“The Spanish boy is really cute,” all the girls in the village say.
“The Spanish boy is so athletic,” the Spanish boy’s soccer coach says.
“The Spanish boy’s eyes shine so bright, they blinded me. Now I can’t see. I need to get a promotion in order to pay these medical bills.” Lawrence Dincey said this. He didn’t know the Spanish boy very well, but he sure wished he did.
The Spanish boy’s name is Madrid, and he’s from Copenhagen. He’s called the Spanish boy because he looks Spanish and people are racist.
“You want an empanada?” People would say.
“I’m vegan, gluten free, and have a serious eating disorder,” Madrid would say. People laughed because they thought the Spanish boy was funny. He wasn’t funny at all. People are just jerks.
Madrid became sick of everyone misunderstanding him, so he went to the only person he knew he could talk to.
“Welcome to Taco Bell!” Shouted Clyde Wister. Clyde was the manager of this Taco Bell, and he could do it all. Make the tacos, restock the fridge, take phone calls, yell out the greeting. Everything.
“Hey, Clyde. We need to talk.” Madrid ordered a number three. It was prepared in four seconds. Clyde brought it out and sat down with Madrid.
“Are people still calling you Spanish boy?”
“Yes. Yes, they are, Clyde. My whole life. Why would that just change. Idiot.”
“Woah, buckaroo, ease up, pony boy. Get off your high horse, and have a conversation. I’m here to help but if you’re gonna throw slurs at me, I’m gonna go back to work.”
This Taco Bell was struggling to stay in business. The current promotion was “buy a side of cilantro, get seven tacos free.”
“Hey, Clyde. I want to apologize,” mumbled Madrid.
“Well. I shouldn’t have used a slur. You’re not an idiot.”
“Thank you for saying that, dawg. I appreciate you.” Clyde took a bite of Madrid’s taco without asking. He felt it was part of completing the apology. It was Madrid’s Penance. They were both extreme Catholics.
“You been to confession yet today?” Clyde continued.
“Yeah I went a couple times this morning, but now I definitely need to stop by this afternoon.”
There was a lull in the conversation. They stared at the ceiling. Someone had scribbled clyde sux ass. Madrid remembered he had a taco. He ate the whole thing, and Clyde watched, wishing he could have eaten the masterpiece himself. A man opened the door.
“Get down, I’m a school shooter!”
The door chimed.
“Get down I say. I say get down I say. Down you go I say get down.”
Madrid was starting to think this was a bad rapper or something. Clyde spoke up.
“Sir, this is a Taco Bell, not a school!”
“Don’t tell me who I am!” The Taco Bell shooter announced.
“You told us who you were,” Madrid contributed. The Taco Bell shooter stayed true to himself.
“This is a school. A school of food!”
“You’re thinking of a cafeteria!” Clyde was getting frustrated. Madrid was humming the rapper’s lines to himself.
“Prove to me this is not a cafeteria, and I won’t shoot.”
Clyde slowly stood up with his hands held above his head.
“Okay. Well, you have to be over the age of 26 to enter this establishment, so that is proof no students are allowed here.”
Clyde was always full of bullshit. It helped sometimes. This really made the Taco Bell Shooter Think.
“Oh. Oh, no. I’m only 19. I shouldn’t be here.” He made his way to the door.
“Wait,” said Clyde. “Stay. Everyone is welcome here.”
“Aw gee wiz, cowboy, that means a lot.”
“But I’m still gonna have to shoot you.”
Madrid spoke up.
“Hold on one moment, I say. I say hold on I say. Where’s your gun?”
The Taco Bell shooter searched his pockets but came up empty.
Mr. and Mrs. Otto Bentwood drew out their chairs simultaneously. Mrs. B’s chair was nice and smooth, silky even. It had gems placed into the wood on the arm rests. It looked like it belonged to a queen. Mr. B’s chair just had a bunch of splinters. In any case, I was their son, and they often forgot about me.
With both chairs held high above their heads, it was clear this was a showdown. Not a normal showdown some might say, but for the Bentwood family, this was a pretty average day. They’d already consumed their steel cut oats while I ate the leftovers, which today was two blueberries. They were sour. I spit them out.
“Sign the divorce papers already!” Mrs. B yelled as she hurled her chair in Mr. B’s direction. She missed. It was a direct hit on Ernie, my pet hamster, killing him immediately. I should stop being home-schooled, I thought. Mr. B. carefully watched this action unfold. “No,” he said.
Now, there was only one person holding a chair in the air, and I sure wished it was me. I went to Ernie to clean up the scene, and I put him in the compost. His corpse fell on top of the banana peel Mrs. B had used that morning. I wish I had been able to eat that banana.
