The Last Chapter | Bromides

The Last Chapter | Bromides

And I always sort of wonder why or how it is that people become attracted to each other, or how, in a sense, people are drawn to specific others. I mean, there are theories and “evidence” that point to deep receptors within ourselves—on a sort of atomic scale—that show a preference, which ultimately, theoretically, drive us toward some people and not others. A genetic magnetism, I suppose, for the potential best, whatever that is. But then where does that leave … incestuous practices? All I know is that when or as I sit here and watch and watch and watch all sorts of different people interact, I cannot help but wonder what is it exactly that brings people together? There are so many systems in place that, assumedly, force certain people in certain directions so that they never meet other, specific people, while those same forces, presumptively, are responsible for the crossing paths and meeting of two other people. If I zoom out, however, entropy does seem to be at play … obviously. Some people seem dependent upon a type of desire to be among those who are unlike them, which, of course, causes problems on a sociological scale wherein the majority of people that these “few” want to infiltrate would rather not be around “them.” But, of course, that, specifically, is neither here nor there as far as my concerns are concerned. Thus, I wonder and watch as people collide in seemingly random circumstances whether or not it is really random at all. I mean, if you have ever seen a pair of lovers, the deep, sort of nauseating type of lovers who are so engrossed in their lives and their love, questions arise regarding whether or not they have found each other under supremely extraneous circumstances, are almost lucky. And I think it would take a brave soul to question them, the lovers, about whether or not they feel as though they think that the other truly is the only person for/with whom they could possess such a deep, nauseating love. The situation requires an even braver couple to answer the said question in shameless honesty.

A follow-up question, I suppose, would result in inquiries about … sexuality and affection. I mean, it seems possible to love someone very deeply without being sexually attracted to them, and perhaps, I would even be so bold as to say that one could desperately love sexual intercourse with someone without feelings of affection when outside the bedroom … or wherever. Then the distinction all boils down into defining love. And for me, when something cannot really be defined with words or the like—whatever else “the like” may or may not be—I sort of resolve myself into accepting that perhaps something like love does not really exist. Happiness would also fall into this cannot-really-be-defined-with-words-or-the-like category. So would life as a whole, I guess. I mean, presumptively, defining something within which you exist seems … futile at best, absurd at worst, sort of like trying to look into your own eyeballs.

And so, a follow-up question to the follow-up question arises. What is the fucking point of searching for, wanting, needing purpose? And a follow-up assumption to the follow-up question to the follow-up question: If you believe that purpose can be found, the validation and affectation of others must be something that resonates with you. And so then, if you believe that you have found your purpose, the validation and affectation of others drives you in your pursuit. Or perhaps I have little to no understanding about people and life and the way that people live their lives. To be fair, I am a mere observer of … human life, as it were, a non-participatory element that sort of roams about freely. I am, however, privy to interactions with and among these … people. Nevertheless, assumptions made via personal feelings, i.e. assuming that all people feel the same way as you do or that all people feel the same way, in general, are dangerous. If I may only share one thing I have learned from observing people, it would be that one should never speak for another, under any circumstance. The only real knowledge a person has about anything is knowledge gathered through that person’s own accord, which is why people should never believe anyone who has not experienced a thing personally. Sure, information can be learned by listening to the accounts of those who have experienced certain things, but you, as the listener, have not gained any sort of knowledge. True knowledge is experience, I would argue. But what does any of this have to do with the attraction of people by people?

I suppose to know such a thing I must, somehow, become a person so that I may experience that … experience within a moment of finding myself attracted to another. As not-a-person, attraction is lost on me. The whole endeavor is, as it were, automatic, logical, innate, subconscious. Or perhaps not. I cannot really say for sure, except to say that I have found myself deep in the throes of preference. A choice between things to eat, for example, instigates a sort of … preference for one of the things, if, like I said, given a choice. I guess I’ll never know, until I know, of course.

Well, thanks for listening. I guess I ought to get back to work now. I decided that I would take a small break from my task at hand, chasing down Mox and that fellow he sort of kidnapped, Hauberk. But since it seems that the two have travelled down a corridor through which I now cannot enter, I will return to my previously stated endeavor to find the old man. Uh, I do not really know what to say about the old man, if you are really all that curious. There not much can be said. His proclivity for trash and the like are what drew me to him. Oh shit. I was attracted to the old man’s trash. And, I can honestly say that it was a deep, nauseating attraction. Is that love? Do I love the old man’s trash? Further, do I love the old man because I love the trash that he, and only he, can provide? Perhaps I am privy to this insight about the attraction of people to each other. Anyhow, about the old man, he is old, much older than one would think simply by looking at him, and he has never been in love, at least, not in the sense that it seems like people in love are in love. He is generous but demanding, patient but temperamental, and above all, he is fair but ruthless. But these things, I imagine, are already things you know about him. Thus, I am sorry to say that I am probably not much help in fleshing out the old man as a … person. Well, like I said, I have probably dilly-dallied for long enough now, and really, I ought to return to the old man. Do not follow me. Please.

The cat slinks away, the way that cats do, and runs down an ill-lit corridor until it reappears on the other end as if by magic. Of course the mere observer knows that it, the reappearance, is absolutely not magic, since a cat does not possess these sorts of … traits. Thus, the observer follows and watches the cat travel and traverse its way through the orbital. The specifics of its current location cannot be shared, since the cat requested that it not be followed. Following it, however, is a must. The purpose of the cat necessitates its action, for action without purpose lacks form, function. The ultimate form or function of any purposeful action cannot necessarily be determined, except to say that the cat serves the purpose of … well, who knows. The cat, itself, probably exists in a state of unawares when it thinks of its general purpose. And then personal questions regarding the overall attractiveness of a person litters the mind. Oh, the cat! There it is, scaling a large tree so that, supposedly, it may continue through to the old man’s house, the location to which the cat had said it was heading, unseen and vaguely unheard.

It, “it” standing in for anything really, which sort of begs the English language to explain itself and its overwhelming lack of specificity when considering its heavy use of pronouns and conjecture and how sometimes the language requires twice as many words as does say, some other language that services entire phrases or ideas in a singular expression, does not matter what the truth is; it, and again, “it” seems entirely futile, lacking in a considerable amount of significance and yet, it only matters what people believe. What people, in general, believe seems to resonate a loud sense of desired purpose. People want purpose. Purpose gives all that living its frame, its context. Living without context means that everything is nothing, and even though that, everything being nothing, is truth, the truth, people do not believe it, the truth, to be true. People believe whatever it is that they want to believe; they search for the purpose in all of that living; they believe that if that purpose is found, all that action, living, means something beyond the nothingness that is the truth of the matter. Without purpose, life is unpredictable and daunting, terrible and frightening. It then becomes the thing of the thing that people want to believe is true but is not.

The cat reaches a point where it, presumably, feels safe enough to hop on down to terra firma. Scanning its surroundings for any signs of imminent danger, the cat remains hidden within a small tuft of unkempt shrubbery just outside an equally unkempt walk-up-style apartment building. The chatter of two giggly girls walking by, comparing photos of the hottest new “It” guy, spooks the cat, and it remains hidden, at least for the foreseeable future. The cat hunkers down into that bread loaf position until the coast is clear of fiendish-type people who may want to pet or interact with it. People rarely own pets on the orbital, and so, the chance encounter with a live, cute, creature makes the stumbler feel lucky at best, unlucky at worst. The cat remains.

Within the orbital now, the light begins to stretch the shadows of things upon which light creates shadows. The orbital’s star slowly begins to disappear over this particular part of the orbital’s horizon. Purring now, the cat gives away its location, only for a moment until it realizes that it purrs. The cat’s own purring seems to wake it up from a sort of sleep-induced purr. Quickly, however, the cat falls silent again, alert to its lacking vigilance. With its front claws clawing out in front of it, the cat stretches and yawns the way that cats do after a … cat nap, as it were. Looking around again, the cat slowly emerges from shrubbery and skips on up the apartment’s stoop and jets into the building. Its right side flanking the floorboards of the right side of the staircase, the cat hastily climbs the stairs, pausing briefly upon the landing of the second floor as it must traverse in the open to the place where the stairs begin to climb/descend again. It races across the landing and scoots on up the next flight of u-turn-style stairs. Litter of various types and sizes mucks up the second half of the staircase between the second and third floor. By the time the cat reaches the third floor, it wades through a rising mound of trash. Once atop the mound, the cat meows loudly, screeching a sort of angry call. Silence responds. The cat positions itself on the other side of the mound, unseen by any stair climbers that may approach and calls out again. Silence. The cat huffs audibly, waits another moment or two and then wails out a cacophonous howl.

The old man is not home.  

. . .

Small, white, wrongly assumed to be a tube of some sort, he presents himself as willing to take the thing from the man who appeared a minute ago, hurriedly, through the automatic sliding doors of the hospital in which he had been purportedly mourning. The man looks furtive, and so, the furtive man gently places the thing in his hand. The thing tingles and tickles the palm of his outstretched hand. “Where is she?” he asks the furtive man as he retracts his arm back toward himself. “Waiting in a vehicle outside,” the furtive man responds. He notices that this furtive man holds himself with a refreshing air of confidence when considering the current, typically stress-inducing situation within which this furtive man must be. The furtive man, he notes, does not lie. Taking a good hard look at this furtive man, he feels tempted to ask this furtive man more about himself but decides that he ought not. The furtive man, he decides, is soft of mind; that is really all he needs to know, for now. “Come with me,” he commands as he turns and walks back to the private waiting room. Safely within the confines of the private waiting room, he slowly frees the message from its rolled-up state. Inaudible to the furtive man, the message cautiously reads itself aloud for his ears only. Once the message has been dispensed, he looks again to the furtive man, and just as instructions were about to be given, the nurse who so generously offered the private space to him appears on the other side of the glass in the window within the door of the private room. He slathers on a pleasant look and waves for the nurse to enter the space. The nurse obeys. Upon entering the room, he notices that the nurse has not arrived empty handed. “How are you doing?” the nurse asks. “Fine, thank you,” he responds. The nurse awkwardly glances at the furtive man, “Oh sorry, I didn’t realize you had company.” “It’s nothing,” he nearly blurts, and then he corrects himself, “It’s not a problem. He’s a friend.” “Oh, it’s nice to meet you,” the nurse begins and then trails off in an attempt to allow the furtive man the opportunity to introduce himself. “Kevin,” the furtive man fills. He looks at the furtive man almost in recognition and then brushes the thought from his mind. “It’s nice to meet you, Kevin,” the nurse greets with an outstretched hand. The two shake hands. Annoyed, he calmly asks, “Is everything alright? Do you need this room?” The nurse’s attention turns back to him, “Oh, no, don’t worry about that. I’ve just come down to bring you a bag of your deceas … uh, your friend’s belongings.” He looks at the bag in the nurse’s hand. “Oh,” he lightly gasps while suppressing a bubbling excitement. “There was nothing really of any discernible value or anything, so the staff thought it would be alright for you to have the items if you want them. But we got rid of his clothing, so there’s nothing like that you need to be bothered with,” the nurse explains. “Yea, sure, that would be great. Thanks,” he continues with the somber act. “Alright, well, here you are,” the nurse states with an outstretched arm clutching the bag. He accepts the bag of the Listmaker’s belongings, “Thank you.” “Oh, it’s no problem at all,” the nurse smiles perhaps with a little too much pity. “Alright, well it’s like I said, this room is free for you to use all day,” the nurse reiterates while moving toward the door. “Actually,” he begins; “I think it’s probably about time for me to go.” “Are you sure?” the nurse prods; “It’s nearly lunchtime. Why don’t you and your friend grab some lunch in the cafeteria. I’ll grab you a few lunch vouchers.” He looks to the furtive man, “Are you hungry?” The furtive man looks uncomfortable and almost seems to be dancing as if he needs to pee, and then the furtive man sort of shyly nods. He turns back to the nurse, “Okay, sure. Thanks so much,” he gratefully accepts. “Great. Come with me,” the nurse directs.

He re-rolls the message that the furtive man delivered, slips it into his pocket and follows the nurse out of the room. The three make their way to the reception area as the nurse walks around the main desk and addresses a co-worker. “Can you date stamp two food vouchers for these two gentlemen, please,” the nurse asks. “Sure thing,” the receptionist responds with a smile at the two gentlemen waiting on the other side of the desk. The receptionist promptly opens a drawer down and to the left from where the receptionist sits, reaches in, retrieves two slips of paper adorned in food-type imagery, sets them upon the desk, reaches under a large monitor for a stamp, and stamps the date on each of the slips. “There are you,” the receptionist proffers to him and the furtive man. The furtive man simply nods, almost in awe. He is less enthusiastic about the whole endeavor, “Thanks.” “Do you know how to get to the cafeteria?” the nurse asks. “Yes,” he answers. “Alright, well, enjoy your lunch,” the nurse dismisses while exiting the behind-the-counter area of the receptionist’s desk. “Thanks again,” he thanks. “It’s no problem. I’d say, ‘Hope to see you again,’ but … you know,” the nurse cheerfully laughs. “Yea,” he slyly smiles while keeping his lips sealed; “Thanks.” “Bye!” the nurse bids and turns to walk away from them down the hall toward the area of the hospital where, typically, the more serious happenings happen. The furtive man genially waves goodbye to the back of the nurse. He simply stands and waits for the nurse to disappear behind the automatic, swinging double doors, the kind typically found in hospitals that open at the push of a large button the size of a small dinner plate on the wall as one approaches the doors.

