This short story is an insult to all of you.
Do not read it.
I am a teacher.
On rooftops. Underground. And in cars. I am that man you pass on the street and ignore. I try to look like everyone. I try to look like no one. Short, dark hair. Medium build. I do not work out. I eat healthy. I sit and I stand and I walk. But I do not run. My God I do not run. She is going to a party tonight. She will meet a man named Bryan. She will like him a lot. I have told Bryan, who is a smaller boy with terrible habits, that he will let Her like him. He will foster this adoration. And then he will drop Her. Never speak to Her again. She will learn a lesson. She will eventually grow to hate this type of person and not marry a man like him. I am putting wood on a fire. I am running the faucet and the sink is plugged. Letting the grass grow. You do not care for metaphors. This lesson is important and I will be paid well for it. She rarely drinks because of the Rohypnol I placed in Her drink. She had a bad night and I was paid well for it. She runs often because I had Her clothes exchanged for a smaller size. She is under the impression that She is fat. And because of this there is running. And I am paid well for it. Do you understand? This is my job. I place walls and set traps. I foster insecurities to eventually sprout confidence.
The powerful give me money so I control them. These people have no idea. I am nobody, but to them I am everybody. I hear the phone calls and read the emails.
I am going to a deli today, She tells a friend. I go to the deli before hand. Make sure the owner knows what the two are (and are not) going to order. I watch when they finally go into the deli. Can I have some milk with that, they ask. I laugh. (I literally laugh, I had liquid in my mouth and had trouble holding it in!) No they cannot have milk! The owner says no we are out of milk. I am still smiling. (This is literal) They leave the deli because of this. She cannot have breakfast without milk. I know these things.
There is another place down the road. She will go there and I know this too. I have told the owner here to make sure She orders the bagel I gave to him. She will ask for a brownie, I tell the owner. But She cannot have a brownie. You will give Her this bagel, I say. He nods because he understands. She enters with Her friend. May I have a brownie? No, we are out of brownies. Shit, She whispers under Her breathe. Well I will have a bagel. Yes She will have a bagel. Of course She will have a bagel! I know these things. He hands Her the bagel I gave to him. She gets cream cheese. This is not a problem. She eats it and receives the nutrients She needs. I am happy about this. She will grow as I have been instructed to grow Her. (And I will not be running out of wood anytime soon)
She meets Bryan. She likes him. I told him to offer Her a cigarette. The cigarette will be laced. It will make Her sick. She will never smoke again. She tells Her friends to talk to Bryan. He says he is interested in Her too. I give it two weeks and make Bryan end it. He is unhappy and uncooperative but he does what he has to do. My dead bird to rocks thrown ratio is impressive. I will sleep well tonight.
The microphone Her parents placed in Her at birth is just above Her breasts. An insignificant amount of skin covers it. When She opens wrappers I cringe. Such a small and intimate noise. It is terrible. I want to make Her stop opening wrapped things. But that is not a necessary lesson. I wanted to make Her hate black people. The parents threatened to fire me. I am a racist and they are not. She has gotten to the point where black men scare Her though. I promise I did not do that one. Call me a bastard. I dare you. Stone me. If any of you people have not sinned throw some Goddamn stones at me!
She has a dirty mouth, just like I do. The parents tell me to fix that. I will do it later. She is so young. She can curse till She is 20 I have decided. I am in a car now. She cannot see me but I see Her. She passes me and looks into the window. Her face, Her skin, those legs, I know every detail. She is made of clay that I am still smoothing out. Her eyes slide over me like I am nothing. This is good. I bumped into Her on the street once. It was an accident and I blushed. She said sorry and I looked at the ground. So scared. I had to sit down and calm my nerves. The lesson today will be a small one.