“If we didn’t have a kid, this would never have happened!” Mr. B yelled. I have a good dad. He likes to get drunk and take naps.
“I never wanted one in the first place!” Just when you think your mom is on your side, she can really turn it around. I’m twelve years old and they still haven’t named me.
“This is my house!” a new voice said as the front door was smashed open. My stomach grumbled.
“Oh, so this is the man who caused the affair!” Mr. B said.
“No, I’m not sure who this man is,” replied Mrs. B. I really didn’t care to find out who this new man was. I just wished they had left me some oatmeal.
“I’m Joe Trader!” he yelled too loudly. We live in a one-story home. “My company purchased this property, and now I’m moving in!”
Mr. and Mrs. B looked flustered. I was glad to meet Joe Trader. I wanted to ask him why he refused to sell Chobani Yogurt because if he did, then my parents would only do their shopping at one grocery store instead of two. But he was busy. He held an ax in his left hand. His right hand was missing.
“If you don’t evacuate this place in the next 60 seconds, I’m going to saw you in half!” yelled Trader Joe.
“I think you mean ax us in half,” said Mr. B.
“No, idiots, you mean cut us in half.” Mrs. B. was right. She was also a whore.
Joe Trader told them it didn’t matter what the phrase was but that his ax was going to be used if they didn’t get out of his new house/store. I was ready to leave this dump, but I wanted to keep watching.
“Okay. We’re leaving.” Mrs. B was up to something. "Just sign this,” she said.
She grabbed the divorce papers that had been sitting on my bedside table for three years and brought them to Joe Trader. She whispered something in his ear, and I think it may have been something about forging Mr. B.’s signature, but it also may have been asking for sex. After all, she’s a whore.
Mr. B. was getting upset. “I’m getting upset,” he stammered. He’s always upset. Especially when his oatmeal gets cold. God, I would kill for some oatmeal. Literally a piece of bread sounds amazing. Slice of cheese, anything.
Mr. B. sat down and started to pout. Sixty seconds was up.
“AARRRGGHHHHHHH!” mumbled Joe Trader. He dropped his ax, pulled out a grenade and hit my father square in the head.
The house was burned to the ground. In any case it was no longer our house.
Jacque was standing in line at Disney World, waiting to meet Minnie Mouse for the third time that week. He wished his wife gave hugs like Minnie.
“Hey, you in line for Minnie?”
Jacque turned around to face a man with a I❤️ NY tee shirt, looking at him with a big grin.
“I sure am!” Jacque replied. Somehow Jacque knew they were going to be best buds.
The new friend told Jacque about his dream of visiting Egypt and about why his mother named him Julius even though she despised that name. Julius was quite the talker.
“I’m from North Nebraska, but now I’m in South Nebraska.”
Jacque was beaming. “Right on, man. I’ve always wanted to visit Nebraska.”
When the line dwindled down, and it was their turn to meet Minnie, Jacque and Julius looked at each other and smiled.
“Let’s take this picture together!” they yelled in unison.
Disney World employees were confused. These men were both about 55, which is not at all too old to have fun, but it definitely was a strange duo for the Florida theme park. They shared many laughs with Minnie Mouse, and she pretended to kiss them both, which they found adorable.
“She’s really quite exquisite” Jacque said.
Julius agreed. “That girl is a hoot!”
That evening, Jacque took Julius out to dinner. After they finished their fifth bread basket, Jacque leaned in close.
“You know, I told my wife I’d be back in France tomorrow, but I don’t think she’d mind if I stayed here just another month or two.”
Julius gargled some water.
“I have no agenda,” he said as he sifted around for some bread crumbs. They high-fived and ordered some lasagna. Jacque was spending money by mooching off his wife, and Julius’ financial situation remained unclear. Jacque booked a new hotel room for a 45-day stay. There were two queen beds, but occasionally the pair fell asleep together because they enjoyed cuddling while watching Fox News. On the 45th day, neither one of them wanted to get out of bed. They lay together in silence for a painful but cozy seven minutes. Finally, Julius opened his big mouth.
“I don’t want to say goodbye.”
Jacque aggressively rolled around in his sheets. He was stressed to say the least.
“I’m coming to South Nebraska!
They hugged so tight, Julius had an asthma attack.
While lying in the emergency room, Julius had a big grin on his face. A nurse popped her head in the door.
“Visiting hours are over now.”
Nobody acknowledged her. And how could they? They were best buds hanging out in a hospital bed together. But the nurse persisted.