He glances back at the receptionist who looks busy behind the counter. Of course he knows that he cannot just leave the hospital and walk toward the waiting care where she supposedly sits and waits. He does know, however, that a small courtyard just outside and to the right upon exiting the hospital, as opposed to the left toward where the parking lot stretches out, lines much of the western wall of the hospital. The courtyard serves as a nice outdoor space where visitors may accompanying patients outside of the hospital without leaving the grounds.  “Let’s go,” he directs the furtive man with exactly this courtyard in mind as he turns to walk out through the hospital’s front doors. The furtive man does not immediately follow. He feels the furtive man’s mind go soft. The furtive man responds with the desperately uncomfortable look of a desperately uncomfortable person. “What is it?” he asks the furtive man despite knowing what it is that bothers the furtive man. “I don’t want to be rude,” the furtive man speaks. “But are you hungry?” he prods. “I could eat,” the furtive man answers. “So you’re not hungry? You are simply too polite to allow these food vouches go to waste?” he clarifies as he holds the two vouchers up for emphasis. The furtive man’s eyes hit the floor. “Very well,” he concedes, but really, he could eat something as well, and he realizes that he should probably go through the Listmaker’s belongings. “This way,” he instructs as he walks by the furtive man. The furtive man obediently follows.

There are many smells related to the way that cafeterias typically smell. Of course, some cafeterias smell cheap and perhaps a bit … stale, but the cafeteria of this particular hospital boasts food of the highest and finest quality, and the smells reflect this subjectivity. He hands the furtive man one of the vouchers as they approach the counter area where the person who collects the various forms of accepted payment required for entry into the cafeteria. The specifics of the price and food consumed hardly deems itself as relevant, but in the off chance that it, the price and food consumed, does matter, then the hospital generally charges the general cost of a meal at a fast-food joint, and what he and the furtive man choose to consume are the BLT sandwich with chips and a cheesy-type pasta with bread, respectively. They both drink water. Seated now at a round, faux-wooden table, typical of cafeteria-style dining, the two eat quietly. He merely takes two or three bites out of the middle of each halves of his BLT and ignores the chips. The furtive man eats the pasta hurriedly as if starved. As both complete their meals at record speeds, the two sit and consume their water. He then pushes his tray to the left side of the table to make room for the bag of the Listmaker’s belongings. Carefully, he sets the bag down and loosens the drawstring that loosely seals the plastic bag closed at the top. The bag feels nearly empty. With the top of the bag gaping open, he slowly lowers the top, empty portion of the bag. In the bottom of the bag sits a small capsule-like cylinder, some type of writing utensil, a key ring with keys of various sizes and a thumb-sized portable memory port-looking thing, and what looks to be a business card of some sort. One at a time, he extracts each object from the bag. First, he grabs the capsule and recognizes it, if only vaguely. Shaped like a large pill, the thing is warm to his touch, but as he continues to examine the thing, it cools. The surface feels completely smooth. Of a silvery, metallic color, and despite its shininess, he cannot catch a glimpse of his reflection in the metal. The surface looks neither shiny nor dull. Brushed would be the best way to describe the thing’s general appearance, he decides. The thing fits snuggly in the palm of one hand even if the ends stick out just beyond his hand ever so slightly, but he cannot wrap his fingers all the way around the thing.

Next, he pulls out what he assumed to be a pen. It is, in fact, a generic-type, felt/fine-tipped, black marker. Of course he pops off the cap to verify that the thing that looks like a pen is actually a pen. He scribbles a small curly-q on the back of his hand. A pen indeed, he determines. He reaches in the bag again and extricates the plain keyring that fastens the four keys and the memory port together. The four keys are of descending (or ascending) sizes from tiny to quite large. With a square-shaped bow and laser-cut teeth, the largest key’s large size suggests that it opens something unique. The next largest key has a rounded, looped bow and rectangular, nearly toothless bit that suggests it opens the type of door that was built before the time of electric lights, etc. The small key lacks a bow entirely and is made up of a flat shaft with a hole punched at the top where it attaches to the keychain and starting at about halfway down the shaft, has sharp, pointed cuts all the way to a sharp, pointed tip. He can honestly say that he has never before really seen a key specifically like this. The smallest key, in his mind, is actually quite tiny. The tips of his thumb and forefinger can barely grasp the thing by the bow. The bow is flat and round, the shoulder short cylindrical and the blade houses two small holes through the middle rather than cuts from either edge. Again, the smallest key is unlike any key he has ever come across. Of course, he would not define himself as any sort of key master, so the fact that he has not encountered such keys does not surprise him. The memory port on the keyring does interest him, however, and so, he gently pinches the end unattached to the keyring to ignite the display so as to be able to view, at the very least, a list of the folders the thing contains within it. The memory port flashes a small holographic image above itself to reveal that the port stores nothing. A feeling of disappointment washes over him. He is not entirely sure what he thought was going to happen or what the port would reveal, but he does know that he had been hoping for something, anything perhaps. The keys make that noise that keys make when they are set down upon a hard surface when he sets the keys down on the table.

Reaching back into the seemingly empty bag, he grabs the last object, if it could even be called an object, from the bag. Gently pinching the business card on all four corners with the thumbs and forefingers of both of his hands, he reads that the card reads of some type of storage facility business. He flips the thing, and on top of the text imprinted on the card, the word “bombastic” has been scrawled. In an attempt to read the text under the word, he learns about the specific location of the supposed storage business. Finally, he stands, reaches into his front left pants pockets, retrieves a short stack of various bills and slips of paper bound with a money clip, places the business card among the stuff, returns the clip to the same pocket, grabs the set of keys from the table, places them into his front right pocket, has the pen join the keys and then returns the capsule to the plastic bag. Sitting back down now, he reaches into the front left, inner pocket of his coat and sets the pen and roll of receipt paper from that pocket onto the table. Quickly, he jots down a short list for her to acquire. On the list he line items the following: capsule, backpack, shoes, the old man, make green, and there. He tears the list from the roll and slips the list into the bag with the capsule.

All this time, the furtive man sits quietly, curiously watching as he examined each item in the Listmaker’s bag of belongings. Of course the furtive man does not know of the Listmaker, nor does the furtive man know that the bag is full of belongings belonging to the Listmaker. To the furtive man, then, the whole endeavor seems quite personal and perhaps mournful. To him, however, the situation is less emotion and more pragmatic. Finally, he acknowledges the furtive man, “Give this to her. She knows what to do.” The furtive man hesitantly takes the bag from his hands. “I trust you,” he consoles. The furtive man grasps the bag tightly. “Yes, your life depends on this,” he confirms. The two walk back through the hospital toward the waiting room where they may exit the hospital. “I can’t leave with you, for obvious reasons,” he begins. The furtive man nods in understanding. He feels overwhelmingly surprised by the obedience of the furtive man and opts for a touch of humanity, “Thanks, Kevin. See you.” Kevin’s entire face lights up at the sign of approval, “Yes. This is everything to me.” He nods with a tight-lipped smile, “Good.” Kevin hesitates for one more small moment, “Thank you.” “Time to go,” he instructs. “Yes, sir. Bye,” Kevin waves a small wave. He simply lifts a hand in a precise gesture of farewell. Kevin turns and exits the hospital through the automatic sliding doors. He stands and watches until Kevin disappears beyond the glass windows of the waiting room. Once he can no longer see Kevin, he turns and walks toward the stairwell where he exits the hospital through the basement garage.     

. . .

“Ma’am,” a tepid voice speaks. Of course, the older woman recognizes the mind of this particular beckoner but remains transfixed, tranquil, with her back turned to whomever requires her attention. Eyes still watching the gentle stream as it babbles through the path carved out for it, beyond the control of the stream itself, whose entire existence depends solely upon the obedience of the tiny little molecules and particles obeying the laws that makes them water, water that fills and ultimately defines this flowing of defined as liquid liquid, in a sense, making the stream not only a stream but rather, something more, something entirely out of context until, entrapped, per se, within the confines of the rocks and other guiding materials that force the water’s compliance through the directed course which then creates the stream that streams through this particular section within this particular environment within this particular terrace within this particular coax within this particular orbital within this particular star’s orbit within this particular nook of what?, the older woman poses, “If the context for life is death, then what happens if you never die?” The tepid voice remains silent. “Answer me, Mox,” the older woman commands, albeit gently. “Assuming that one possesses the power of immortality?” Mox retorts. “Assuming that you,” the older woman corrects. Mox stands silently staring at the back of the older woman as the older woman continues to stare into the stream. “I,” Mox begins; “I don’t know. I guess I’ve never thought about it.” At this the older woman snaps around to face Mox. Mox takes a frightened step back. Despite having been in the older woman’s presence before, multiple times, under numerous occasions, regarding countless circumstances, the general look and overall power of the older woman still strikes Mox as supremely disjointed, especially now after having spent more time than he ever has really away from her. The older woman, most would agree, does not look as strong and mighty as she ultimately exudes. In stature, the older woman does not tower nor does she fill the space in which she inhabits. Instead, in a purely physical sense, of course, the older woman’s figure defines a sort of antiquated ideal for women being slight, petite, frail or demure. The older woman, no matter, stands tall. And so, the disjointed sense of the older woman when one encounters her on a personal level when spoken to, if one were to be so lucky. The overwhelming presence of the older woman fills the orbital—there not a single person does not feel the looming charge and power of the older woman’s reach. In small spaces, the aura of the older woman usually daunts mere mortals. Few, however, prove able to withstand the older woman’s powerful presence, and they are the few who encompass her every move, action, and who, ultimately, live to serve the older woman’s demands and commands.

The older woman smiles genially but again her look and her tone do not match, “Really? You’ve never given immortality any thought?” Mox fidgets a little as he takes another smidgen of a step back, “I guess, I mean, who hasn’t thought about immortality?” The older woman sighs, “Not you, according to you.” Mox takes a knowingly futile attempt at changing the subject, “I have a message for you, Ma’am.” “So you have more than thought about your own mortality,” the older woman states. Mox remains silent. “And where is your new hostage?” the older woman asks. Mox fidgets again but remains silent. The older woman looks surprisingly pleased and prods, “What is it exactly you are hoping to accomplish with him, Hauberk, is it?” Mox looks down at the ground. “Do you know why I continue to let you live your pathetic little life?” the older woman prompts. Mox shakes his head. The older woman begins to walk slowly toward him, “Speak up please; it’s difficult to hear you.” Mox raises his eyes and face to look directly into the older woman’s eyes, defiant, “No, Ma’am.” “Any guesses?” the older woman cajoles. Slowly, the older woman seems to be pacing in wide circles around Mox. Mox stands stiff, debating whether or not to speak the truth of his mind, but the older woman interrupts him, “Of course you will lie, Mox. You are a liar. Everyone knows this.” At this accusation, Mox winces. “What is it, then? What makes you so privileged that you are still alive?” the older woman restates. Mox’s eyes and head track the older woman as soon as he can see her over his right shoulder, as she crosses in front of him and then disappears again beyond his left shoulder, “I’m not sure, Ma’am.” “Of course you are not sure. How could you know such a thing? Give it a guess, is really what should have been asked of you initially,” the older woman clarifies. The older woman reappears within his periphery, “I am of some use to you, perhaps.” “Well, that’s obvious,” the older woman points out as she disappears again over Mox’s left shoulder. “But what use are you?” the older woman asks, and then she insists, “Be specific.” Mox lowers his head and blinks hard, “Maybe I am more of a slave and thus, am kept alive simply as a form of torture.” “Very good, Mox,” the older woman congratulates, mockingly; “And what would you do with your freedom, if it were to ever be given to you?” “Am I not already free?” Mox boldly asks. “Of course you are, dear,” the older woman laughs; “Freedom in the esoteric or existential sense.” Mox furrows his brow, “Are you trying to suggest that I am somehow enslaved to you?” Directly in front of him now, the older woman promptly stops, “Do you feel free?” Mox carefully raises his eyes to meet hers but remains silent. “So, what would you do with your freedom?” the older woman reiterates. “But you just said that I am free,” Mox states, frustrated by the older woman’s games. “If you are free, then why have you returned here now?” the older woman finally reveals as she resumes her pacing in circles around Mox. Frustrated and indignant, Mox snaps his head up and toward the older woman as she rounds around his left shoulder yet again, “What is the point of this game?” “What’s the point of your life?” the older woman retorts; “There’s nothing? Nothing you can think of that would be fun if you were free?” “I said that I do not feel free,” Mox, as calmly as possible, states. “Very well, then. What would make you feel free, dear?” the older woman mocks. Mox looks as if he might explode, “I don’t know! Just … I’d be free!” The older woman smiles, continues to pace until she stands directly in front of Mox once again and then slowly walks toward him. “Very good,” the older woman soothes; “What is it then, Mox, dear, that you have already done for your supposed freedom?”