I wake up. I shower. I do not shave till night. I put on casual clothes. My television is of Her. My radio is of Her. I own no computer. I own a pager and I have a mailbox. I pour a bowl of cereal each morning. Two percent milk. I take too many pills and then get into the car. In the passengers seat there may or may not be a package. I never have a day off. But sometimes I have busier days than others. I only speak to the people that influence Her. The package will have papers, pictures, and on the cover page will be the lessons of the day. There is also a sandwich. Wheat bread, peanut butter, and jelly. Grape jelly. This means it will be a busy day. The lessons read:
Today She will learn how to stand up for herself (Part 1 of 20)
Today She will learn how to abandon a friend of bad influence (Part 2 of 2)
Today She will learn how to make dressing (Part 1 of 1)
As thanksgiving is approaching! (The excitement is insulting)
Today She will learn how to be sympathetic (Part 33-42 of 450)
I am excited about that second one. The first part was entertaining. It will end smoothly and brutally. (Quick story: This boy being referred to in the second lesson, actually never mind this is a waste of words) The sympathetic lesson has taken a pretty extended period of time. I have had a hard time thinking up how to construct such a lesson. I am not a sympathetic person. I am not sentimental. My mind is a poorly made tissue and will break rapidly when compared to leading brands. At the end of the page are some things She needs to do. These are not to be confused with lessons. They are in no particular order.
She will need to:
-Buy groceries. (She has the list)
-Go on a run.
-Buy some new shoes (For goodness sake!)
-Meet a man named Alex (This is not a lesson, we just are just preparing something)
-And as usual, stay away from Margaret, Rachel, Damien, Taylor, Rich, Mike, Timothy, Bryan, Molly, and that tall boy with blonde hair and the cigarette addiction (We simply could not remember his name)
The boys name is Rico. The list keeps going. Continues to be boring. It is a cold day. She is not wearing a jacket. This is not good. I make a phone call. This man then makes a phone call. He tells a woman who lives a block away to make another phone call. This woman then fills a bucket of water. Ice water (as instructed). One more phone call and a well-aimed toss later, She receives the water. It is sloppy and silly. I had to think quickly and could have done this with better execution. It is like a movie and life is not a movie, or maybe? She runs back to her room. Cold as hell. Changes and puts on a jacket. She meets up with a friend. This one is named Allan. I hate his name and I hate him. His face is tight like something is pulling it from the inside of his head. His eyes are too far apart and are never open wide enough. His teeth are too yellow. His neck is too long. This boy would not survive in nature. He would be killed and eaten. For his genes are poor. She would survive. And She will survive. Allan has HIV. I know these things. She does not. It is fine for Her to see him because there will be no sex. I do not even need to intervene. They both know it is a friendship. Allan is a sad boy. He whines often. It is so cold, he keeps saying. He is uncomfortable around Her and tries to fill in the silence as much as he can. He utilizes phrases like:
I like coffee a lot, but I don’t like the way it makes my stomach feel.
I hate sneezing (She responds, I love sneezing)
My feet are big.
My feet hurt.
That girl was hot.
That guy looked like a douche bag.
I like to go fishing, but I hate fish.
Bugs scare me.
It is cold.
It is so cold.
Holy shit, it is really cold.
Is there something up my nose?
I always feel like there is something up my nose.
He is the fruition of years and years of evolutionary triumph!
I am singing out loud right now. A song that I know the tune to, but do not know the words. I make them up. My words are about my mother or something. It isn’t important. I received a phone call this morning about a new project. It’s a girl again. Which for some reason is much more interesting than a male. This is in no way perverted. Just as a child I always wondered…
The phone call was long. I told them to send me a letter. They thought it was funny that I had no computer. They work a lot. They cannot raise her properly. If I accepted the job and did nothing. Never even laid one eye on this girl. Would she turn out that bad? I am ruining natural processes. Stepping on the toes of gods and wearing suits of armor in thunderstorms.
I do the things I do every morning. These repeated events mess with my memory. If something happens in the morning. The date will be forgotten. What anchor do I have? This is not important either. My mind wanders recently.
The car is in the same spot. Always in that damn spot. I open the package. No sandwich. It will be an easy day. There are no exciting lessons. I do my rounds. Speak to Her daily breakfast place. Give them the food She will eat. I speak to a person who will be stealing Her purse today. She has this awful habit of hanging the purse on the tips of Her fingers. This can no longer happen. I call the credit card companies. Have the cards canceled and order Her new ones. She will be spending the night with a friend tonight. There is a phone number at the bottom of the page of lessons and assignments. I go to a pay phone and, well, we all know what I did in there.
How is She doing?
Oh. She is doing well. Nothing new, I’ll be having Her purse stolen today. I’ve already worked out the credit card issues.
Who did you find to do that?
Some black guy.
I mean he’s fine. He wont hurt Her.