“Sir, you cannot be under the covers with a patient.”
Julius replied without hesitation. “A cuddle a day keeps the doctor away.”
The nurse supposed this was a sweet sentiment, but it was also incredibly false. She was not a big fan of her job though, so she decided to walk away and go on break.
Julius and Jacque ended up moving to West Nebraska and lived in a small home together. They never got married, mainly because Julius was asexual and Jacque’s wife had blocked him, so he was unsure of how to go about getting a divorce. In retrospect, Jacque believed she wouldn’t have blocked him had he not sent her every picture he took with Julius. But he didn’t care. Now, Jacque’s wife lives alone but sleeps around often. “With my hectic work schedule, anonymous sex gives me great joy,” she told her therapist. But she still found herself drinking alone and googling facts about Disney most Thursday nights. Jacque had always truly adored his wife, but he had never loved anyone until Julius. He occasionally found himself sexually frustrated, but by punching walls he somehow managed to let it all out that way. Julius was also pleased with their situation, but became worried about memory loss. He told Jacque the story about how he sang at a jazz club in Cairo, and Jacque told him he had told that story nine times that week. I wonder if I ever even went to Egypt, he thought. But he probably should’ve been wondering why Jacque felt the need to listen to the full story all nine times. The nurse at the emergency room soon got fired for giving a patient the wrong medication on three separate occasions. There was a pamphlet for Omaha on the hallway floor when she left, so she ended up taking her talents to East Nebraska. Minnie Mouse continued working at Disney World and hated her life.
During their four-month anniversary, Julius read Jacque a poem before bed.
“Jacky. It’s been a pleasure with you.
If I wasn’t asexual, I’d call you my boo.
You hog the sheets, you scream in your sleep, but when it comes down to it,
I love you.”
Three years later, they went to Cairo to see the grand opening of the first Disney World resort in the Middle East. Everyone at the resort spoke Arabic, so Jacque and Julius had some troubles. Jacque was stressed, but Julius didn't mind because he had always enjoyed stealing things and sneaking in places anyways.
After stealing food from three different restaurants, they made their way into the resort before quickly being chased down by security.
"I love to run!" shouted to Julius to nobody. "I feel so free!"
He felt free, but he was soon not a free man as he was locked up in prison. Jacque was in a nearby cell and diligently mastered the Arabic version of Duolingo after four months. Feeling proud of himself for this feat, once he explained his way out of prison, he bought a place in Cairo. He attended the Disney World resort seven days a week, and quickly started dating the woman inside the Minnie Mouse costume. Her name was Edrice Fadul, but he always called her Minnie. Friends and family would have told them this was strange, but unfortunately they didn't have any.
Julius enjoyed his stay in the cell. He never even thought of downloading Duolingo because he had the Blackberry Bold. He enjoyed his meals and made sure to play with his food before he ate it because he remembered his therapist tell him about the importance of play even as you age. Playing with food kept him entertained. Seven months later he died after an allergic reaction to dust mites.
Boy was depressed mainly because his mother and father had decided to name him “Boy.” As a seven year old child, Boy ran away from home, but he only made it to the next door neighbor's front yard. At age nine, he attempted to steal all his parents' savings, but he took all the fake money from the family's Monopoly set. He didn't get very far with that. He was not thrilled with his life, but he was often too dumb to make any changes.
After graduating from Winthrop University in South Carolina, Boy decided to ‘find himself.’ His therapist in college told him it was the right thing to do. He had spent four years at Winthrop completely wasting his time. He received his MBA in Undeclared, and he had a minor in plumbing. He never held a job, never explored internships, and had essentially zero extracurricular activities. He was often seen visiting the campus library, but he is illiterate so no one is quite sure what he was actually doing over there. He made no friends and never talked to his professors. When it comes down to it, all Boy did there was waste his time.
In order to find himself, he decided he needed to go elsewhere. Get out of South Carolina. Get away from Mother, Father, and Cousin. Cousin was Boy’s younger brother and was often a burden on the whole family. Boy decided the best place to find himself would be in Syria. Had Boy not been so illiterate, he probably would have known that Syria is not the best place to visit right now. But once Boy had an idea, he followed through. That was about his only good characteristic.
When he stepped onto Syrian lands for the first time, Boy was mesmerized. He’d never seen anything so beautiful in his entire life. He had a cute girlfriend once, but that didn’t last long.
He flew into the Aleppo International Airport, and he really did enjoy his flight. The only downside of the trip was when he pulled out the Planters Peanuts he had packed in his carry-on bag, the woman next to him swatted it out of his hands due to her apparent peanut allergy, or just plain distaste for Planters Peanuts. The last time he boarded a plane was when he was in Mother’s womb on the family trip to Italy.