Mox hangs his head. The older woman reaches out with her right hand, gently places the tips of her pointer and middle fingers under his chin and slowly raises his face. Mox refuses to look at the older woman but holds his own head up. “Very well. Let’s trade information,” the older woman offers. Mox looks into the older woman’s eyes, “I don’t have any information to tell.” “Your friend, Hauberk is it?, has been killed. Whatever message you wanted him to deliver will not, unfortunately, be delivered,” the older woman states. “You killed him?” Mox feigns surprise. “Of course, but that is what you wanted, is it not?” the older woman acknowledges; “Don’t be so transparent, please, dear. You are very predictable.” Mox looks away. “What is needed from you is why. You are not full of surprises. You are, however, full of secrets,” the older woman infers. Mox remains silent. “An offer then, for your compliance?” the older woman proffers. Mox perks up slightly. The older woman notes Mox’s interest in her offer and so, presents, “Tell of what you know, and transport off the orbital will be provided.” Mox smiles a knowing smile, “With what contingencies? You could just dream capture me and keep me as your slave.” “Well, the situation requires your particular services, which will then enable you to leave this place of your own volition. So, perhaps your pure, unadulterated freedom, instead?” the older woman counters. “Because you already know all of the information I could possibly tell you,” Mox finally realizes. “Obviously, dear,” the older woman smiles. “What is it that needs to be done that only I can do?” Mox asks. “It’s simple really,” the older woman resumes pacing. Mox shakes and nods his head simultaneously and purses his lips. “It is understood that she will arrive sometime tomorrow,” the older woman states. “Who?” Mox inquires. “It doesn’t matter,” the older woman responds. Mox shakes his head again. “When she arrives, you will speak to her and tell her that,” the older woman points to herself once she has come around Mox and is directly in front of him again. Mox fills in the blank, “That you?”  The older woman nods slowly and gracefully in confirmation, “Know something. Imply that perhaps her life is in danger.” “But who is this person?” Mox asks again. “She. You know of her, and you will recognize her when the time has come,” the older woman instructs. “And all you want from me is to imply that you know something that will perhaps cause her harm?” Mox clarifies; “And then you will grant me permanent dismissal from your services?” “See,” the older woman smiles as she outstretches both of her arms as if inviting a warm embrace; “Easy.”

Mox looks at the older woman through the sides of his eyes, “How can I know for sure that you’ll keep your word?” The older woman slowly walks toward him again, “You can’t. Agreed?” Mox knows he really has no other choice, and so, he somberly states, “Agreed.” “Excellent,” the older woman cheerfully, at least for her, concludes; “You may go now.” “Where?” Mox asks. “Who would care about such a thing?” the older woman responds. And just Mox turns to leave the garden within the terrace that serves as the older woman’s home, she dream captures him and resets his recollection to his reiteration of the task at hand. As Mox comes to, he turns to the older woman, “Thank you, Ma’am. Is that all for today?” “Yes, Mox, dear. You are dismissed,” the older woman kindly states. Mox turns again to leave the garden, presses the small clip in his pocket, walks along the path toward the gateway that leads toward the park-type area of the terrace and smiles a sly smile. As soon as the older woman confirms that Mox has exited the garden in which she currently still stands, she quietly calls out, “Kira.” From behind a set of bushes, Kira reveals herself from her hiding spot, “Yes, Ma’am?” “Where’s the old man?” the older woman asks. “Out,” Kira answers. “Follow Mox. They will all return tomorrow,” the older woman instructs. “Understood,” Kira obediently replies, and then she turns to exit the garden into a different area of the terrace from where Mox exited. The older woman beckons Kira, “Kira?” Kira stops and eagerly turns back to face the older woman, “Yes, Ma’am?” “What would you do with your freedom?” the older woman asks, almost as if wondering aloud. “I’m doing it, Ma’am,” Kira wholeheartedly responds. The older woman laughs.

. . .

Time as the bridge that separates

two lovers who bate and stagnate,

when they fail to understand what differentiates,

an untrue love from listless hate.

If she just reaches her hand out to touch them, she believes she will. Every shade of green from neon to forest, under a deep canopy of layers upon layers of purplebloom maple that blur in a mosaic-type lightscape as the leaves recede, she reaches a hand out to touch the leaves closest to her. Her arm sweeps up as high as it possibly can and hits nothing but air. She reaches once more. Nothing but the warmth of the damp, humid air. She sighs a deep sigh and closes her eyes to feel the speckles of light hit her face and body. She lays comfortably on her back, legs outstretched albeit with one crossed over the other at the ankles; her arms rest softly upon her belly as they rise and fall with each small, patient breath. A cool breeze delicately blows and tickles the exposed, unkempt leg hairs on her shins. Barefoot, she feels a small something land on the big toe of her right foot, the one atop the other. Gingerly, she lifts her head to see what landed there. Blue, a dragonfly sits, perched with its wings spread wide, smiles and waves with one of its little legs. She wiggles the big toe upon which it sits. The dragonfly giggles. She sits up and brings her legs up to make a nice landing place for the dragonfly so that she may hear it better, assuming it has something to tell her. As she situates herself, the dragonfly takes flight and flutters its wings gracefully until she’s comfortable and presents the tops of her knees as a safe landing place.

“I’m here to help,” the dragonfly cheerily introduces. “Help with what?” she asks. “Don’t you know?” the dragonfly explores, confused. “Perhaps but probably not,” she informs. “Oh,” the dragonfly as it hangs its head a little in disappointment. “Well, should I just go, then?” the dragonfly offers and waits for an instruction. She thinks about the dragonfly’s offer and then decides, “Perhaps not.” “Oh, alright,” the dragonfly enthusiastically agrees as it settles down on her knee in a seated position this time. “What do you want to talk about?” the dragonfly asks, eager. She looks at the dragonfly with squinted eyes, “Who sent you?” “Sorry?” the dragonfly requests. “Who sent you?” she reiterates. “What do you mean? You sent for me,” the dragonfly states as it stands upon its back legs, places its middle legs on its torso, and crosses its front two legs. “What’s going on with you?” the dragonfly finally asks, a bit skeptical now. She sits up straighter, “How could anyone or anything know such a thing? and when she says the “thing” in “anything,”  she gives the dragonfly challenging eyes. The dragonfly uncrosses its front legs and holds them up in surrender, “Alright, alright. I’m sorry I asked. But I thought you sent for me. That’s what the ladybugs told me.” “The ladybugs,” she whispers to herself. “Yea,” the dragonfly responds misinterpreting her thoughts spoken aloud for a question, and then the dragonfly proceeds to explain, “They said that you were looking for him, and that I should go help you find him. The ladybugs said that he, apparently, visited them just before you did, but that he wasn’t looking for you, exactly.” The dragonfly spreads its two front legs and middle legs out wide in a confident posture of inherent self-worth, “Here I am!” “What did you say?” she asks. “What? When?” the dragonfly’s arms slowly lower in tune with the deflation of its self-worth. “He saw the ladybugs but wasn’t what?” she further requests. “Yea, the ladybugs said that he was there, too, but wasn’t looking for you, and they thought that that was odd,” the dragonfly clarifies. “Yes, the ladybugs were seen, that much remains. And they told of how he was there,” she ponders. “But they left out that part about you not being his purpose?” the dragonfly presumes. “Evidently,” she sighs. “Assumptions are a dangerous thing,” the dragonfly sighs while taking on her same emotion. The two silently consider their options. And then the dragonfly perks up, “Well, I could help you find him!” “He’s been found,” she assures despite her despondent air. “Oh! Then what are you waiting for?” the dragonfly shouts and jumps up with vigorously outstretched middle and front legs for the two lovers. She shrugs, “Who could know such a thing.” The dragonfly shrinks again in loathsome despair for her, “Oh.”

She lays back down onto her back and stares up through the twinkling bits of light shimmying their way through the tiniest windows of space between the leaves of the trees overhead that look as beautiful as the most beautiful pieces of stained-glass. The dragonfly buzzes its wings and perches upon her forehead and looks down, directly into the eyes of her face. “It’s time to go,” the dragonfly insists; “Where are your shoes?” She wiggles her toes and recognizes the free feeling of being barefoot. “Who knows,” she responds, despondent. “Typical,” the dragonfly retorts; “Alright, then. Well, I better be off. If I can’t help you, I’m sorry to say that there’s probably no one out there who can.” “Typical,” she states, mocking the tone of the dragonfly. “By the way, you weren’t much help,” she adds. “Neither were you,” the dragonfly points out. “Everyone knows this,” she informs. “Everyone knows now,” the dragonfly asserts. She sighs and crosses her arms behind her head, “Bye. Thanks for the visit.” “Yea, it was … stimulating,” the dragonfly condescends. She smiles. “See ya around, kid,” the dragonfly salutes with its front, right leg. “Yea,” she murmurs. The dragonfly flutters its wings and disappears into the canopy above. “See ya,” she whispers.

Knock, knock, knock. In, essentially, the outdoors surrounded by trees and laying upon a bed of plush grass, she remains prone and looks to her right and to her left. Knock, knock. She sits up on a stiff, springy bed inside a room that looks to be a cheap, dirty motel of some sort. The light of dawn glows a dark, dim blue through the slit in the two curtains that do not quite shut all the way. Knock, knock, knock. She looks to the door that looks just like the type of door one would find inside a room available for temporary rent. She’s barefoot, and a backpack rests upon the bed next to her. Knock, knock, knock. She notes that the knocking sounds softs and gentle. She gets up, walks toward the door and looks through the peep hole. Kevin. She opens the door. “It’s five thirty,” Kevin quietly notifies. She turns and looks back into the room for a clock. The clock sitting upon one of the bedside tables quietly validates Kevin’s statement but reads five thirty-two. “It was five thirty when I first knocked,” Kevin justifies. She stands for a moment allowing the recollections of this time and place refresh her memory. “Right,” she responds, and then she remembers the backpack, “Just a minute.” “Sure. I’ll wait out here,” Kevin confirms as he points down at a vehicle in the parking lot. She nods and closes the door. There are two pairs of shoes at the foot of her bed. One pair she does not recognize. The other pair is her favorite, fancy pair, but she does not know why either pair are here with her now. And since she cannot quite know for sure what will happen when the three meet on the bridge in just a moment’s time from now, she safely packs up her fancy pair into the backpack. As she reaches into the backpack, she notices that there’s something in the front pocket. She reaches in and pulls out a metallic capsule, an odd metal object that looks like a large pill. She puts the thing back into the backpack, seals it up, puts on the other pair of shoes and closes the door shut behind her.


This is the final chapter of the digitally published work of fiction, Bromides, by sun김선sailor, readable in its entirety here, on Lady Polarity, or there, on Medium. For current and future writing, I now broadcast solely from

An Original List & The Window Model (Again)

An Original List & The Window Model (Again)

TRIGGER WARNING: this chapter peddles Suicide Ideation

He awoke one day as a full-grown adult, conscious, the Listmaker did. Oblivious to whether or not he ever had parents, the Listmaker always concluded that he must have had parents at some point, but somewhere floating along the surface just above the depths of the faraway unconscious, he knows that he has never had a family. How did he get here, then?, he wondered from time to time, never dwelling on the details but rather, questioning the manner of his existence, in general. The only thing that gives him any sort of existential relief is his uncanny abilities regarding organization and the particular way in which he could arrange stuff in an exactly right schema. This stuff, undoubtedly, ranged in importance from the triteness of one’s clothing to the esoteric nature of one’s mental faculties. Assuredly, however, the Listmaker would never characterize his … proclivities with any sort of genius or thoughtfulness; the prowess is perfunctory. Nevertheless, the Listmaker found that he had little to no tolerance for bad design or clutter, per se, and so, at some time he learned that there a hierarchy of better existed.

Inevitably, like for all people who reach the heights of exceptionality, people sought out the Listmaker for his exclusive skill set. And soon thereafter, the boredom and eventual disdain for “regular folk” convinced him to get the hell out of this hell hole. He had never truly contemplated suicide ever before, but now, the urge was too great to ignore, and so, after a little research, he sought out the necessary supplies for the quickest, most effective hanging. What he learned included a space that offered somewhere from which to hang a rope that would allow him to dangle appropriately, something upon which he could stand, another thing that would allow him to either kick or pull the thing upon which he would stand out from underneath him, and, as a consideration for whoever might find him, a ladder and a mat within the vicinity. The Listmaker made a list for all of these things. The first item proved to be the most difficult to acquire. As a tenant of a more-than-modest apartment, the place had no high beams or hooks or nooks from which he could loop a rope. He also decided against installing a hook into the ceiling, since, it would essentially ruin the general feel of the place, since, rarely do ceiling-type hooks ever belong in such a space. He was also quite tall. He was not short on cash, either. And so, after a few days of mulling his options, the Listmaker made another list of what types of residences or spaces possessed what he would consider an ideal, lofted space. And then he made a list for the order in which he would do all of the things that needed to be done beginning with, “scout out places to do the deed (via Types of Places list),” ending with, “do the deed.”

Disinterested in wasting money, he opted for something akin to a storage unit. To his surprise, the Listmaker found that the monthly rate on one of these things was enormous. Of course his storage unit search prioritized functionality to the cause over price or general size, but despite the specifics of his needs, the Listmaker felt sick when visiting various storage unit facilitators. One particular storage facility’s facilitator answered his inquiry into the vacancy rate of the particular facility in question by stating that it was null. The only thing that interested the Listmaker in a storage space revolved around the peculiarities of his needs, and oddly enough, a set of makeshift units that were tall and narrow were squeezed into the back portion of this particular facility’s lot as an afterthought for people needing to store odd things like kayaks or basketball hoops, etc. But aside from the four spaces of the tall-and-narrow type, all the other units were booked and billed. Ever the more curious about the nature of storage units, the Listmaker found himself jotting down a list of questions regarding store unit facilities and had a delightful conversation with this particular storage facility’s facilitator. The bottom line, according to the sf’s facilitator was simple: big pay, small work. He, the sf’s facilitator, unfortunately, was not the owner of this particular facility. He, the sf’s facilitator, did, however, do most of the work and so, knew how much money poured in and out of the place on a daily/weekly/monthly/quarterly basis. The operation, in and of itself, according to the sf’s facilitator, was extremely well-suited to money laundering, as word throughout like-businesses were concerned but that this particular facility did not participate in the overall, well-known practice of the storage unit business. As far as he, the sf’s facilitator, knew, the Listmaker noted. Curious still about this storage unit business, as a whole, the Listmaker asked the sf’s facilitator to whom he had been talking for a few hours now, whether or not he could or would outright name a facility that practiced these … shady business operations known as money laundering. The facilitator hardly hesitated before suggesting that he could not name the place, but that he could point the Listmaker in the right direction. And then the facilitator quickly followed up with a question regarding whether or not the Listmaker himself was in need of some … laundering.