You are not doing your job as well as you used to.
I know. I mean, Is there any time soon that I can have a day off or something? I’m getting really tired.
She needs Her lessons.
Can you guys not, like, handle Her for even a weekend?
You know that She can’t handle things without you.
Well She’s a damn human. She’ll be fine for a few days without me. She won’t even notice. Even used the restroom all by her self yesterday.
That’s not funny.
Have you been letting her curse?
You will have a day off when we can work something out.
This girl, She’s… well, in nature there are these turtles. I don’t know their names. If you help them cross the beach into the ocean when they hatch, they won’t be powerful enough to survive to adulthood. I saw this on TV a while ago. And-
I have to go.
Of course you do.
Don’t let her curse.
Im getting really tired. Please try to work something out.
Do not let her curse.
And there it ended. They think they are in a movie. (And as said earlier this is impossible!) They think they are part of something larger than themselves. (Unless, of course, there are cameras following them) Talking properly and saying shit like, She needs her lessons. I would quit this job, but She would flounder and drown. She would not get her nutrients, She would start smoking (and stop running), I care for Her and I cannot let this happen. There are big plans that I have for her in the future! I have all these dreams for her. Huge dreams. They are all of Her. That time when She was tackled by her first dog. I laughed hard! These small things that She does and has always done. The little face She makes when She looks in the mirror. (Puckers her lips and expands her eyes) I do love this girl. She is my girl. I am more than Her father. I am Her puppeteer. I have produced this successful little creature.
As a child I wanted to be a humpback whale. The teachers laughed. I was good at drawing the whales. So many fish friends and the colors were all primary. All bright. In high school I had a lot of friends. Drank too much. Did things for other people. And it’s boring to say, but I never thought I’d end up here. Of course I didn’t think I’d end up here. This is a waste of words. I have wasted 81 words.
She is dancing in front of the mirror. She’s has no rhythm but that’s okay. I forgive Her. She moves back and forth. Her toes pressed hard on the carpet and Her hands waving about. Smiling in the mirror. And maybe it was this moment. With Her maple hair and that tangerine skin. It should be sparkling there should be bright lights and blasting horns. People sticking their heads out windows. A chorus of children and the animals dancing with her. Thumping organs. Introducing a goddess! The queen with Her hand waving slowly, half cupped and elegant. Men with drums around their waists making the air tight and pulsing. I can feel Her. I can hear Her. She is the most beautiful, the one who causes traffic on the interstate. A freshly cut lawn. She is the springtime and She is the last breathe of the Renaissance. Am I shouting this? Should I be shouting this? I will dive in and I will take Her! (Oh and if there were chapters this would be the last!)
I wake up. I shower. I do not shave till night. I put on casual clothes. My television is of Her. My radio is of Her. I grab my pager and check my mailbox. I pour a bowl of cereal. Two percent milk. I take too many pills and then get into the car. In the passengers seat there may or may not be a package. I never have a day off. But sometimes I have busier days than others. I only speak to the people that influence Her. The package will have papers, pictures, and on the cover page will be the lessons of the day. There is also a sandwich. Wheat bread, peanut butter, and jelly. Grape jelly. And you know what that means.
On the phone with her mother:
Why can’t I go out tonight?
Because it is a school night.
Do you hate when I’m happy, or just me in general?
You know I love you.
I never am allowed to go out. You are never home and you try to control me still! Like I’m actually your daughter.
Don’t ever accuse me of being a bad mother again. You are staying in tonight.
You’re a bad mother.
And I am hanging up the phone.
Well, could I get some more money in my account.
School supplies. (She smiles, the Mother does not see this)
I will have them picked up for you. Email me the list.
I need them right now!
I will be checking where you used your card.
Thanks! Love you.
I follow Her to the local we-have-every-damn-thing-you-need store. She buys a prepaid credit card for 50 dollars. I then follow Her to the liquor store. Fake I.D. Egyptian worker. Short conversation. She comes out with a bag. Heels on concrete, tap tap tap. The reflections can’t even keep up with Her. Shadow is having a pretty hard time too. Doorman greets Her. Elevator. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Ding. Walks out. Bag is rustling. Liquid is sloshing. Tap tap tap. She knocks on the door and is swallowed by noise. Everyone greeting Her. Hugs and hands. I know everyone at the party. That one in the back there with his arm around the girl (Donny). He is a ladies man. Stabs people in the back. Oh, and the one there on the table dancing (Lucy) a raging alcoholic even for her age. I turn off the microphone and go to bed. Hope She has a nice night.