Boy was not aware that the majority of people he would come across spoke only Arabic, but he was a very expressive kid, so he got by okay. The nearest Airbnb available was all the way over in Beirut, so he decided to crash with some college kids at the University of Aleppo. They couldn't understand him, but they thought he was funny looking, so they kept him around. Boy often hung out throwing the frisbee and playing bocce ball during the days. On weekends, he would go to the local pool with his new friends. He became close friends with Rasheed, who kindly let Boy sleep on his floor. They had no air mattress, but Boy found it quite comfortable.
Boy and Rasheed were competing to make the best staircase on an Etch A Sketch when Mother called. She said she wanted him to come home immediately because she read the headlines on Al Jazeera and became worried that Syria might actually be dangerous. Boy made the counterargument that nobody in South Carolina had ever wanted to play Etch A Sketch with him, but Mother was not persuaded. Boy put up a good fight while keeping his voice steady. He had a strong thesis and made all his points clear while providing evidence and a conclusion sentence for every point he made. He really did learn something in college after all. But Mother had made up her mind.
"So you can make up your mind, but you can't make your bed like I can," said Boy.
Making his bed was one activity Boy had always been exquisite at. But Mother did not appreciate this comment one bit. She told Boy she was booking him a flight home as they were speaking, but the website of the Aleppo International Airport was in Arabic, a language Mother was not well-versed in. She had intended to figure out the language, but she never did. She was taking basket weaving classes Monday through Friday while raising her youngest son, Cousin, so she was never able to spend the time she needed with Rosetta Stone.
Feeling liberated, Boy was able to clearly make the superior staircase on his Etch A Sketch. Rasheed was a competitive lad, so this grinded his gears. Rasheed told Boy he also sucked at bocce ball, but Boy didn't understand a single word. After slamming his Etch A Sketch on the ground, Rasheed told Boy he could no longer stay in his dorm room. Due to the language barrier, Boy did not receive this message well. He understood Rasheed was angry, but he figured he would patch things up when they returned to the dorm.
That evening, after supper, Boy walked over to Rasheed’s dorm. Hearing the knocking, Rasheed opened up before slamming the door in Boy’s face. Dumbfounded, Boy kept knocking. He knocked and knocked but to no avail. He sluggishly walked out of the dorm and into the streets where he continued to sulk.
What happened to Boy, nobody knows for sure, but chances are he is still sulking in Syria. The last sighting of Boy was on the front page of Al-Thawra, a Syrian newspaper. He had unknowingly been participating in a protest against Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president who Boy thought had died years ago.
“I love you.”
Abigail stared at me for too many seconds.
“I love you.”
She didn’t mean that.
“You don’t mean that.”
“I do. I just wasn’t expecting it.”
I sat down, and I looked down. Everything about me felt down.
“Reve, I just don’t know how I feel.”
I looked up, but I still felt down.
“I fall in love too easily. And I don’t want it to happen again."
“You don’t want to fall in love with me.”
Abigail moved her eyebrows around in a way I didn’t like.
“I don’t like that word.”
She nodded her head, and I looked back down. She kept talking.
“I love pancakes, I love my life, I love this weather, I love my shoes, I love The Sun Also Rises, I love kissing you, and I love you. I say that stupid word all the time, and it doesn’t mean anything anymore.”
“I know it doesn’t mean anything, but I still feel it.” Not the smartest thing I could have said.
“How do you know you feel it then?”
My head was still down. I wanted to sink into the floor and be sunken away forever. But I am also an optimist, so I was still hopeful this conversation would go somewhere that I wanted it to go.
“I don’t think love is special –
“Can we stop saying that word?”
I looked up. And I looked into her eyes. People often romanticize eyes, but they’re just eyes. I did like her eyes, though.
“I care about you more than anything. Is that not love?”
Abigail wasn’t looking down or up. She was pacing around with a stern look.
“How would you define love?”
Before I could answer, she continued.
“Love doesn’t mean anything until it does.”
I must have looked confused. She went on.
“When my dad had a heart attack, I had a panic attack, and I thought I had lost him. And I was depressed because I never told him I loved him. And now I tell him ‘I love you’ every time I see him because now it means something. It doesn’t mean anything until it does. I always cared for him and felt the same as I do now, but there was no point in saying the phrase. And now there is. But I don’t tell my mom the phrase. And I feel guilty about that sometimes, but that’s the way it is.”
She took a deep breath then continued speaking.