Sadly, the Listmaker responded, he was not, but that he was very curious about the whole endeavor. What he did need, however, was a storage unit of exactly the type that this particular storage facility offered—one of those tall, narrow things. And so, the facilitator got to the small amount of work required to acquire such a unit. To the Listmaker’s surprise, the facilitator was absolutely right in the smallness of the amount of work he must do on a day-to-day basis. After filling out one form of a mere dozen lines or so requesting information about the short-term tenant’s personal such-and-suches, the Listmaker paid the facilitator the month’s rent. After the Listmaker’s information entered the digital catalog, the facilitator disappeared through a door behind the service counter area for a minute and then reappeared with a set of keys and another form that was half as small as the first form. On this half-sheet, the Listmaker wrote down similar information as to that that was required on the first form and handed the sheet back to the facilitator. At this point the facilitator wrote in large numerals, a three-digit number and then asked the Listmaker to say a sort of password. The Listmaker thought for a moment and then picked the word bombastic. Switching pens now, the facilitator asked the Listmaker to spell the word, which he then did as the facilitator wrote the word down while holding a small flashlight. The letters glowed on the page as the facilitator wrote them down. Obviously, the Listmaker’s curiosity had not damped, and so, the Listmaker asked the facilitator about this particular process. The facilitator gladly shared that the keys are not marked with any information about the storage unit or the facility, just in case a renter loses the key or whatnot. So, if a renter forgets, which they do, which unit their stuff is in, they can come in here and find out by presenting the key and their password. The system seemed strange to the Listmaker when considering how the system relies on a people who cannot remember their unit’s number remembering their password. The Listmaker said this aloud, of course, and the facilitator merely looked at him with a look. Then the facilitator pulled out another small piece of paper that greatly resembled a business card, a blank business card upon which the facilitator promptly wrote down the Listmaker’s password in visible ink. The Listmaker nodded in acknowledgement of his own presupposition. At this point, the Listmaker decided that he probably shouldn’t ask anymore questions.

The facilitator then explained the keys. One of the keys was significantly larger than the other. The large one, according to the facilitator, accesses the building itself, the small one, the Listmaker’s personal unit. The Listmaker nodded in understanding. The Listmaker learned that he was free to come and go throughout the facility twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred, sixty-five days a year. Well, the facilitator added, except not really in his case since he’s only renting for one month. The Listmaker smiled, then asked if he could look at the unit one more time, to which the facilitator replied by repeating how the Listmaker was free to move about the facility now that he had his keys. So tempted the Listmaker was at this point to ask about security and safety and all sorts of procedures regarding people who don’t pay their monthly bills but who still have keys, etc., but the Listmaker refrained, thanked the facilitator and walked out of the storage unit facility’s office toward the main entrance of the storage units’ building.

As the Listmaker walked through the hall lined with unit after unit after unit filled with stuff that people wanted to keep but not be around, the Listmaker lamented at the entire concept of storage facilities, but then a feeling of gratitude overcame him as he thought about how he would be unable to carry out his wishes to end his droll life if such a place did not exist. Torn, he meandered through each hallway of the building, strolled up the steps to the next floor and meandered the next floor until he reached the fourth floor. The Listmaker meandered the fourth floor as well until he found his temporary … coffin. On each of the four floors of the facility, one of the tall-but-narrow type of units was housed or smushed into the end of the hall next to the staircase that necessarily ate into, what would otherwise be, another full-sized storage unit. An elevator sat at the opposite entrance-end of the hall, but elevators are more rote in size and so, take up an entire full-sized storage unit’s space. Bending down to unlock the padlock from the vertically sliding, garage-door-type door, the Listmaker unlocked the lock, shimmied the thing from the loop attaching the door to the floor and pulled the door up as he stood to pull the door up farther over his head. A dry, dull air came slowly oozing out of the unit. Upon examination, two of him, the Listmaker decided, could not fit in there shoulder to shoulder. Since this particular unit was not actually a proper unit, no lights were installed, hence the higher, unfinished ceiling with exposed beams and such, hence the acquisition of this particular unit. Luckily, the facility’s hallways were lighted, and the lighted light easily poured far enough into the unit that the lightless situation bothered the Listmaker not.

Here, now, the Listmaker stands, working out the particulars of the space. The thing stands fully empty with the one exception of some kind of trash stuff in the corner. He wants and/or needs to examine the thing more closely. Two crumpled up pieces of paper it is, and so, he picks the stuff up and begins to meticulously unfold the paper balls, one at a time. Upon opening the first, the Listmaker recognizes the general schematic of a brochure. “All Tents Circus!” the top of the first sheet reads and below it, a smattering of circus-related designs, event details, etc. He folds the first sheet and tucks it into his back pocket. He opens the second. At first it seems blank but then he turns to face the light oozing in from the hallway, and tilts the paper ever so slightly so that the paper may reflect said light. Still the paper seems to be blank, and just as the Listmaker’s about to fold the sheet up for safe keeping—Let’s not be wasteful, he thinks to himself—the paper shimmers a bit to slowly reveal an image … the face of … the image of the Listmaker’s own face. Bending over the sheet to stare into it, the Listmaker sees that the sheet has turned into some sort of reflective surface … a mirror of sorts. Holding the sheet vertically now, he moves the paper around to see if the thing continues to reflect more than just his face, and as soon as the paper moves away from his face, the shimmery effect slowly dissolves, returning the magical sheet to its dull, papery self. Of the curious sort, the Listmaker realizes that he needs to find out if any other person can/will see his/her own face reflected in the paper. The facilitator, he thinks. Forgetting, at least for the moment, about the task at hand, he locks up his unit, questionably magically paper in hand, runs down the stairs, out the door of the storage units’ building, back into the storage unit facility’s office building.

“Hey, man,” the Listmaker greets the facilitator. “Everything look alright?” the facilitator asks. “Yea; it’s great, thanks,” the Listmaker responds. The facilitator looks at him, a little curious himself now. The Listmaker is breathing a bit heavier than a person ought, the facilitator considers. The Listmaker, recognizing the look on the facilitator’s face immediately pipes up, “Uh, so I was wondering if you’d take a look at this piece of paper for me?” “What?” the facilitator nearly scoffs. “This piece of paper,” the Listmaker reiterates as he holds up the piece in question; “Can you just look at it for me?” “I am looking at it. It looks blank,” the facilitator comments; “And very wrinkled.” “Yea, just here,” the Listmaker offers as he holds out the sheet for the facilitator to take. The facilitator obliges and takes the paper with both hands from the Listmaker. “Okay?” the facilitator shrugs. “Uh, hold it up to your face, and look at it,” the Listmaker gently directs. The facilitator complies. And then looks back at the Listmaker. “Look at it,” the Listmaker reiterates. The facilitator looks at the sheet again while the Listmaker waits patiently for the facilitator to be blown away. Nothing. Still holding the sheet, the facilitator looks back at the Listmaker, “What?” Quickly, the Listmaker lowers the sheet in the facilitator’s hands to see if he can see the facilitator’s face in the sheet. Nothing. The Listmaker takes the sheet back, “Here, come look at this.” The facilitator walks around the service-counter area and stands next to the Listmaker. Slowly, the Listmaker lifts the sheet to face level and waits. He’s sure that the paper is about to shimmer, but then, the thing remains fucking dull. “What am I looking at?” the facilitator asks. “Goddammit,” the Listmaker curses; “Nevermind.” “Alright, man,” the facilitator mocks; “That’s a nice wrinkled piece of paper.” “Thanks,” the Listmaker retorts, disappointed, somber. The facilitator does not seem to care much about the Listmaker, in general and so, simply walks back around to the Employees Only side of the service counter. The Listmaker feels slightly embarrassed but is overwhelmed by surprisingly strong feelings of anger. He turns to exit the office, “See ya around.” The facilitator merely raises a hand in farewell while attending to other sheets of paper related to the nature of his work. Standing just outside the storage unit facility’s office now, the Listmaker takes another glance at the paper; it begins to shimmer. “Are you fucking kidding me,” the Listmaker whispers under his breath. Another moment passes and the paper slowly reveals and reflects the Listmaker’s face. “Motherfucker,” the Listmaker spits as he crumples the sheet back into the ball-like form in which he originally found it. He tosses the thing into the nearby row of weeds lining the storage unit facility’s office and walks away. He hears the door of the office open behind him. “Come on man!” the facilitator scolds. The Listmaker keeps on walking away. “Asshole!” the facilitator yells.

The Listmaker consults the list of necessary goods in his pocket and reads:

  • a place for the deed
  • rope
  • stool or the like
  • mat or the like
  • knife or large scissors
  • ladder of unknown height

Then, he crosses off the item that reads “a place for the deed,” crosses off “of unknown height” and jots down a two-digit number next to the crossed off portion regarding the ladder. Of the more insular in nature, the Listmaker does not own any of the remaining necessities of his list and has never frequented the type of store he imagines one would frequent in order to purchase the remaining items on his list. Thus, the Listmaker retrieves the to-do list regarding the necessary steps of the task at hand and adds the instruction, “scout out places to purchase necessary items,” before the line item, “buy necessary items,” after, “acquire a place to do the deed.” And then the Listmaker reads a few line items down the to-do list regarding the necessary steps of the task at hand and sees, “prepare to do the deed (consult Doing the Deed Preparation list),” and soon realizes that he has not prepared the Doing the Deed Preparation list. Obviously, the Listmaker jots down “prepare the Doing the Deed Preparation list” onto the to-do list regarding the necessary steps of the task at hand list under “prepare necessary items,” over “prepare acquired place with prepared necessary items.” At this point, the Listmaker considers how vastly under prepared he truly is for the task at hand, and so, immediately decides that he must return to prepare the rest of his preparations. But first, he consults his to-do list regarding the necessary steps of the task at hand and jots down “return home to prepare the preparations for preparing” beneath “acquire a place,” above the newly added “scout out places to purchase necessary items.” The Listmaker takes a deep breath as a temporary glaze of satisfaction washes over him. Within a moment, however the feeling fades as he remembers another line item, and so he jots down, “discard Types of Places list” between “acquire a place” and the newly added “return home to prepare the preparations for preparing.” And then he spots the first three items on the list that have been completed and thusly squeezes “scratch off first three completed items,” directly below the “acquire a place,” atop “discard Types of Places list.” Promptly, the Listmaker follows the newest order and crosses off the three completed items at the top of the to-do list regarding the necessary steps of the task at hand. The Listmaker reads the immediate next item and reaches into his pocket for the Types of Places list, crumples the thing up and litters.

Frozen, the Listmaker stands debating whether or not he should add instructions to cross of each completed task as he completes them, or if he should simply let all remaining lists, in general, persist in their duties. For an unknowable amount of time, the Listmaker stands outside the storage unit facility’s office, just out of sight of the facilitator. A vehicle screams by as it blares its horn at the Listmaker loitering on the side of the road. Awakened by the screeching terror, the Listmaker, under adrenaline’s influence, instantly decides that to write instructions instructing him to cross off each item would be a sort of conundrum since he would then have to write instructions instructing him to cross off each line of instruction instructing him to cross off each line of instruction instructing him to cross off each line of instruction instructing him to … etc. The Listmaker consults his to-do list regarding the necessary steps of the task at hand, reads the next line item—”return home to prepare the preparations for preparing”—and walks on home, free of distraction, pursuing one, very specific, instruction.

And then, the worst possible happening happens. Focused, the Listmaker walks the most direct route home, passes through the main street corridor through the heart of the small town in which he resides. He fixates on the task immediately before him so intensely that he finds it waning just as he nears the end of the main block of the main street of the heart of the small town. Losing focus now, questions surrounding the Listmaker’s general sense of purpose begin to cloud his mind with distraction. In an attempt to quell the disturbance, the Listmaker stops for only a moment, closes his eyes, shakes his head in a lame struggle to regain clarity. It is within this moment that the Listmaker’s eye catches but only a glimpse of a face sitting beyond the glass that separates him from the face. A face of such extraordinary exclusivity cannot be easily ignored. Of course only his unconscious mind recognized the fantastic nature of the face, and so, then sent the necessary stimuli to the places that could and would do something about this need to see and know more about this fantastic face. The Listmaker slowly turns his head over his right shoulder and takes a good long look this time into the face that sits clearly through the glass that continues to separate the two. Amazingly, the face looks up and smiles at him. He nearly dies from the radiation of the emanating beauty. The Listmaker, caught between what he must do and what he wants to do, stares into the face of the seated woman. She looks away, embarrassed but smiling. Smiling too, the Listmaker refuses to suppress the mind-blowing urge to know the face that sits beyond the glass that separates them.