Alarm clock. Shit. Turn on the microphone. Repeat the waking up process. I get into the car and it smells the same. There is no box.
There is no box.
I go to nearest pay phone:
There is no box.
Am I getting a day off?
Hold on, can I really just have today off?
She called us last night at 2 in the morning.
(My mind crumples, folds, and sparks) Oh God.
She was in jail.
(My crumpled and folded brain continues to fold and crumple)
Do you realize that in your line of work you cannot make mistakes?
Yes, I mean-
Stop. You’re fired.
Are you kidding me?
Do you realize how long I have taken care of your daughter. Day in day out. I have no life anymore! I get excited her only and I am only happy when she’s happy. Do you understand what this does to a man’s brain? Or what it would do to my brain if you fired me? I have to work this through completion please and she hung up the phone…
I stand up out of the car. Then sit back down in the car. I cry. People are passing the car. They look in and I continue to weep. I look at myself in the rearview mirror. (Do I really look this way when I cry? God, I will never cry in public again)
My room is silent. The TV is nothing but static. Paperwork and assignments. File cabinets full of finished lessons. Go to the bathroom and stare at myself in the mirror. I begin to cry again.
My room is silent. My mind is silent.
I find myself pacing the room. Looking at the floor in the kitchen and trying to fit my feet in the single tile blocks. I ride elevators differently. Leaned against the wall as opposed to upright and I don’t look at the ground when I walk the streets. My days are too empty. I sit in benches and watch people pass. Children and mothers. Ants and flying things. My mind will drift to Her. I see everything in Her. I see Her in everything. Teenage girls catch my eye.
This is all moving too quickly. The lack of transition too severe. I need to be educated back into life. I see men order meals and wonder how they do it. I am envious of casual conversation. Small talk proves to be an impossible feat. I go to Her favorite deli in the mornings and the workers still eye me. (They wink and nod) I hope to see Her and never do. I fear that She has died. That a cliff has taken Her by the legs or the ocean sucked Her deep. She always strayed away from water. She will surely drown without my strings attached.
I am in a grocery store. A small one inundated into the city. I hear children and I am carrying a basket. I scheme through the isles. My legs and arms find it strange to live a life once again.
I think about the boys who are now descending upon Her. Peeking from bushes they prowl. They will hurt Her. They cannot hurt her. (Oh if they do) Leashes are a must. And Christ if I won’t burn crosses in their yards!
(Is this even a story? Shit, they will chew me alive for this. They will take my limbs from me. They will introduce me to flames. They will chew me alive for this…)
I have a gun. I am bored and I plan to go to Maine. A family member that I haven’t spoken to in years owns a house up there. Maybe I should call them, or if I just show up and they are there could I pass it off as a surprise? I need to leave this city. On the television is a woman. Her eyes are blue as a tree frog. Her skin pink like a child’s and her mouth moves subtly. I stare at her and the volume is down. I leave the apartment.
The drive is long and leaving the city was romantic. I drive through small towns and pierce the little ecosystems. The service stations drip of personality. They wear hats. Chew tobacco. Sell bibles. Ask where I’m headed. Where I’m from. Some don’t say a single word. The questions they ask unanswerable questions. I don’t know who I am. The trees become Kubrik-esque patterns. Green and brown split by blue sky. I pass and give them the attention they deserve.
It’s boring. And I get there. I worried if I would run into my cousins. Of course I didn’t. The long travel was a spiritual experience. Now the cabin and the grass and the water may cuddle me like a parent. I walk about and have to break a window to get inside the cabin. It smells like a family owned store. I see if the water runs and check for food. Blah blah fuck serenity.
The next morning I wake up cold and dress like I’m alone. I sit on the front porch and smoke a few cigarettes that I found in a cabinet. The pistol that I brought is in my lap. I shoot it into the trees. I put it to my head. I laugh. Then think about how foolish suicide is. Then wonder if I would ever do it. Put the gun back up to my head. Then I feel crazy and have to stand up for a moment and set the gun down. I don’t feel alone anywhere. I finish my cigarette and walk towards the tree line.