“I don’t think I’ll ever tell the person I marry that I love them. If something happens like a heart attack, then maybe I will. Or maybe something I can’t even fathom will happen, and I will say it all the time. But for the most part, it’s a meaningless phrase.”
She paused and stood still.
“You told me love was joy.”
I was watching her eyes, so it was difficult for me to listen at the same time.
“Do you remember that? Do you remember saying that to me?”
"Well if love is joy, what’s joy?”
I squinted my eyes and watched her feet walk around the fuzzy carpet. It felt good to walk on that carpet.
I don’t think anybody knows what joy really is, but I spend some time almost every day thinking about it. This is why I despise the English language sometimes. You can’t describe anything. You can’t understand anything. Nothing really means what you want it to mean. And you can’t articulate what you want to say because everyone feels the same way. I like speaking Spanish because they have words for everything. Like the word sobremesa. It’s the word that means the conversation you have after you finish dinner, and are still seated at the table, talking. That’s a real word. That saves time. That makes sense.
But I thought a lot about what joy means, so I felt I might as well say something.
“It’s something more.”
“Something more than what, Reve? Something more than what exactly? More than happiness? More than fun?” She always has a specific intention when she raises her voice.
“Well it lasts longer than happiness. And it lasts longer than fun.”
“So it’s permanent. That’s what you’re saying. Joy is permanent. So love is permanent. So you and I are going to get married and have kids and will always be in love. That’s what you’re saying.”
“I hope so.”
Her jaw dropped, but she wasn’t amazed or anything like that. More dumbfounded than anything.
“I hope so? That’s about the worst answer you could come up with.”
I feel the need to say that we might sound drunk, but we were both sober. Abigail has never even had a sip of alcohol. But I lie about things, so she may have lied to me as well.
“Joy is laughter,” I said. Another incredibly broad, meaningless statement. “Joy is the feeling you have when you smile for no reason. It’s the feeling I get when I sit alone at home during winter, and I stare at my Christmas tree. I sit on the floor alone and stare at the tree for hours. And I smile. And it shows on my face, and I feel it in my bones. It’s also the feeling I get when I run in the street. A rush of joy comes over me when I realize how incredible it is to be alive. So I run in the street and yell, maybe sing, and I feel joy. And it’s also the feeling I get when I’m with you. When I see you smile, I have joy. But it’s weird because when I see you cry, I have the same feeling, but it doesn’t show on my face. I just hold you tight and we cry together. That’s joy.”
Abigail stopped pacing as she listened to all this. She really did listen. She came and sat down next to me, but not too close. When she started to speak, her voice sounded different. She was trying to whisper but was not successful. It just made her sound nervous.
“But does it go away?”
I didn’t speak for a few seconds, but I wasn’t thinking about anything at all.
“And yet you yelled at me yesterday morning. And you punched a hole in the wall a couple months ago because you were so mad at me for no good reason. And last Tuesday you didn’t even speak to me, and you never told me why. So how can you say you have joy?”
“I blocked it out.”
“You blocked it out.”
“Yes. I have it. Everyone has joy, which we can agree now is a synonym for love, yes?”
When we first started going out I thought “sure” was a negative word, but she taught me that it really just means yes. I still don’t believe her sometimes.
“Okay. So everyone is born with love and joy, and you can always have it and give it, but sometimes it’s really hard to do that.“
"But why is it hard?”
I didn’t have an answer. But she did, so she continued talking.
“I think it’s difficult because people want to be sad. I’d go as far to say that people seek out being depressed. I don’t even think it’s an attention thing, but that might be part of it. Just think about all the people you know who say things like ‘man, I’m gonna kill myself.’ I don’t even care that it might be insensitive. I’m not offended. Say whatever you want. But that sort of thing doesn’t make sense to me. People enjoy feeling bad. People want to be near death, they want to curl up in a ball and cry, and they want people to know about it. They want the world to know how sad their life is. But people aren’t special. I hate when people think they’re special. I hate it. When people think they’re special, they isolate themselves and live in their head and feel superior but also feel miserable, and it’s this whole cycle that doesn’t make any sense. Everybody has terrible stuff happen to them, everybody has strange thoughts, and everybody has emotions. And sure, I think you’re right, everybody has love and joy, and people just don’t want to use it. They’re afraid because of their past or because of a lack of trust or something beyond my knowledge.”
Her knowledge is vast.
“I don’t care,” she continued. I really just don’t care.”
“You do care.”
“How do you know.”
“Because you think about it.”
“I don’t care about everything I think about.”
“Really? What are the things you think about the most?”
