Sawyer Bennett, for as long as he could remember, had never found it necessary to associate with others. With the exception of his landlady and the greengrocer in the alleyway beside his apartment complex, regular human interaction was both a chore and a constant source of much annoyance and frivolity. Men were coarse, unintelligent, and constantly compensated for themselves in a fashion that was almost laughable. Women were flighty, flirty, and frail, and he resented how fragile they would appear to be, how easily influenced. Often would he stare out of the fogged glass in his window down at the giggling young women out in the streets at night. He’d listen to the clicking of their high heels on the cobblestone streets, admiring the incredible poise and balance they displayed but hating them nonetheless. Their voices made his head hurt, causing a sensation not unlike a small hammer being thrown against the walls enclosing his mind. His long since estranged mother had liked to ask him, years ago, why it was that he could not bring himself to enjoy merely being in proximity to other people, and he had answered, every time without fail:
“Because they have given me no reason not to despise them.”
“But you wouldn’t know until you tried.” His landlady snapped him out of the reminiscent trace he had been in moments ago, apparently having had stayed a few moments too long for his liking in order to start a conversation. “You could meet some girl that you really like, you know.”
“It doesn’t interest me. Nor does this exchange. Good day, Ms. Myers.”
Evelyn Myers shrugged her plump shoulders, absentmindedly brushing flour from her stained apron onto the polished linoleum. He would have to sweep again later. He felt his jaw clench in frustration. She seemed to notice, her eye almost imperceptibly twitching as her rosy pink hands rose to her hair. She always did this when she was nervous. Sawyer did not understand why, as her coif looked abysmal enough as it was, with its singed tips from years of curling irons and its unnatural red sheen barely masking the telltale signs of aging. She twirled a wayward curl around her finger, and he remarked that she had just recently painted her nails an unnatural shade of mint that had begun to smudge as strands of her hair dragged themselves across the surface, leaving lengthy striations in the lacquer. She released her hair and let her hand fall to her side with an embarrassed stammer that she hadn’t realized, and he noted that she had donned a shade of bright pink lipstick that was altogether inappropriate for the shade of her flushed face, and made her bulbous nose look even more unfortunately prominent on her dough-like visage. He wondered if she had been trying to impress him, wondered if he could get a cheaper deal on his apartment if he used it to his advantage. Glancing at her nervous, yet hopeful expression, he decided it might be worth the effort. Maybe he could buy something nice with the extra money he’d have from a cheaper rent price. He gathered himself, forced his most inviting smirk onto his face.
“After all, why do I need to go out to meet women when the loveliest by far stands before my very eyes?” Immediately, he thought it had been overkill, overdone. Perhaps she’d see right through him, see the hopes of hard cash gleaming in his beady eyes. But her face began to light up with a soft, shy smile, and he breathed a sigh of relief. At ease now, Sawyer let himself imagine what she might be thinking now. She must have been struck suddenly by how similar he looked to her favorite protagonist in the romance series she hid underneath her pillow and read to the light of her book lantern late at night. It had been years since her husband had packed his suitcase and her bank account, and left her merely a stack of divorce papers to her name, had been years since she’d been close to another man, years since she’d felt soft, warm lips on her own. Now, she found herself flushed, nervous, and craving his affection. It was delicious, how much power he could wield in such a simple thing. It was exhilarating to know that he could make or break her in so much as three words. I love you. I hate you. Should he play his cards right, he could work her from so many angles that it almost made him dizzy thinking about it.
“Well, I never…” Evelyn began, “You’re just quite the charmer, aren’t you?” He wondered if her face could look any more similar to a cherry tomato than it did now. She brought her mangled, manicured fingernails to her face and gently brushed away a strand of lingering hair. Sawyer very much wished he could push her into the hall, slam the door in her face, and sit in silent satisfaction at her look of shock through the peephole, but he steeled himself and continued, thinking of the money, and the new hunting knife he could buy from the sporting goods shop down the street.
“Only for you, my dear” he purred. Bringing his fingertips to his chapped mouth, he blew her a halfhearted kiss, and, seeing the look of astonished delight she gave in response, decided that his work was complete for the time being. Amid her feeble protests, he ushered her out the door and into the carpeted hallway.
“Couldn’t I stay for a while? I could make coffee. We could talk.” What she may have thought of as a slight whine dripping with sex appeal, he found nothing less than appallingly irksome.
“Unfortunately, I’m a busy man. Duty calls. Be on your way.” Defeated, she sulked just outside, trying to make her pouty face appear alluring. “Til next time!” He called after her as she all but skipped down the hall, tripped over a potted shrubbery, and quite nearly knocked a bag of baguettes out of an unsuspecting woman’s arms.
Sawyer scowled at Evelyn’s turned back as she entered the rickety elevator, and shut his door before she could turn around and glance at him one last time. He briefly wondered to himself if it would be worth making her one of his victims, but caught himself, realizing that were she not present at the apartment complex, he would no longer have a landlady, and by extension, no place to live. Besides, she trusted too easily, and was not nearly pretty enough to tempt him. He shook his head to clear it of his thoughts, and trudged to his bedroom to find something to wear. Though the opinions of others had never mattered much to him, a worn bathrobe simply wouldn’t do for a day of running errands. He approached his dresser, and opened a drawer. He had made a notch in the drawer for every month he had spent in this new town, and the number had slowly but surely accumulated to the high twenties. Pulling on a pair of jeans and tossing on a budweiser tee shirt, he inspected himself in the bathroom mirror. He had large dark circles underneath his eyes that made his pale skin look even paler, and gave him a perpetual aura of weakness and fatigue. His eyebrows were unkempt underneath the limp sweep of brown hair that crowned his head. A thin layer of soot coated the nose that was too large for his face, and, plucking a tissue from the box and wiping it clean, Sawyer decided that he looked good enough to go outside. Though the shirt and jeans made his already too-tall and lanky figure look even taller and lankier, he grabbed his wallet from his bedside table, placed his house key in his shoe, and left.