The Listmaker’s desire outbids the demanding next step shouting at him from the to-do list regarding the necessary steps of the task at hand. He is young, so they say, and so, why not? Through the front door of the establishment he enters and looks toward the young woman at which he could not help himself but stare. The Listmaker stops to take in her beauty like the warmth of sunshine after a long winter. The young woman glances up at him and smiles; he nearly faints at her glow. Confident, the Listmaker walks through the cafe and sits himself down in the open seat across from her. She begins to look around the place, as if seeking some sort of approval. The Listmaker does not notice her discomfort. Silent, the two simply look at each other, happy, wonderful. Soon enough, the Listmaker strikes up a conversation, skipping all formalities regarding introductions and whatnot, jumps right in as if he’s known her and simply needs to catch up, “How are you?” She smiles and laughs a contagious laugh. “I’m fine. And you?” she responds. That laugh, the Listmaker realizes, will kill him; she is perfection. “Oh, I’m doing just great. Thank you,” he answers, never taking his eyes off her. The two sit together for another silent moment. “I’m not bothering you, am I?” the Listmaker finally asks. She looks around again, “Uh, no.” The Listmaker observes that she looks uncomfortable and prods, “Are you doing some work or something?” “Well, not exactly,” she responds. “Oh,” the Listmaker states in a seriously chipper tone; “Well then, would you like to accompany me on a day out on the town?” She looks over her shoulder toward the counter/ordering area of the cafe. The Listmaker perceives her attempt at subtlety and so, also glances in the same general direction. A person who looks like a manager or supervisor of some sort eyes him coolly. “Uh, well, I can’t exactly leave here right now,” she answers. The Listmaker catches another glimpse of the manager-type person looking in their direction, “Oh, I see.” Sad and disappointed, the Listmaker fidgets in a motion to excuse himself, “Well, it was really nice to meet … Oh, I guess we never really met.” “No, it’s not that,” the young woman urgently states as she reaches out across the table and touches his arm; he feels warm, then feels … excited. The Listmaker melts at her touch, “Oh.” He situates himself back into a comfortable seated position.

The young woman takes a deep breath, sighs, “It’s just that I’m working right now.” “You are?” the Listmaker wonders aloud. “Yes,” she explains; “It’s my job to sit here, right here, in the window of this cafe.” “What?” he laughs; “That’s a thing … that you get paid for?” She rolls her eyes a bit, “Yea.” “Wait, wait, explain this to me,” the Listmaker urges as he crosses his arms and leans back in the chair. The young woman scoffs sarcastically, “Come on, don’t be so judgmental.” The Listmaker leans forward again, arms resting atop the table, “Oh, I’m not judging, please, by all means, please, explain to me how it’s your job to sit here in this window.” “I’m a window model,” she begins softly, almost whispering. She looks all around her, supposedly at the manager again. Curious, the Listmaker also looks around the cafe. “A window model?” the Listmaker repeats, mimicking her whisper. “Yes,” she confirms. “Okay, so what exactly does that mean?” the ever-the-curious Listmaker pries, thoroughly entertained. She sighs again, “I sit in the window seat of different cafes and restaurants so that people will think that this is the place to be.” “Are you serious?” the Listmaker almost shouts, excited … nearly erect this time; “That is the greatest thing I have ever heard. You’re being serious?” “Yes,” she whispers while miming him to please keep it down. The Listmaker picks up on the hint and gazes around the cafe to make sure no one is listening, and then he leans in again over the table, “And you get paid?” “Yes,” she verifies. The Listmaker sits back and crosses his arms again, smiling. They stare at each other in silence.

After another moment or two, the Listmaker leans forward and reiterates, “Okay, so let me get this straight. You’re so beautiful that people, shop owners, hire you to sit in the window where randos walking by can see you sitting inside their shop or whatnot, and these people who hire you think that this helps their business. And so what, you get a cut of their daily profits or something?” The young woman lightly scratches the space between her eyebrows, “Well, I don’t know if it’s that I’m so beautiful. Maybe I just have the right vibe for whatever the owners think will attract people.” “Right, you’re not sure if you’re so beautiful,” the Listmaker sarcastically mocks. She hugs herself tightly and then takes a sip of her tea. “I’m sorry,” the Listmaker apologizes; “I didn’t mean for that to sound rude. But come on, you’ve got to have some semblance of recognition that you’re being hired because you’re beautiful.” She shrugs, and the Listmaker notices her face as it turns somber, uncomfortable. “I need to get rid of you in about two minutes,” she explains. “What?” he questions. “I’m not really allowed to let people sit here with me for more than a few minutes,” she outlines. “Oh, because a taken woman is all the more less appealing?” he asks. She nods and shrugs simultaneously. “Oh, come on,” the Listmaker states, annoyed; “So, I have to leave while you just sit here?” Again she nods and shrugs. The Listmaker’s calm excitement morphs into a mild, heated frustration. “Well, I’m not gonna leave that easy,” the Listmaker challenges. “Then you’ll eventually meet the manager,” she retorts. The Listmaker grins a big grin in acceptance of the challenge, “Oh, so you don’t want me to leave either.” She fingers her teacup. “Alright,” the Listmaker nods; “Then what are we gonna do?” “We could just sit here until the manager kicks you out,” she suggests. “How can he, she, they?” the Listmaker begins. “She,” she delineates. “Yea, so how can she just kick me out?” he disputes. “Uh, she usually just comes over here and asks, ‘Is this guy bothering you?,’ to which I have to respond, ‘Yea,’ and then she says something like, ‘Look kid, why don’t you just leave this nice lady alone,’ or something,” she explains; “Then the guys just leave, sort of pissed, sort of desperate for me to reach out to them. They usually want to know how they can see me again.” The Listmaker fills with concern and ultimately looks a bit concerned, “Wait, do any of them give you problems. You know, like if they see you again?” She laughs, “No, I have a pretty steady rotation. I won’t be back in this area of town for at least another month.” “Oh,” the Listmaker responds, shocked; “May I ask you something?” “Uh, sure,” she allows. “So, like how many guys hit on you on a daily basis?” he boldly throws out. She blushes, “Uh, I don’t know.” “Oh, like so many guys that you can’t keep count?” the Listmaker further requests. She cocks her head, “No, not like that. I just don’t keep track because I don’t care. I guess if you’re making me come up with a number, it’s only like one a day, on average. Most guys don’t talk to me or even approach me.” “It’s cause they’re scared,” he nods with lifted eyebrows. “What? No,” she condemns; “Oh. I get it. But you’re supposed to be some man’s man who can handle me?” Feeling proud, the Listmaker confidently nods, “Definitely.” The two laugh together, she almost mockingly, he full of certainty.

“Oh shit,” the Listmaker stops laughing; “I think she’s coming over here.” “It’s fine,” she starts; “I’ll be done in an hour.” “What am I supposed to do without you for an hour?” he helplessly states. She laughs. “Fine. I’ll be back in one hour,” he concedes. “Ma’am,” the manager states calmly. “Yea yea,” the Listmaker cuts in; “I’m outa here. She’s not into me anyway.” He winks. She looks to be suppressing a smile. The manager walks away. As he turns to leave the cafe, he looks back, “I’m Erzst by the way.” She smiles a big smile. The Listmaker makes his way to the cafe’s front doors and takes a left back toward the direction of the young woman. Outside now, through the glass, the Listmaker waves and gestures a motion as if slitting his throat. She smiles back and cocks her head as if confused. He then blows her a kiss. She catches it. The Listmaker gives her a nerdy thumbs up and jogs cross the street to walk the other side and heads home.

On Fishing (According to the Listmaker) … continued …

On Fishing (According to the Listmaker) … continued …

Fuschia. “Fuck,” she whispers. “Wha … what the …” Kevin stammers. “Back up!” she commands; “Back up!” “Okay, okay,” Kevin insists as he stops the vehicle midway into a parking spot and throws it into reverse; “Which way?” “That way!” she points, pointing back in the direction from where they just came. Red. “Go!” she shouts. The vehicle jolts forward at a high speed, “Where?” “Away from here!” she loosely guides while grabbing hold of the dashboard; “There.” Kevin follows her direction and pulls back out onto the main road. She looks back over the back of her seat through the back window. Blush. “Okay, pull over here.” Kevin obeys, “What the hell was that?” The world is clear. She gives Kevin a look, and oddly enough, Kevin seems to be getting to know her in a way that she finds … intriguing. “Oh,” he states, and then he asks, “That’s the thing?” She sighs, “You’ll know soon enough.” Stiffly upright, Kevin sits with both hands still firmly clutching the wheel. After a moment he realizes that the vehicle is still in the Drive position; he commands the vehicle into off mode. Still catching his breath, Kevin looks at her. She sits serene, calm, seemingly unmoved. A moment of silence passes. And then, she quietly speaks, “Okay, go back and try to park again, slowly.” Feeling tempted to request assurance, Kevin hesitates. She feels Kevin’s mind soften but allows him the opportunity to find courage either in asking her whether or not she’s sure or in accepting her instruction blindly. Kevin mulls a bit; she is impressed. Kevin presses the vehicle on, flips a u-turn, and slowly drives back toward the place from whence they nearly escaped. “Slower,” she guides. The vehicle seems as if it’s not moving at all. “Stop,” she instructs with a coordinated lift of her left hand. The vehicle comes to a stop. “Okay, slowly,” she allows as she slowly lifts and lowers her palm-faced-down hand. Kevin maneuvers the vehicle at a crawl toward the turnoff. At the place in the road where the vehicle now needs to take a left turn, she reaches her hand out again, “Stop. Pull over.” Kevin checks for approaching traffic. An oncoming vehicle zooms past in the opposite lane. They wait for another moment or so. Clear. The road clears again as well. “Alright. Do what you need to do to pull into the lot, but be prepared to step on it to get out of here again,” she directs. “Yes. Got it,” Kevin relays. “Whenever you’re ready. Take your time,” she encourages.

Contemplative, checking everything within his immediate surroundings, Kevin examines and reexamines for an extensive amount of time. She sits patiently, quietly. Kevin’s ready and gears himself up for the task at hand. Quickly, Kevin bears down hard on the steering wheel and screeches across the oncoming lane through the entrance way into the lot, veers right and comes to a skidding stop just out of the way of potential traffic, and then Kevin pulls the wheel to the left and prepares the vehicle for a tight, semi-circle turn for a hasty exit. Fully alert with his hands still squeezing the steering wheel, Kevin is ready for further instruction. They wait. Clear. A spot at the far end of the lot, the end nearest them, free of any potential neighbor to the immediate left of any parked vehicle that may choose the stop, stands empty. They wait another full minute. Clear. “There,” she points to the open spot. Kevin turns the wheel to straighten out the vehicle. “Slowly,” she instructs. Crawling again, Kevin guides the vehicle into the open space. Once within the confines of the allotted space, Kevin commands the vehicle back into reverse. They sit and wait once more.

“Alright,” she decides; “Park it, but keep it running.” She exits the vehicle and walks around to the driver’s side. Kevin opens the door in recognition of what’s happening. “One, two, three,” she counts. And on three, Kevin throws himself from the vehicle as she quickly climbs into the driver’s seat. Clear. “This is really stressful,” Kevin admits. “This is the way that things are,” she explains. She shuts the door and hits a button. The window portion of the door disappears into the solid portion of the door. “You can do this,” she goads. Kevin’s mind softens again in need of assurances. She considers this for a moment and decides the best course of action is assurance at this point, “He’ll know.” Kevin’s demeanor strengthens, “Alright.” “Just like in practice,” she reminds. Kevin nods and looks to be working himself up for the task. “Do you have the message?” she inquires. Kevin reaches into his pocket and holds up the small roll of paper between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand in confirmation. “Good,” she smiles; “It will guide you.” Kevin nods again in a self-soothing manner. And then a question that never came up during the two’s practice sessions rises to the forefront of Kevin’s mind. She feels it, “Stay put. You will not be able to get out here fast enough. Also, he’ll know what to do if you’ve connected.” “Alright,” Kevin nods yet again with his entire torso. Kevin takes a deep breath. “You can do this. There’s nothing to it,” she consoles. Kevin slips the message back into his pocket, “See you, then.” “Yes,” she waves.

On Fishing (According to the Listmaker)

On Fishing (According to the Listmaker)

The Listmaker coughs a small cough. He is awoken by sounds the Listmaker ought not be making and rushes to his side. Blinking deep, slow blinks, the Listmaker looks at him and attempts a smile. “Shhh,” he calmly coaxes. The Listmaker carefully moves his eyes to meet his, and then in a raspy whisper the Listmaker speaks, barely audible, “Do you know how to camp?” “Shh, don’t speak. Let me call the nurse,” he consoles. The Listmaker rests a hand on his arm, “No need to waste the time.” He looks at the Listmaker with furrowed brows, “But …” “Do you know how to camp?” the Listmaker insists again. “Uh, yea, sure,” he humors. “Do you?” the Listmaker prods. “Yes. Yes, I’ve been camping before,” he clarifies. “Sure but do you know how to camp?” the Listmaker reiterates. “I … I guess I don’t understand the point,” he admits. “If you needed to go camping, say, tonight, would you be able to do it for a sustained amount of time? Don’t lie,” the Listmaker extrapolates. He thinks for a moment, “Uh, yes. I could figure it out.” “Are you confident of this?” “Yes.” The Listmaker closes his eyes again and lies silently for a moment as he stands with a hand on the Listmaker’s arm and looks upon the Listmaker’s face.

The Listmaker coughs again and blinks his eyes open, “When I was a child, my father used to insist that I knew how to fish, but I never found fishing very interesting. It really never seemed like a skill one could cultivate, right?” Brows furrowed yet again, he looks at the Listmaker in disbelief, “Yea, sure.” “It’s not really a trick, and it’s not really skill either, fishing,” the Listmaker continues; “And yet, some people are truly better or luckier at catching fish, right?” In an attempt to grasp what the Listmaker seems to be babbling about, he agrees, “I don’t really like to fish either.” “The worst part was when I would catch something, and I’d have to bring the fish in while it wriggled with all its might to set itself free, be freed, not die, right?” the Listmaker explains. “Yes, I would agree,” he admits. “And then once I had successfully reeled in the poor fish trying desperately to live another day, my father would look at me and say, ‘Now beat it over the head with this rock; put it out of its misery’,” on went the Listmaker; “Everything I caught would be killed, cleaned and then consumed. I never really understood the endeavor except to say that whenever anyone in my family caught a fish, we’d eat it. In a sense, the fish sustained us whenever we would go camping.” Eyes closed, the Listmaker went silent again.