She shifted her position. She bent her knees and put her shirt over her knees and legs like little kids do sometimes.
“I think about food pretty constantly. I think about you a lot. I think about sex. I think about my future, like, stressing about what I have to do for the day…I think about Jamie.”
“And you care about everything you just said. All of that is meaningful to you in some way or another.”
She rocked back and forth.
“I suppose so.”
Both of us looked down at the fuzzy carpet. It needed to be vacuumed, but it wasn’t gross.
We stayed quiet until Abigail spoke again.
“I don’t love Jamie.”
I looked up at Abigail looking down at the fuzzy carpet. I couldn’t think of something to say, so I didn’t say anything.
“But I don’t love you either.”
For some reason this didn’t make me mad or sad.
“I know. Even though I don’t know what it means.”
“I don’t think it matters. But I do think there’s some truth to what you said about always having love. I think it also applies to loving people. I think there’s one person you meet in your life who you truly love. And maybe you marry the person or don’t speak too much to them, and either way maybe you don’t realize it, but it’s there and it’s there with that one person.”
“That’s a pretty dumb thing to say.”
I knew she wouldn’t like hearing me say that, but she always listens, so I continued.
“Love is a choice. You can love multiple people, and love fades away sometimes, and that’s just that. But don’t tell me everybody has one person. You know that’s ridiculous. You know love is a choice.”
“Love is a choice, sure. But I don’t want to choose you just like I didn’t want to choose Jamie. I’m going to choose the one person who I truly love.”
"How will you find that guy? How do you know I’m not that guy? How do you know it’s not Jamie?"
She pulled her legs out of her shirt and stood up. She swung her hair in my face, but she didn’t mean to.
“The guy will bring me joy.” She looked at me when she said this, which I didn’t particularly like.
“Do I not bring you joy?”
“You have it, you just don’t give it.”
I wish I spoke better Spanish. I want to move to Spain. I want to live in Madrid and live in one of those beautiful houses that look like a castle. And I want to be retired and just paint. I want to paint all day, and explore the world all night. And joy will always be rushing over me and inside me and I’d be spreading it around to all the lovely people I meet. I wouldn’t have a bad day. On the last Tuesday of December, I’d walk out of my beautiful home at night to start my usual exploration. And as I’d walk past La Rosaleda, I’d see a pretty girl, painting. And I’d know she was special because I am a painter and saw that she painted, but she didn’t know I painted so she wouldn’t realize anything yet. Then I’d tap her on the left shoulder because the right side of my face is my good side, and I’d say, “Eres mi persona especial a quien amo.” And she’d have the prettiest eyes in the world and they would glimmer with the reflection of the water and she’d say, “Ya lo sé.”
You can’t run away from your problems, but you can try.
I knew this before I did it. I always knew this. But when you feel you’ve had enough, there’s nothing that can override that feeling. Some people say certain feelings of love can override it. Or maybe even some extreme feelings of hunger. But I don’t like those people.
Sunday night was one of the worst nights of my life. When I returned home that night, I went to my room to write down all of my problems. I opened my desk drawer and took out a yellow legal pad. I grabbed my blue uni-ball pen. It is advertised as the pen that doesn’t smudge. It smudges. I started writing furiously. I don’t know if the writing was fueled by anger, sadness, or something else, but I was writing faster than ever. I wrote about my compulsive lying, my control issues, and my anxieties I have about my wife. I wrote about my OCD and the things I can’t do anymore because of it. I wrote down many other problems, but I don’t want to mention those.
I wrote pages and pages until I felt I should go to sleep. But when I closed my eyes in bed, nothing changed. I was still writing my problems in my head. So I got back out of bed and started writing again. My mind was racing, and my heart was pounding. I was thinking about everything, but I couldn’t think at all. My mind went places I didn’t think it could go. I started hating people I love and loving people I hate.
I was scared, yet I wasn’t able to think why I was scared. I felt bad. That’s all I knew for sure, and I believed that it would be nice if someone stabbed me right now – THAT would override this pain. Because I didn’t think love was going to come save me out of nowhere. I had no appetite.
My thoughts continued, but the fear dwindled away. The sun was soon to rise, so I needed to start my day. I ran out of the house in a hurried manner, and I didn’t close the door. I just ran.
I picked up the pace. I ran through my neighborhood, past the oak trees, out into the street. I ran to the highway, and I started to feel the heat. I thought physical exhaustion would kill off my thoughts, but I was brutally mistaken. They just became more extreme. I didn’t feel my feet pounding on the pavement, but I felt my thoughts pounding my brain. I thought about my past feelings of love and hunger. I doubted it all. I started to believe I never had those feelings. I was never in love, I thought. And I never really felt true hunger.
