Tuxedos and Evening Gowns

When I open my bedroom door, there’s always someone inside, dressed to the nines. I’ve tested this phenomenon a couple dozen times so far. I don’t know where these bedroom people come from. My room doesn’t have windows. There’s only one way in or out. I can shut the door on the windowless room, wait a few minutes, open the door, and voilà. They nod appreciatively and walk out. I get the impression that they’re waiting for me, waiting to be let out. But it’s not like some panicky incarceration. These people are always calm and collected. Their tuxedos and evening gowns are pristine. Their hair and makeup is flawless. They’re waiting, but not quite trapped.

They rarely say anything to me, these people in my room. Sometimes they offer a polite “good evening” or “nice weather we’re having.” Whenever I try to talk directly to them, they just smile and look somewhat uncomfortable, as if their politeness can only extend to the most rudimentary phraseology. I say, “Pardon me, could you please tell me why you’re in my room?” I’m not sure why I bother with these niceties—there’s something about their fancy clothes that encourages civility, I guess. After about one week of good manners, I drop the decorum and insist: “Tell me right now! How did you get in here?”

These people shudder at my lack of grace, and their voices quaver as they say “good day” in a hurry. They brush past me, their expensive-smelling colognes and perfumes lingering in the air. They appear more agitated now, but they never break from the politeness. They always close the door behind them, and I’m left in my dimly lit hovel with my stained mattress, 90s band posters on the wall, IKEA side table, alarm clock on the blink.

I try to follow them out, but they catch a never-ending series of buses and trains, and I always lose them after the fifth or sixth transfer. I sleuth for a couple weeks. Every time, they vanish into midday commuter crowds only to reappear on some distant bus as it chugs forward, leaving me on the platform by myself.

I decide that they’re embarrassed of my hoodie and jeans. If I look like I belong, maybe I’ll be able to make all the correct transfers. Maybe I can attend whatever swanky party is waiting at the end-o’-the-line. So I dress myself to the nines—tuxedo, shiny leather shoes, bowtie. I trim my beard. I gel my hair. I look gooooood. I stand in the middle of the room—I want to sit on my stained mattress, but I can’t risk messing up my new clothes. I watch the door, and I know somebody will let me out soon. I will nod at this person and say “good day” in my most polite voice. I will leave the room, and I will know exactly where I am going.

James R. Gapinski

James R. Gapinski is managing editor of The Conium Review, and he’s associate faculty at Ashford University. His fiction has appeared in Cheap Pop, Juked, Monkeybicycle, NANO Fiction, SmokeLong Quarterly, Word Riot, and other publications. James lives with his partner in Portland, Oregon.

Brian Demers

Brian is a graduate of the Art Institute with a BA in Game Art and Design. Currently, he is a project manager for Electronic Arts. He prefers to work in ink.

First Featured In: No. 6, winter 2016

The Adventure Issue

View/Purchase Magazine