This must all be in my mind, he thinks to himself. How long have I been awake? I must be sorely sleep deprived, he wonders. And then just as he was sure that the Listmaker had not been speaking to him, that he had hallucinated the entire exchange, that there’s no way the Listmaker, in the severest of comas, is conscious and speaking, the Listmaker came to again with a smacking and licking of his lips as if he were thirsty. “Here, some water,” he offers as he gently lifts the glass to the Listmaker’s face and guides the straw to the Listmaker’s mouth. The Listmaker takes a small sip, “Thank you.” “It’s no problem,” he whispers as he places the cup back down on the nightstand. “Eventually,” the Listmaker starts up again; “Eventually, I refused to fish whenever the rest of my family would fish while camping.” The Listmaker pauses as if in deep thought, not asleep, “The whole endeavor was too much for me. I was too sensitive to the entire process, and so, I told my dad that I never wanted to go fishing again, and further, I would not accompany the family during fishing outings.” The Listmaker pauses again and almost seems to chuckle. “Here,” he offers the water again. The Listmaker squinches his face in dismissal. “What was I saying?” the Listmaker asks. “You quit fishing,” he guides. “Right, that’s right,” the Listmaker recalls, and then he continues on, “But my father would not let the issue go. He suggested that I try fly fishing. When fly fishing, according to him, a fish gets caught in the lip, and when you bring the fish in, you can easily release the hook and return the fish to the water, practically unscathed. I remember considering this for a day or two, still refusing to bait fish with the family. Instead, I would spend all my time back up at the campsite reading books, playing with the campfire or hiking and trekking around the lake. I didn’t believe my father, for obvious reasons because I knew my father fly fished, and yet, he still brought home fish. Maybe, though, he did both so that he could enjoy the sport of fly fishing and still bait fish a few fish to cook up.” He begins to understand that the Listmaker is perhaps speaking his last words to him, through some means he cannot understand, and so, he sits himself comfortably on the side of the bed as the Listmaker takes another break from whatever it is he finds so important to tell him at this moment. He sits while the Listmaker lies in silence. At some point the silence begins to grow louder and louder until he realizes that his eyes are closed now. Immediately, he blinks them open, vigorously and finds himself still seated on the edge of the Listmaker’s bed with a hand still gently pressed upon the Listmaker’s arm.

The Listmaker is looking at him, and he attempts to smile. “Relax, it’s okay,” he consoles in an attempt to make the Listmaker feel better about not being quite able to smile. The Listmaker inhales a deep breath, and then he exhales, “I can’t remember what made me decide to try fly fishing, but I did decide to let my father teach me. Fishing was so important to him, and he wanted to share that experience or activity or whatever with me. It mattered so much to him that I thought, what the hell. I’ll just learn how to do it. If I don’t like it, I’ll not do it anymore. So, the next morning, my father le d me through the ropes of fly fishing, and honestly, I was terrified of the whole process. He guided me as I swung my pole over my head, back and forth, back and forth, while a tiny little fake fly with a hook on it, also went swinging by right by my face. I was terrified that I would hook my own face with the fly. I expressed my concerns with my father and he gave me a hat to wear. Apparently, if the fly gets too close, it ought to hook on the hat and not my face. After a morning of practicing my cast, my father said I was ready to put the thing into the water. I reminded him that I had only agreed to learn how to fly fish because he told me that you don’t kill fish, you just catch and release them. He was adamant that that would, in fact, be the case.” The Listmaker stops to take another deep breath. “You want some water?” he again grabs the cup and offers. The Listmaker opens his eyes wide in acceptance. After another small sip, the Listmaker coughs and continues, “By the late afternoon, I was successfully laying the line down flat upon the water, but I wasn’t throwing it out very far. We were on a beachy cove on the lake, feet a foot or two in the water, sun blasting overhead. My father told me that I was a natural and that when we came back out during sunset, I’d surely catch something. We took a break from the whole endeavor for a few hours and hiked as a family or something. I can’t remember now. By the time early evening rolled around, we were all back on the beachy cove, fishing. Honestly, I was excited but wary. I was certain that I wouldn’t catch anything, and so, the whole endeavor seemed futile and boring. But then the worst thing happened. I did catch something. I cast my line out, and for a moment it sat on the water. I cast a few more times and was about to call it a day when on a return pull, a tiny little sardine-sized fish was on my line, and as I back cast my line, the tiny fish weighed the line down and the fish hit me in the gut. It was a tiny little fish, maybe four inches long or so, so I wasn’t hurt or anything, but I soon realized that there was no way I would save the thing, like my father had convinced. It had swallowed the fly whole, and my father was not apologetic. Instead, he was excited that I had caught a little minnow that he could use as bait in deeper waters.” Silence falls over the two once more.

He sits, slightly stupefied by the whole situation unfolding before him. Why is he telling me this? His father really fucked up, but he, his father, clearly didn’t really care about what he, the Listmaker, thought about the whole prospect of fishing, etc. But what’s the point of all of this? How can this all even be happening, keeps on running through his mind as he rambles the bits and pieces of the story over and over in his thoughts. The Listmaker coughs again. “I’ll go get a nurse,” he urges as he moves to reach the call button on the Listmaker’s bed. “It’s fine,” the Listmaker whispers; “There’s no time for such nonsense.” He insists again, “But a nurse should come and check on you. You’ve been unconscious for a few days. I’m honestly not even sure if all of this is only happening in my mind.” “Everything is always happening only in one’s mind,” the Listmaker quips. He gives the Listmaker a look of disbelief. “Remember my dying words, will ya?” the Listmaker requests. “What?” he responds. “Nobody really knows me; everyone always wants something from me. It’s hard to live a gifted life. You know the story of The Girl Child with Gifted Hair, yes?” the Listmaker inquires. “Sure,” he affirms. “Well, there you have it. Some people love to give of themselves because it shines a light on them. All that goodness and selflessness they exude draws attention to them through the so-called good that they do for others, but those types are frauds. If you ever hear about a person who gives or who does good, that do-gooder is a fraud. The good that they do is in the service of the self. They crave the attention that the sharing and giving of one’s self brings forth. Those who truly have something worth giving and who give at the cost of their own self, they are the one’s who find the gift of giving a burden, a curse, the gift that they possess must be given, which ultimately means that they grow smaller as others benefit from their gifts,” the Listmaker explains. “People rarely get what they deserve,” he sighs, head hanging low thinking of all the horrible people in the world who deserve the worst. “People rarely get what they don’t deserve,” the Listmaker corrects. He lifts his eyes and then his head, “What are you saying?” The Listmaker does his best to lick his dry, chapped lips, “Do you feel as though you are in control of your life?” “But you already know the answer to such a question when pointed at someone like me,” he responds. “So, no,” the Listmaker projects. “Obviously,” he confirms. “Well, then you should know better than anyone,” the Listmaker informs. He looks at the Listmaker solemnly. The Listmaker looks back at him and apologizes, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry to burden you with such a task.” His eyes narrow in confusion. “The receipt roll you picked up from my house,” the Listmaker points out. “Yea, I brought it for you,” he explains. “No, it brought you to me,” the Listmaker articulates; “The task is now your burden to bear.” He pulls the roll of seemingly innocent receipt paper from the pocket of his jacket and turns it over in his hand. He stretches his arm out and holds the roll so that the Listmaker can see it as well. The Listmaker looks as if he is trying to shake his head, “No, someone is coming for me.” “Who?” he asks. “It’s no longer my place to know such things,” the Listmaker speaks; “There is one last thing, however, I do know for certain.” “Yes?” he leans. “She is coming here to find you,” the Listmaker tells. “But she’s supposed to be looking for you,” he thinks. “I’m irrelevant now, and so, I think it’s probably time for me to go,” the Listmaker responds; “You must wait for her here, though, in the hospital.” “She knows better than to come here,” he insists. “Yes, which is why she sends a messenger,” the Listmaker informs. “Then who’s coming for you?” he asks. “That’s really none of your concern, besides, I will be long gone by then,” the Listmaker smiles. And so, the time has arrived for the Listmaker to leave. The Listmaker’s face softens into a look of peace and calm; he blinks and whispers something inaudible, and just as the Listmaker begins to gently close his eyes, he’s too curious and blurts out in a whispered shout, “Wait! Where were you before you woke up just now?” The Listmaker smiles, “The world is flat, and everything within it lacks depth.” “Is that where you will return?” he prods. With furrowed brow the Listmaker scoffs, “Oh, no. I will go whenever it is that I’m meant to be.” He hangs his head low in both sadness and frustration, “Will I ever see you again?” A smile returns to the Listmaker’s face and he looks him in the eye, “You’re seeing me again right now.” He attempts a small, closed-lipped smile as he watches the Listmaker close his eyes. “See you when I see you,” he whispers. The Listmaker takes a deep breath in, “Good men do good things for others. Great men do good things for the self.” Slowly, the Listmaker exhales until he and the room falls silent.

Within a few seconds, all of the monitors monitoring the Listmaker’s signs for life begin to beep and blink, and within a moment, a nurse comes rushing into the room. He steps back from the Listmaker’s bed. “What happened?” a nurse asks. “He looked like he was waking up. He made a few noises, and then everything just started lighting up,” he lies. A sizable team of nurses and presumably, doctors file into the room. “You shouldn’t be in here right now. Someone will find you if you wait in the waiting room,” the same nurse suggests. “Yes, right,” he obeys. Quietly, he slowly takes a few steps backward in order to keep an eye on the Listmaker as he makes his way to the room’s door. Feeling at a slight loss for reasons unknown to him, he remembers the words of the Listmaker, Nobody really knows me; everyone always wants something from me. A small twinge of guilt rushes over his face, and he takes a moment and whispers from the doorway, “Thank you.” He turns to walk out of the room forever, but then in an instant a flash of green light explodes from behind him; he turns to see a vortex of swirling wind as everything in the room lifts off the ground into a tornado of material fury. The staff of nurses and doctors stand frozen, stiff as if nothing strange at all is happening around them. He jolts upright as if catching himself from a chair in which someone had been leaning back and falls in a wild heap onto the floor. The nurse who first answered the distress calls of the monitors in the Listmaker’s room rushes toward him, “Are you alright?” He feels dizzy and disoriented, but once he sees the nurse’s face, he recognizes that he’s on the floor of the hospital’s waiting room. “How long have I been waiting down here?” he whispers as a few onlookers look concerned. “I first saw you early this morning, maybe around 0600. You said you were going to wait down here until visiting hours,” the nurse informs. He shimmies himself back into the chair and assumes that the nurse has come down to collect him for visiting hours, “Oh, is it time now?” “Well, no, I’ve come down here to tell you the news,” the nurse states somberly. He understands the tone, “Oh, yes, I see.” “His doctor is on her way down if you need more detail,” the nurse offers. “Uh, yea, sure,” he hesitates; “When did he pass?” “The doctor will be down in a minute, and she can give you all the information you want to know,” the nurse redirects. “Oh, okay,” he accepts. The nurse looks at him with concern, “Are you sure you’re alright? I can take a quick look at you, make sure you didn’t hit your head or if you need fluids or whatnot.” He mulls the option but remembers the Listmaker’s instructions, but then he questions the entire exchange in light of the present situation, “Uh, no. I’m fine.” “How about some water, then?” the nurse suggests. “Sure, thanks,” he nods. The nurse leans down and quickly checks his pupils, “Alright. I’ll be right back.”

A moment or two later a woman dressed in a lab coat approaches and he assumes that she is the doctor. He does not recognize the woman as the doctor he met the day before, “Hi, there …” the doctor pauses, waiting for him to fill in the pause with his name. “Hello,” he stands and greets. “Right. Your friend … relative …” the doctor again pauses. “Uh, relative, distant relative, an unofficial relative, close friend,” he interjects. “I’m sorry for your loss. Do you have any questions for me regarding your … distant relative’s passing?” the doctor straightforwardly states almost cold. “Uh, yea, when did he pass?” he asks. “We’re not entirely sure. There was some malfunction with his monitors. It looks like he passed in his sleep, and the night nurse on duty recorded that all of his vitals were normal,” the doctor begins, but then he cuts her off, “Except being unconscious.” “Right,” the doctor admits, and she continues, “Since the nursing staff does routine checks every other hour on patients like your relative and the last notes on his chart were roughly around 0315 this morning and taking into account when the monitors alerted the nurses at the nurse’s station that something was awry, our best guess is that your relative passed sometime around 0430.” “He was gone when the nurses were alerted?” he presses. “Yes. We performed a few procedures just to cover the routine bases, but I believe that he was already gone when we entered his room,” the doctor admits; “Would you like more detail about the procedures?” “No,” he quickly responds. “Does he have any other family that you would like to contact or that we should contact?” the doctor asks while flipping through the Listmaker’s chart to make a note if he were to mention anyone. “No,” he responds. The doctor flips the chart closed and purse-lipped smiles at him, reaches a hand out, stiffly pats his left shoulder, “I’m sorry for your loss.” He reaches into his jacket pocket and grips the Listmaker’s list-making roll of receipt paper. “Is there someone I can call for you?” the doctor asks in an odd moment of warmth. He shakes his head. “Alright, well, there’s one more order of business, if you don’t mind,” the doctor informs. “Sure,” he relegates. “Let’s just come over here to the reception desk,” the doctor guides, and then she goes into the details of the Listmaker’s disposal, “First, it’s not your responsibility to decide what to do with your relative’s body, since he has no listed, legal family. Since you are here, however, the funeral process for your distant relative will run smoother and faster if you know of any wills or wishes your distant relative may have written. The standard practice for unclaimed persons is cremation.” He simply shakes his head, “I have no idea.” The doctor jots some note down onto the chart, “Alright, well, I do apologize that we cannot assign the ashes to you or allow you to see him or have any say in the dispo … the funeral process since you have no legal relation.” “I understand. It’s fine,” he states. “Well, feel free to spend as much time as you need here within the hospital today,” the doctor offers. “Thanks,” he thanks with a smile.