I am so full of angst recently. This has an excuse I feel. But I still laugh when I get angry at beautiful things. I am a damn walking satire.
I decide the leave the woods. I went there out of arrogance. Thinking people would care that I needed to be alone. But I didn’t need to be alone. I wanted it to be a movie. Camera in birds-eye-view watching my car weave through trees on a lonely road. Fog and shadows. Sitting in a rocking chair and smoking a big cigar. Giving respect to some sort of sentiment that I haven’t created yet. Watch me visit a graveyard and throw flowers for the family I never had.
I enter the city. Cars move. Cars stop. People walk. Wave. Talk. I start looking for a job. I go up to my apartment. I fight the urge to reconnect with Her. God where is She. My heart beats for Her. I am an emotional un-American mess.
I go to the deli that she visit frequently and ask if I can get a job. The owner responds strangely. I cannot look him in the eyes. He hands me an application. One, two, three, four I am now his employee.
I decide to spend some money. I was paid well. Never spent much. Maybe I should become irrational. Have sex with the ones I want. Practice my racist tendencies in a more global manner. I could be powerful. I guess. I’ll buy a car with the intention of crashing it. I’ll hit somebody. Someone I have never met before. Right in the face. Send them to the ground. What the fuck? They’ll say. I’ll laugh and move along. Start smoking pot? Get addicted to something so that I have a deity to rule my life. I am despicable. My heartlessness is protection. But I’ll be damned if I don’t want to punch someone.
(This is something I forgot to mention. Skip this if you don’t give a fuck. I would skip this if I were you. I will insult you in this paragraph.) I checked my fridge when I got back. A small glass of milk was sitting on the top shelf. It had begun to fester into a cheese. This was a glass that I had poured before I was released of my duties. A small smudge from my thumb still on the edge of the cup. It was a relic. A statement. (Now before you skip this keep in mind that I am better than you. Your judgment of this paragraph’s simplicity is a reflection of your lack of progressive vision. I will continue.) I set the glass on the fridge. Light split into its actual color onto the table. The solidity of the cup’s contents became more visible. The small curves. Little idiosyncrasies that the bacteria (Or fungus. Whatever the fuck. Don’t correct me.) express. The choices they make. To grow in that cup with only the order of nature. Their tiny arms clenching the unperceivable imperfections in the glass. They have no idea where they are going. Yet they continue to spread. They create offspring. Raise them. Take them to school. You know? I put my face closer. Tried to smell it. Shook it a little bit. I tested its properties. How it responds to motion. To pressure. I took notice of its general indifference to intrusion. This was a miracle happening right in my fridge. A galaxy in a marble. I think about everyone we interact with everyday. They all have mothers. Fathers. People who care or once cared about them. They have been hurt and helped. They have cried. Invested in things that they find important. Developed and abandoned hobbies. These creatures creating. Destroying. Hating. Loving. I look back and the table. I take the glass. I open my window. And I pour the goddamn thing out.
I go to my first day of work. Put on an apron and serve people bagels and shit. If they are attractive I smile at them. I try to touch their fingers when I hand them their requested items. The elderly do not receive the same treatment. The glacial pace they hold over everyday tasks frustrates me. Exact change. Coupons. Things for the insignificant. Most of you are insignificant.
And then She comes in.
She rides the strong wind from the city through the door. White dress. Hair flaring and rolling together. She has wings. They spread. Hold the breeze. Her eyes are expensive vodka. And Her skin. My god. It breathes like a tangerine. She smells like Florida in spring. Like a freshly opened book. A new pair of shoes. The ground receives Her happily. The door shuts with suction. Everyone continues conversations. Reality rolls up its sleeves and beats the shit out of me.
I wake up. I shower. I do not shave till night. I put on casual clothes. My television is off. My radio is off. I grab my pager and check my mailbox. I pour a bowl of cereal. Two percent milk. I take too many pills and then lay back down in bed. Stare at a stain on my ceiling.
I get off work. Walk home. Buy a pack of cigarettes. Buy bourbon. Drink and smoke and sleep. Wake up. Watch porn. Take a shower. Go to the deli. Quit my job. Owner asks why I even took the job. I tell him I needed a distraction. Sit on a bench across from the deli. Cross my legs. She comes to the deli. Leaves the deli. I follow Her. Make sure She makes good decisions. I see She has a new guy friend. He reeks of independence. They bump into each other and smile.
