It was deep into the afternoon when he woke up again. The hangover had subsided to a faint thumping behind his eyes. The cold shower chased away that too. Jonathan crammed a slice of stale bread into his mouth. He sank into the couch and stared out the living room window. The building across was still boarded up. Laser 3.14 had tagged the plywood with black spray paint: ‘but you also had a bad day yesterday.’ Sometimes, on days like today, it felt as if that Laser 3.14 guy knew him and had tagged the board on purpose, to piss him off, possibly at his ex-girlfriend’s request. She’d do that. The crazy, vindictive bitch. She’d love to hurt him. His gaze traveled away from the tag, back to the treeless street, and rested on the lamppost. It took him a full minute to realize that something wasn’t right with the picture. Not the boarded-up windows, not the tag, but the lamppost.

His bike should’ve been locked to it.

But it wasn’t.

Jonathan got up and stepped over to the window. He looked left and right. No bike. He never left it behind, not even if he was as drunk as yesterday. He searched his memory. He’d been at café De Eland until closing time. Right? Jonathan perched on the couch. He had been at De Eland. Vague images of a car and blond hair surfaced, but nothing solid, nothing that sparked even the slightest memory of how he’d come home. Had Mark called him a taxi? But Mark wasn’t blond. Maybe he— he stopped mid-track, when his eye fell on a red bag that was shoved under his desk. Not his. Definitely not his.

A Crumpler bag. Way too expensive for him. It felt like it held a laptop with its angular back. Jonathan sank onto the desk chair and hoisted the bag onto his lap. Hazy fragments floated up from the murky memory waters. The dark interior of De Eland. Empty beer glasses. A broken glass. Mark’s warning glance. But nothing about a red Crumpler bag. Had he been lucky? He snorted at the thought. Not a girl. He sure as hell hadn’t picked up a girl. Girls avoided him like he was a pile of trash, like he stank the same way his bathroom stank of mold. The entire world avoided like him like the plague, except for the occasional bartender like Mark, and that was only because he still paid his tabs and never caused any trouble.

He bent over to pull out his own bag from under the desk, but the faded old rag, stained and torn at the corners, was gone. The headache returned in an instant, nagged at the nape of his neck and quickly found its way up to the crown of his head. His Moleskine notebooks. All his notebooks were in his bag. The books that contained every detail of his life. The books he needed to get his life back on track. Jonathan hurried to the hallway. His coat hung from the nail that he had slammed into the doorframe. His shoes were there, next to a pair of almost forgotten track shoes. A broken umbrella, a couple of empty plastic bags from the supermarket. But not his bag. He searched the apartment. The kitchen, the living room, the bedroom, even the bathroom. He went back to the kitchen, opened cupboard doors and drawers. A squeaking sound of one of the doors revived a shred of memory, but no clear images surfaced. He cursed and slammed the door shut. His notebooks were his last lifeline. They were what kept him going.

He grabbed his coat, threw the unfamiliar bag over his shoulder and left.


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