The nurse appears from the hallway behind the desk at which he and the doctor still currently stand. Catching the look in his eye, the doctor turns over her shoulder and catches the small motion of the nurse who carries a cup, assumedly for the grieving person. He recognizes the nurse and makes a small motion in acknowledgement. The doctor acknowledges the service, “Ah, yes, I see that you are already being taken care of.” “He is indeed,” the nurse, a little too cheerfully, confirms; “This is for you. Why don’t we go have a seat in a more private area for a few minutes.” “That sounds like a good idea,” the doctor agrees; “Again, I’m very sorry for your loss.” The doctor reaches a hand out again, stiffly pats him on the left shoulder, promptly turns and walks away and disappears down the hallway from whence the nurse just came. “Follow me,” the nurse instructs and leads him toward a small room adjacent to the waiting room with a window that looks out to the outside world and a door with a window looking back into the waiting room; “Go ahead and have a seat in here. There’s a button on the wall here if you need anything.” Inside the small room sits a small, round table with four of the same uncomfortable, easily sterilized-type hospital chairs. He takes a seat in the chair closest to the window, “Thanks.” “Light on or off?” the nurse asks. “Off, please,” he answers. The nurse follows up with another question, “Door?” “Closed, please,” he somberly states. “Alright then. Take your time,” the nurse instructs as the door shuts.

Alone now, in the silence, he honestly cannot quite figure out why we feels at such a loss. It’s like the Listmaker said, Nobody really knows me. Yet on some level, he feels overwhelmed and overcome with the feeling that he did know the Listmaker. He sighs and tries to make himself comfortable in the chair. He replays the scene with the Listmaker he was sure he had, and wonders whether or not he should wait until a messenger arrives. He has no idea how long he needs to wait, though, and he knows he cannot wait for more than a few hours here. He takes a long drink and easily finishes off the cup of cold water. It’s delightful. Deciding that he will just sit as he’s been instructed for as long as he needs, he pulls one of the other chairs around the table, leans back in the uncomfortable chair as well as he can, props his feet upon the other chair, and then the world slowly grows in a bluish hue. No, no, no. Shit! Not here!, he thinks to himself as he jumps upright in the chair looking anxiously around him. Luckily, the blue fades and the room returns to a typical white-balanced glow. “Fuck!” he shout-whispers as he looks through the window in the room that looks out into the outside world beyond the hospital walls. He sees nothing. He examines the window in the door and looks out into the waiting room. While scanning the room to see if anything looks different, he sees a man walk through the automatic, sliding entrance doors. The man does not even look toward the reception desk, instead, makes a beeline to the waiting area and scans the room. He knows the man must be his messenger. Cautious, nevertheless, he exits the secluded waiting room and slowly emerges into the light of the general waiting area. He makes eye contact with the man who still stands too near to the entrance doors that the automatic sliding doors open and close once more. The man looks behind him when he notices that no one entered or exited and takes a step further into the hospital. He makes a small nodding gesture to the man. The man holds up what looks to be a small white tube between his thumb and forefinger. 

A Feline Frienemy

A Feline Frienemy

“You fucking fool!”

“I’m the fool? You’re trying to kidnap a grown man!”

“I’m not kidnapping you. I need your help, and now that I’ve spoken to you, your survival is … well, quite unlikely unless I also help you.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“Keep your voice down!”

“You’re yelling too!”

“Fine! Just shut up for a minute.”


“ … “

“ … “

“ … “

“ … “

“ … “

“ … “

“Just. … I can’t explain every single little thing right now, especially not in here. I know you don’t know me, but please, just trust me.”

“I. Don’t. Know. You.”

“Oh my god, I know that!”

“And you’ve like taken me hostage for some evil scheme.”

“Get over yourself. You’d be so lucky to be so important on this goddamn ship.”

“I was doing just fine, man, before you came along, and now I’m what? My life’s in danger?”

“Yea, well, it’s sort of your fault. No one asked you for your help in the first place.”

“Oh, sorry, for being a good citizen.”

“Well, now you can continue on being a good citizen.”

“What? No. You’re like a criminal on the run or something.”

“A criminal? When was the last time you ever heard about or saw a criminal on this goddamn orbital? Huh? You probably don’t even fucking know what a criminal is.”

“Well, then why you running?”

“I told you. We shouldn’t talk about this while we’re in here. That’s why I’m asking you to trust me and not just run off like some jackass when this thing stops.”

“ …”

“I promise I’ll explain everything when we got off this thing and get somewhere remotely safe. Just don’t go running off.”

“Fine, but if my life is in danger, I swear to god, I will kill you.”

“How will you kill me if you don’t know to do it until you’re already in danger?”

“Fuck you, man!”

“We’re almost there. We’re just gonna get off and walk straight toward the other chute on the backside of this one and travel somewhere else.”

“ … “

“Ready? Stay calm and just like, let’s shoot the shit. Follow me.”

“ …”

“Haha, no, the really crazy thing is how they won’t like give you an extra cup, you know?”


“And I was like, it’s my grandma, just give her another cup.”

“Uh huh.”

“I mean, it’s a little bit sad. It’s not like I wouldn’t then pay for an extra anything, but the stupid clerk was like, ‘Sorry, we don’t do that,’ or whatever.”

“Yea. That sucks.”

That must be them, two men at the end of the capsule’s exterior just about to turn around the cylindrical tube. I run to catch them. It’s Mox, “But really the craziest part to me is that even though we live in the future with all this technology surrounding us and like making life so much more advanced, we still need to use cups.” At that the other one, Hauberk is it?, stops and looks at Mox, “What did you just say?” “No, we’re just chatting, remember?” Mox whispers. “Yea, but what did you just say, about technology and cups?” Hauberk insists. “Uh, I don’t know, I was just jabbering,” Mox admits. “What did you say!” Hauberk demands. “Jesus, man, keep your voice down. I don’t remember, something like how the future is so advanced,” Mox attempts to recall. “That’s it,” Hauberk cuts in; “The future?” “Yea, we live in the future,” Mox reiterates. “What,” Hauberk states flatly. “Yea, whenever it is that you exist, it’s always the future from whatever time came before, right?” Mox jabbers on, and then he catches the look on Hauberk’s face, “Are you alright man?” Hauberk looks back at Mox blankly. “Let’s just stick to the plan, alright? Just follow me,” Mox informs as he leads Hauberk to a different capsule chute. Mox waves for a capsule to transport them. The capsule arrives and the two embark, and I quickly jump on as well and sit myself down quietly in a corner, hopefully unnoticed. Mox speaks aloud, “Coax Twelve.” The automated voice inside the capsule acknowledges in that soft-spoken female voice of the future, “Coax Twelve.”

For the duration of the ride, the two remain silent. Hauberk looks unwell, and Mox is antsy. A pleasant ding and then a series of chimes ring out as the automated voice declares the destination, “Coax Twelve,” but both Mox and Hauberk are off the thing before the voice even begins. They are walking fast toward the underground transportation system. Mox anxiously looks around him to see if anyone follows. Hauberk mumbles something quietly to himself. “Just calm down, everything is fine for the time being. We just need to lose any tails we may have,” Mox explains. Hauberk nods but does not look to be in agreement with the plan. They reach the entrance to the underground tunnels and run down the four sets of stairs into the depths of Coax Twelve’s railway. A train of coupled cars approach, and the two board the set of cars headed directly for the Twelfth Coax’s Terrace, which seems like an odd choice, but perhaps Mox believes that he will be safest in a place close to the source of danger. The train leaves and within a few moments, the set of cars heading toward the Terrace breaks off from the rest and continues on its directed path. Mox lets out a small sigh of relief, “You doing alright, man?” Hauberk nods but looks pale. The train takes one more quick stop before it hits its express speed toward the Terrace’s station.

Eventually, the train arrives and the same automated voice speaks of the train’s arrival to, “Terrace Station of Coax Twelve.” Hauberk has nearly keeled over from the stress, and so, Mox gently lifts the man from his seat and allows the weight of him to hang on his shoulder as the two disembark. “Can you make it up at least this first flight of stairs?” Mox asks. Hauberk nods. The two, Hauberk supported by Mox, genially climb the first set of stairs. At the top, Mox gently leads Hauberk to a small little cafe-type place, “I’ll get you some water. Just sit tight.” Hauberk lands heavy upon a little bistro chair. And then he spots me from across the landing. Oddly enough, Hauberk waves at me and beckons for me to come near. I take a cautious gander about and then trot on over to greet him. He holds out his right hand, palm down, and I take a sniff. Hauberk is a kind fellow. He gives me a nice little rub of the ears; I rub up against his leg and purr as he smiles and laughs. Feeling giddy by my presence, Hauberk seems to cheer up, the color returning to his face, looking sprightly again. Perhaps he has forgotten the weight of his current predicament, but alas, I forgot that he still does not know the extent of his problems. “Grab him!” Mox yells from a few feet away. Luckily, Hauberk still sits in a bit of a trance so I trot off just out of reach. “Who sent you! Who are you working for?” Mox asks, in my specific direction. I’m fairly certain a person of Mox’s position cannot understand me, so I begin to clean my face with my paws in sheer innocence. “Noooo, get the fuck out of here!” Mox yells as he runs toward me, kicking a leg out in an attempt to cause me pain or harm. I scutter quickly just beyond his reach, and then I fluff up my tail and smugly walk around in a small circle. “Goddammit,” Mox spits; “I knew it; we’re being surveilled. We’ve gotta get out of here.” Hauberk looks at Mox in utter confusion, “What are you talking about? It’s a mangy little cat.” “When was the last time you saw a mangy little cat just innocently trotting about on the orbital, huh?” Mox challenges. Hauberk thinks for a minute, “I, uh.” “Exactly,” Mox points out. “That is not a mangy little cat. I mean, it is a cat; it’s just not just a cat, but seriously, we’ve got to go, now. Here drink this,” Mox commands as he holds out a bottle of liquid that is not water. Hauberk reaches for it and takes a sip. “You’re already looking better.” “Yea,” Hauberk admits; “I feel a lot better actually. I’m not sure what happened to me back there.” “Are you ready to walk some more? We’ve got a lot of tail to lose,” Mox asks and explains. “Yea, I’m fine,” Hauberk consoles. “Great, let’s move,” Mox calmly instructs.And then Mox looks over at me, “You stay the fuck right there.” I obey for the time being. The two continue to ascend the final three levels of stairs until they reach Ground Level within Coax Twelve. Just as I lose them over the top edge of the ground at Ground Level, I sprint up the stairs and jump into the heights of the trees that line all of the walkways within and throughout the orbital. I catch up to them, but it’s tough to follow at this height, and I cannot hear the words they speak. I simply track and follow them as they wander in and out of various capsule chutes and subway trains. At some point, I’m fairly certain that Hauberk caught a glimpse of me, but he hasn’t seemed to say anything about me to Mox. For almost an hour they walk about the orbital, constantly changing locations until they reach an unmarked building. I’m not following close enough behind them to see where they ended up, but it seems like they disappeared down a long, dark corridor. I hear the distinct sound of a door releasing its air pressure in an opening or closing fashion, and when I hear the second distinct puff, I quickly turn the corner to catch the last few moments of a fading blue light. Darby, I think to myself, and then I immediately make my way to find the old man.

The Trifles, Continue

The Trifles, Continue

“I don’t believe in shortcuts,” we hear you say,

but the truth is simply, one hasn’t come your way.

Sad trifles and condemnation against people who gain unearned,

you stifle in stagnation about your intellect sorely spurned.

In fact, people rarely get what they don’t deserve,

yet you complain, create nothing, oh, what the nerve.

What are the chances you’ll wake up to the crushing feeling

that the problem is you who is jealous, always squealing.

No matter how it is that you want to see it,

peeps like you always lose, you’re a fraud, counterfeit.

She overheard a conversation one time between her father and a friend of a family member or a family friend or other, but she cannot recall how the person fit into the whole family relationship as a whole. Weddings do that sort of thing to people and families. Nevertheless, she knew that she did not know the person personally, thankfully. What transpired over the course of a few minutes was something for which she has immense pride. The fact is that she has always adored people who can say it how it is, say whatever it is that is pressing upon their minds, say what is on their minds, etc. At this particular point in her overall, general existence, her father was the one person in the world she could count on as that mind-speaker. What she remembers is that—let’s just say family friend for the purpose of easing the conversations—the family friend had whipped out some new sort of digital device and/or gadget, for the sake of never sounding anachronistic, while also in the middle of scooping out some sort of potato staple or whatnot. The food at this point does not really matter, per se. Since, however, the family friend caused a pause to roll over the line as a whole, my father, interrupted in his acquisition of the food, was now entitled to speak his mind. And so, like all people adored by the likes of her, she remembers the next minute-long conversation as it transpired.

“Is that that new Whooz-A-What’s-It?” her dad asks. The family friend, a thirty-something fellow looks at her dad wryly for a moment and then smiles with excitement, “Yea, it sure is!” “It sure is fancy,” her dad half compliments. “Yea, it’s the rose gold version. I stood in line for five hours to get this one, in exactly this color,” the family friend brags. “Whoa, that’s a long time. What does the rose gold color mean? Is it a better version of the thing?” her dad sincerely inquires. “What do you mean?” the family friend asks, confused. “You said that you waited in line for this special color. So, what does it do that’s so special?” her dad prods. “No, it’s the same as the other one’s. It’s just a special color,” the family friend explains. “Oh, you like this color?” her father determines. “Uh,” the family friend hesitates. Her father laughs aloud. “I mean, I guess so,” the family friend admits; “It’s a special edition color. So, like only some people have the thing in this color.” “And it cost more?” her father begins to understand. “Ha! Yea,” the family friend beams with pride. “But it doesn’t DO anything special? It’s just a special color? That you don’t really even like?” her father reiterates for the family friend. The family friend turns the thing over in his hands, attempts to come up with words to justify himself. And the look on her father’s face was the look that she always worked so hard to never see. Being the likable sort of man that he always was, however, her father simply patted the kid on the back and chuckled, as he promptly cut passed the kid in line, “Whatever floats your boat, kid.”