I want someone to hold me. I need human warmth. A backrub. A hug. A damn handshake. Anything. I need to be taken care of. She took care of me. Kept me in line and corrected me when I was wrong. We were coexistent. She gave me lessons. I am truly obsessive compulsive. I am two steps from being an insect and a stumble past Nixon. I’m pathetic. I should start lying to you. It would make my life easier and this process more entertaining. I’ll toss in a gunfight. Some infidelity and a set of breasts.
One thing leads to another. Maybe we will get married. I put on a nice pair of shoes. Pull my pants over my legs. Undershirt. Oxford. Thumbs are cold and have trouble with the buttons. Slide the jacket on. Call the elevator then take the stairs. Click down the stairs. Enter the lobby. Enter the city. The cold. The noise. Begin down the sidewalk. Call a taxi. Open the door. The windows are no longer clear. I am on a different planet now. The curtain opens. The crowd quiets down. Cell phones are turned off. Hands are held. Lungs are frozen.
Where you headed today, sir? (His voice is scratched like the back of his neck)
(I cough and lean forward) Are you happy?
You can get out of this taxi if you’re going to insult me.
I’m not happy.
Listen, I know this has nothing to do with you. But things aren’t good in my life right now. I just need to sit back and let someone else hold the reins.
(He begins to drive) I am 60 years old. I graduated from college. I’ve been married twice. I’ve never fought in a war. I have two children. They have children. I’ve only voted for one president and he lost. I smoke a pack of cigarettes a day. And I can tell you I don’t have shit to stand on to give you advice. But I can tell you that life moves quicker than I ever could. Faster than anyone ever could. These goddamn kids. (He is glowing) My grandchildren text me once a month. My daughter hasn’t called me in months. Christ. Speed the fuck up. (Honks the horn) Hate slow drivers.
I need kids. I need a family. Or a life changing tragedy. Meteor to strike. A reset button.
That’s not how life is, son. That’s just not how life is. (He lights a cigarette)
Can I bum one of those off of you?
Not a problem at all.
(He changes lanes) I remember feeling like you. Looking at myself in the mirror and seeing a body that looked nothing like my soul. This was around the time of my first divorce. We were fighting over the kids. And when I looked at them. I would see…fuck…I would see these two objects. These two photographs of beautiful children. That I could hold and kiss. But they were never more than ink behind glass. I could toss the damn things against the wall and never have to look at them again. I hear about these things you can do on computers now. Sit behind a screen and make friends. Meet the first pretty girl you’ve ever spoken to and fall in love when she talks back. You know? Stalk and learn about whoever you want to and then just judge the hell out of whoever stands in your way. It’s just not how it used to be.
Can I get another cigarette?
Of course. And-and you know, I thought I loved those kids. (He honks his horn again) But I don’t know what love is. Fuck its cold outside. I need to put on my gloves. (We are passing hundreds of people. He continues to talk) I had this dream the other night. I was nothing but a floating head with an ever growing sheet of paper stapled to it. The other floating heads scrutinized my information. My taste in music. My past decisions that were printed in ink. And I felt accomplished. I felt like I was making an impact. That every new addition was to be considered by all of those informed of me. But as my eyes began to focus. This throbbing sensation came over me. This severe awareness of my insignificance. All of these people did not give a flying fuck. This individual focus on becoming substantial had rendered us disconnected. (His voice begins to waiver and he clears his throat) And shit…Maybe I just loved those bastard children because I was told to? I had to. Nature instructed me. Some creatures eat their children to survive. And I just wonder sometimes… I watch the television. I see these animal shows. Insects tearing their offspring apart. Short term survival at the loss of expansion. And-and I just sat there thinking. Staring at the television. Pictures of my children on the walls. Grandchildren. Vacations. All wide eyed, you know. You know they are looking right at me. I just sit there. I wonder if they ever think about the taste?
The light flashed red and he continued past it. The right side of the vehicle was introduced to the headlights and grill of a van carrying a family of four. The taxi spun like a compass needle. North. West. South. East. North. West. South. East. North. West. South. East. North. West. South. East. North. West. South. East. North. West. South. East. North. West. South. East. North. West. South. East. North. West. South. East.