It wasn’t a good feeling. I had lost the belief of my own memories. I didn’t take them seriously. Not only that, but I didn’t think they happened. I knew they didn’t happen. I knew I was never loved. I knew I was never hungry.
Still, certain memories flashed through my head. I thought about Oakley, and I thought about Chloe. I thought about Adriana. I thought about some others. It was all my imagination. That’s a sad thought to have, especially when you’re sprinting down a highway.
I think several cars almost hit me. A bright yellow truck hit me ever so slightly. The bumper hit my bum, but it really just nudged me forward. It was a push that told me to go faster. It’s one of those metaphors.
I ran down the broken white line that divides the lanes on the highway. But my OCD was no longer in control. It didn’t impede me from running all out. Neither did my thoughts. They both picked up the pace.
My body was pulled toward the green rectangle that said Travis Street Exit. I ran down the exit ramp, accelerating even more. I probably looked like a professional runner at this point. A good look for me, I think.
As I took the first left turn after coming down the ramp, I collided into a Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. What a stupid car. A 185-hp 2.4L 4-cylinder engine. People should care less about cars.
I lay on the street. I didn’t writhe in pain. I didn’t writhe in anything actually. I just lay there.
My eyes were closed, but I knew I wasn’t dead. I knew I wasn’t dying. I had thought that I had been dying for the past twelve hours, and somehow this was the solution that found me.
I don’t know what that means. I don’t know what any of this means. But it felt good. It felt good to get knocked to the ground by a stupid car. I wish I had known that earlier. Then I could’ve gotten a good night sleep for once. No more anxiety, no more stress. Just run from your problems til you get hit by a car. Then, you’ll be okay.
The guy who hit me offered to get me a ride home. I said I was fine walking. As I walked home, I thought I was in some kind of space movie. I laughed hysterically the whole way. I felt like I should be crying but no tears ever came out. I would look around and breathe heavily and then burst out laughing again. People were looking at me, and that just made me laugh even harder. It was the kind of laugh when something tells your body something is funny. But the brain doesn’t get the message of what it is that’s funny. So you laugh uncontrollably, but you can’t figure out why. And the confusion just makes you laugh more because it’s so funny that you think you’re laughing for no reason.
I wanted to share the feelings I experienced running down the highway. But there was no one to share them with. I knew that. Because you are always alone.
I think everyone can come to terms with their anxieties, but you will always be fucking alone. No one can enter your head. No one will ever fully know you or understand you. It’s impossible to truly get to know somebody. I don’t like that. But instead of closing myself off even more, maybe I should share my thoughts. Maybe I should allow people to know parts of me. Or maybe I should get hit by another car.
I don’t think anyone has ever loved me. I think if someone did love me, it would be for the wrong reasons. But I’m also not sure that there are any right reasons to love someone. So I don’t have love. But I am starving.
Standing in line at Potbelly Sandwich Shop is my Friday tradition after work. This past Friday, I browsed the menu for several minutes even though I already knew what I would order. When it was time for me to order I asked, “How are you?” She didn’t answer. She knew my question was for the sole purpose of escaping silence. I was hoping she would at least compliment my dress, but she was too focused on the art of making sandwiches.
As I metaphorically twiddled my thumbs and actually scratched behind my right ear, I turned to the sound of someone walking into the shop. It was Rudy. He didn’t see me, but I bet he could feel my presence.
We were married once. Well, sort of. I don’t remember if I cheated on him, or if he cheated on me. I’m not quite sure, and I don’t really care. But I’ve missed him for quite some time.
I looked at his eyes as he looked at the potbelly pig on the wall. He looked the same, but his eyes looked different. They looked like they hadn’t seen love in a while but didn’t mind it.
The eyes moved from the pig to the menu on the wall. He scanned the menu, but I knew he wanted the roast beef. People change, but not that much. Before it was his turn to order, he looked at the people in front to size up the other hungry sandwich eaters. Finally, his precious eyes landed on me. “Hey, Syrup,” he said softly. He never liked honey.
I walked over to him but didn’t say a word. I think a worker asked me something, but I’m not sure. You shouldn’t need to ask if I want avocado on my sandwich.
We looked into each other’s eyes. It was like we recognized each other but didn’t know why. We didn’t care. Neither one of us smiled, but it felt sort of pleasant. Our faces were an inch or two apart. I thought about leaning in slightly to kiss him, but it didn’t seem right. I wanted to hold his clammy hands. I saw his hand move as if to initiate a handshake, but he knew that was wrong. We stared for a while. I wished our blinks would sync up, but we were rarely in sync. I never noticed his eyes were hazel. I always thought they were brown. I had lost the memory of the way he used to look at me, but it didn’t matter because he was looking at me right then.
