He does not know how to find the studs. He still goes around the rooms drilling holes into the walls. He inserts plastic anchors into the holes, installing shelves on screws positioned into the plastic anchors.
When he hears the doorbell ring, he stops drilling and walks towards the door, the wooden floor creaking beneath his feet. He looks through the peephole, opens the door halfway.
“I’m in the middle of something.” His right hand clasps the doorknob. His left fingers curl around the frame.
“Do you want to go for a walk?” she asks. She is always suggesting he should take a walk.
“Don’t you even watch the news?” He points at a dead plant on the porch.
A purple triangle peeps out of the back of her black pants when she stoops to inspect the plant. “It’s just squirrels,” she says. She shows him a ripped leaf. “See!”
He doesn’t care to prove her wrong. He is not the one who left.
Back inside, he opens a book about tropical birds and starts to weep.
He cuts more shelves and places them on the walls. He moves cans of food and containers of water onto the new shelves to make room for the next batch.
Sometimes the shelves collapse under the weight.
He sweeps sawdust into a bag that he keeps by his bed. When he starts to itch, he puts on a white mask and rubs the sensitive spots on his skin.
He records his breathing on a tape recorder, puts the tape in an envelope with the date on it. He saves all of the envelopes on a shelf in the right corner of the room, next to the cans, watching the shelf fill with envelopes, cans.
He hears noises from the bathroom. He opens the bathroom door, walks towards the sink and stares at the water dripping from the rusted faucet, at the distorted images refracted inside the water drops.
At night, in bed, he listens to the rattling windows. On TV, a man’s head sits on his torso like a bloated vegetable. Crowds walk in yellow outfits. A cloud of smoke settles over everything.
Next morning, he manages to leave the house. When he closes the door, the neighbour’s dog starts barking. On his way to the store, he watches the white smoke behind his truck cut through the shadows of the ash trees. In the store, he picks up screws, anchors, 2×4s, more masks, and containers of bleach.
He makes a list of everything on the shelves: envelopes, cans of food, containers of water and bleach.
When his list is complete, he locks the door to the house, crushes the TV with a hammer, nails a wooden plank behind the door.