him. And honestly, isn’t the only thing worse than being thought poorly of is to not be thought of at all – does anything else really matter in life?

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.

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