Then he wrapped his arms around me, and without thinking, I wrapped my arms around him. I squeezed him tight. We rocked side to side, holding each other as if someone was desperately attempting to pull us apart. The hug felt like it lasted thirty minutes. We didn’t want to let go. We didn’t care that people were staring at us. We didn’t even care about our sandwiches getting cold. We just cared for each other. It was this weird feeling like we couldn’t leave each other because we were never actually together.
The next thing I knew, he was walking away. I don’t know how it ended, but that hug will last forever. “I’ll see ya,” he said as the door closed behind him. We won’t see each other again. He knew that. But saying goodbye didn’t feel right.
I watched him walk away. The woman next to me had tears in her eyes. “That is why life sucks,” she said.
I smiled and thought to myself, That is why life is great.
Jehovah’s witness was a disaster of a person. She was actually one of the worst witnesses the court has ever seen. Her name was Sarah. And wow, she was a dumbass.
She walked into the courtroom with a smug look on her face as if she were thinking, “Man, this place smells worse than limburger cheese.” She sat down in the witness box. A man in the jury box sneezed.
“Bless you,” Sarah said.
“Screw you, Sarah,” said the man. This was personal. They clearly shared some kind of past.
The lawyer got up from the counsel table and stood near Sarah.
“Where were you on the night of September 25th?”
“I was at the dentist.”
“We all know that dentist offices are not open during evening hours.”
“I wasn’t in his office. I was at his place, and he was just about to put his-“
“Hey! Okay. Okay. Um. Thank you.”
So the lawyer was not very good. He was really like a part time lawyer. Trials were more of a hobby. But everyone still blames Sarah for the case, mainly because she just looked annoying. She looked like the kind of person who would hang her own paintings on her wall. She looked like the kind of person who would never double knot her shoes and then act surprised when she tripped. She also looked a little like Barbra Streisand.
Things began to get weird during cross examination, when a young man named Krystof was questioned. He was asked how he knew Jehovah. He explained that the two of them were childhood friends, and they had lost touch after the sixth grade. When asked if there was a reason for them losing touch, he replied, “no.” But he sat there for a moment and then said, “well, yes.” He went on to explain that in the sixth grade, during sixth period, his sixth sense was acting up, and he developed a feeling that his friend Jehovah would become a murderer. The people in the jury looked irritated. The judge looked like he wanted to kill himself. But that’s another story.
Krystof explained that he first became suspicious of Jehovah in the lunch line. He told the jury that Jehovah would always sniff the person in front of him and smile. “Just like a murderer,” he said. The jury was confused. But then Krystof told a peculiar story. He told the jury about the time he went with Jehovah to the dentist. They got their teeth cleaned and flossed, and painfully scraped with stabbing, metal instruments. But then the dentist asked Krystof a question. He asked him how often he flossed. “Not a ton,” was his response. A vague, but probably honest answer. But when the dentist asked Jehovah the same question, Jehovah didn’t flinch. Jehovah looked the dentist directly in the eyes. “Every damn day. Twice a day.” Jehovah said this, grabbed the weird tube thing that sucks up water, and took one last suck. He threw down the sucker and walked out of the building.
Twice a day. Every damn day. What a statement. What an absurd, horrible statement. “It’s something only a murderer could say,” Krystof told the judge.
Sarah, Jehovah’s witness, was asked to come back to the witness box to be questioned one more time. She was asked simple questions at first. But when it turned to dentistry, things went off the rails. When asked how often she flossed, she told the court that she flossed every day. When reminded she was under oath she replied, “I know. I floss twice a day.” The audacity. The temerity. What a scoundrel. I bet even dentists only floss twice a week.
The man who sneezed earlier stood up. “She’s telling the truth!” he yelled.
Who is this guy?
It doesn’t matter. The judge had heard enough. And because everyone was completely dumbfounded how this witness had just admitted to flossing twice a day, they had completely forgotten that Jehovah had done the same. The judge slammed his mallet on the hardwood desk and announced that the ruling was not guilty. Jehovah was let off the hook, and Sarah was in the newspaper the next day. But Jehovah is definitely a murderer. And honestly, Sarah might be too.
Jehovah apparently left the court room as a free man and went to celebrate Easter with his family. I personally don’t care. I’m just here to describe the events that unfolded. And I don’t celebrate Easter. Because I am a Jehovah’s Witness.