One time, long long ago, she saw that same look on her father’s face. That one time, of course, was the only time. She is fairly certain that there does not exist a person in the world who can survive her father’s disappointing look. Strangers respond to it; small children even understand it. She never knew whatever became of that family friend, especially since, she did not really even know who that person was in the first place. With a little digging, however, she could probably find that family friend, but really, what was the point at this point? He was a loser, and losers rarely, nay never become more.

The old man approaches their table. She stares daggers into the furtive man’s face and whispers, “Ask the man what he wants from,” and then she points vigorously at herself. “You?” the furtive man clarifies. “Yes,” she smiles with relief. The furtive man reacts appropriately and looks to be biting his lips together on the inside with his teeth. “Why, hello,” the old man directs toward her, “I didn’t know you frequented shops of this variety,” the old man continues with an outstretched hand in greeting. She sighs a deep sigh as she rolls her eyes in the old man’s general direction, “Lay off the shit.” “Very well, but you’re being rude,” the old man condemns as he acknowledges the furtive man; “Hello, and you are?” The furtive man performs admirably, does not flinch, does not look to her for guidance, points and asks, “What do you want from her.” The old man smiles, “Oh, very interesting. And how did she convince you to do her bidding?” The furtive man shifts a bit but remains calm. The old man attempts to stare the furtive man down a bit, but the furtive man proves his worth. She glances subtly at the furtive man, impressed. “So, what is it?” the furtive man finally reiterates. “She knows what it is,” the old man abruptly interjects, and then he calms himself again, “she simply does not want to acknowledge the truth of her … condition. She must ask herself, but she is unable to do so. It seems, however, that she has come up with a clever loophole.” “Well then, get on with it,” the furtive man states flatly, leaning back in his chair, feeling confident. “You are a mere mortal, dear boy, are you sure you want to get yourself into such … trifles about which you know nothing?” the old man challenges. The furtive man remains furtive. “Very well then,” the old man accepts, and then he pauses for a moment while he takes in the two there together. Then the old man looks at her, “First, though, I am curious about something. Does he know?” She, of course, understands that the old man does not refer to the furtive man seated across from her now, but the furtive man assumes the old man speaks about him, of course. She looks at the old man, annoyed and then looks across the table at the furtive man, “He’s not talking about you.” Then she looks at the old man, “But you have all the answers.”

The old man smiles and looks at the furtive man while gesturing toward her, “Stubborn, is she not?” The furtive man stares blankly at the old man. “As an ox, my father always used to say,” she responds. “Very well. I’ll play your little game, but to whom shall I direct the answer? It’s quite odd to have someone speak on your behalf,” the old man criticizes. “You would know,” she quips. The two exchange heated glances. “Go to the older woman,” the old man commands. She, of course, already knew what the old man wanted, what she needs to know is if the old man knows of her newly ascribed list, “Fine. Now your turn.” “Perhaps,” the old man humors. “Who’s the Listmaker,” she asks. “But you already know,” the old man coolly retorts. “Yes, but do you?” she argues. She can feel the old man poking around in the depths of her mind, It’s within the obvious places that things hide best. “You don’t know,” the old man realizes. She stares into the old man’s eyes. “Bargaining power is alive and well, now,” the old man taunts. “If you know the Listmaker’s name,” she proffers. “But I’m a liar, and you do not trust me. Why trust me now to give you legitimate information,” the old man retorts. “Time is no friend, and as you’ve already revealed, the older woman is on the move, which means, there’s little to no chance that anyone can actually find her, which further makes one wonder why you would request such a task?” she replies.

The old man smiles, “He is quite soft of mind, is he not?” “But you already knew that,” she smiles back as she holds up a dream capture pen. “Interesting,” the old man determines; “From whom did you steal it?” “Steal?” she scoffs. The old man slowly begins to shrink, figuratively, of course. The furtive man, however, notices. “Thank you kindly, sir, for the mission,” the furtive man genially states. Surprised at this notion, she plays along, “Yes, thank you.” The old man feels an odd feeling that he cannot quite describe. “It’s the feeling of imminent defeat,” she explains. At this, the old man begins to bubble with rage, “Some things cannot be forgotten.” “Most things, in fact,” she corrects. The old man shifts his weight to turn and leave, but then she feels a ping of curiosity, “Just out of curiosity, why does the older woman hate so viciously?” The old man stops and begins to grow large again, “Who says the older woman hates? If the older woman did, how could I answer such vagaries?” She looks to the furtive man and raises her eyebrows. The furtive man looks a bit confused for a moment, and then something pops into his head, “Why does the older woman hate her so specifically?” The old man whips his head to face the furtive man directly, leans over the table and rests both hands upon the tabletop, presses himself into the furtive man’s personal space; the furtive man, eyes down in submission, can feel the warm breath of the old man on his face. Angrier now the old man curses, “You do not belong in this world.” The furtive man slowly raises his face to meet the old man’s eyes as words come to him from a place he does not understand, “Neither do you, and yet here we are.” For a moment longer, the two stare each other down. During this time, she leans back and examines the fingernails on each hand.

Eventually, the old man grows weary of such social interaction, “He refused my help as well, you know.” She perks up but resists the bait. “I went to him to warn him of your … condition, to help him find you,” the old man begins; “He could not care less.” “Your so-called help, old man, comes with strings; everyone knows that,” she retorts. “And yet, you do not remember when you come to visit me,” the old man pierces. A vomitous feeling hits her in the gut, all that forgotten action, the misery of not knowing as if mind blind but conscious enough to enact … a preset action. She feels sick. “Yes,” the old man smiles; “I will be seeing you at once again a few days ago.” She recalls the landfill that piles high in front of and within the apartment she will visit but that she already visited. She feels dizzy. “Find the older woman,” the old man commands. She feels the tiniest droplet of sweat beading at her hairline; she lies, “Yes, okay. Of course.” “Great,” the old man almost shouts in a chipper tone and a clap of the hands; “Nice to meet you …” Distracted by the events that just transpired, the furtive man responds, “Uh, Kevin.” At the sound of the furtive man’s voice speaking his own name, she jolts awake from her nauseated state and throws the furtive man a look. “Ah, Kevin. Yes, how very nice to meet you,” the old man gently bows, and then he turns to face her, “Goodbye, dear.” Slowly, the old man walks away from them, exits the establishment and promptly disappears down the street.

“Please say your name is not actually Kevin!” she shout whispers. Kevin hangs his head down low in shame. “Goddammit!” she curses. “I’m sorry,” Kevin apologizes. “Yea, you will be,” she assures. “It was all happening so fast,” Kevin admits. “It’s all always happening so fast. If you want to get to where you want to go, you have to follow your instructions,” she demands. “Yes, I know. I’m sorry,” Kevin states, still full of shame. “Forget it. There’s nothing to be done about it now, but time is of the essence, now. At least, though, a plan unfolds,” she explains. “A plan?” Kevin asks. “Yes. But you must do as you’re told,” she instructs. Kevin nods, and as he nods, he catches a glimpse of the clock on the wall behind the service counter, “What the fuck?” “What?” she inquires. “How has no time passed since we’ve been in here?” Kevin wonders aloud. She sighs, “It’s all always happening fast, Kevin.” “No,” Kevin determines; “Things are happening slow, if no time has passed.” She lifts her head and looks at the ceiling in slight frustration, “Give it another good hard think.” Kevin begins to mumble a bit to himself. After another moment, something makes sense, “Oh, right.” “Right,” she agrees. “Okay, now, you need to be a messenger,” she instructs. “Yea, sure, but what’s the deal with that old man?” Kevin asks. She quickly dream captures Kevin through to the moment before the moment before the moment. “What old man?” she responds. “What?” Kevin asks, confused. “What time is it?” she redirects. “Oh,” Kevin blinks as he looks for the clock; “It’s BLANK o’clock.” “Great, you can go now,” she cheerily instructs. “Where?” Kevin asks. “To the restroom. You need to go to the bathroom,” she insists. “Oh, right,” Kevin remembers; “I’ll be right back.” “I’ll wait here,” she smiles. An employee of the establishment walks by, “Do you have a piece of paper?” The employee shifts the tray in his right hand to his left and reaches into the front pocket of his pants, “Uh, yea, here.” He holds a small pad of unlined, top-sealed, newsprint-type paper out to her. She reaches for the pad and slowly peels the top sheet free from the rest, “Thanks.” “Yea, no problem,” the employee responds while finagling the pad back into his pocket and walks away. Gently, she rubs the paper between her thumb and middle finger, allowing a bit of fleshy oil to rub off onto it. Once the paper feels warm, she coaxes it to life by pressing her thumb print into the top right corner at which point the paper sort of whips itself into position, ready to receive information. With her thumb still pressed into the top corner, she quietly speaks, “Deliver to,” and as she speaks the words, she concentrates on him by whom she desires the message to be read. The right edge of the paper lights up once to confirm the recipient. And then she speaks further instruction, “By messenger,” and the paper does that whipping action again, makes itself stiff, like tagboard. Holding the paper with the thumb and forefinger of both hands now, she commands, “Begin message. There’s a place between two rivers where three rivers meet and stream past roughly out under the shore.” Hastily, the paper marks itself with the words. She continues, “Two live on while others die, but hidden are the secrets of those who hide. If a man blinks once, his mother blinks twice, and when all things fail and darkness grows, a flickering light’s like a blaze just beyond the maze. End message.” She quickly reads the message upon the paper and approves the message by running the tip of her left forefinger up the left edge of the paper. Again, the right edge of the paper lights up in confirmation. “Encrypt,” she whispers as the words on the paper softly glow, code into itinerant gibberish. Then, as the words continue to scramble in shape and form, a small word begins to glow at the bottom right corner of the message: Passcode. She presses her right thumb over the word and concentrates on a string of images and then lifts her thumb off the page. A second passes, and then the right edge of the paper lights up for the last time in confirmation. She rolls the paper up and commands, “Seal.”

“Sorry,” Kevin apologizes as he appears over her right shoulder; “I couldn’t find the restrooms for the longest time. I walked around this place for like ten minutes.” She looks at the clock, “It has only been a few minutes.” “Oh, really?” Kevin puzzles as he takes his seat across from her; “Well, nevermind then.” She tilts her head and rolls her eyes impatiently. “Sorry,” Kevin sighs. “Are you hungry?” she asks. “Does this place serve food?” Kevin responds. “No,” she answers; “But there might be food on the way.” “On the way? Are we going to the future now?” Kevin asks. “What? No. One does not just travel to the future,” she scoffs. “But we made a deal,” Kevin reminds. “Yes, a deal was made, but it’s a little more complicated. Some stuff still needs to be arranged,” she half explains, and then she reiterates her question from before, “Are you hungry?” “No,” Kevin sighs as he sits and looks like an angsty teenager. “Alright, good. Let’s go,” she commands as she stands to leave. “Where are we going?” Kevin asks as he follows suit. “To the hospital,” she informs. “Oh, okay,” Kevin acknowledges. The two walk out of the establishment into a warm afternoon light.

the older woman explains nothing.

the older woman explains nothing.

Finally, like the sensation when an eluding word suddenly pops into the mind, something clicks, yes, this is the missing piece to a satisfying life. The dream seems so possible now. The passion arises and there’s nothing to be done except to chase that dream, the dream, for forever. And then a few weeks, and for the lucky ones perhaps a few months, pass before that excited rush dwindles, begins to fade. Even though the dream, the passion is still alive, how is the dream made possible, the means to a penultimate end attained?

Aaaaahhhtiiiiiilllaaaaah. Attila. Wake up. Wake up, Attila.

The gentle whisper of a voice, haunting yet familiar rings through Attila’s mind. Blinded momentarily by the stark whiteness of everything around her, Attila regains the semblance of consciousness and blinks. She sits on a plush armchair, white, soft. The armchair sits at the end of a narrow room, the width of the chair itself. Long, white, the room stretches out before Attila until her eyes meet the white, cast-iron bistro chair seated on the far end of the long room. In the chair sits … the older woman. Immediately, Attila recognizes the older woman and lurches a bit uncomfortably in her chair and begins to make movements suggesting that she wants to stand. “Please, Attila, stay seated and remain calm,” the older woman instructs. “Calm?” Attila gasps; “What am I doing here? Did I fail?” The older woman looks mildly intrigued, “Whatever do you mean? Fail?” Attila thinks for a moment, “I, I, I don’t … ” “Most people will never know the true extent of failure. The reason why most people feel like failures is because they didn’t ‘become’ or ‘do’ whatever it was that they were working so hard toward. True failure, however, means that you put a piece of yourself out in the world and the world rejected it. How often have you heard someone speak of this sort of failure? Trivial matters may seem like unimaginable failures, but until you’ve failed at some Truth about yourself, you have not failed,” the older woman consoles. “But what am I doing here? What the fuck happened?” Attila demands. “Such vulgar words for so young a child,” the older woman scolds. What? A child?, runs through Attila’s mind. Yes, of course, the older woman verifies. Attila looks down at her hands, “What the fuck? That was real?” “What is real?” the older woman retorts. “Buh … But …” Attila stammers. “But what?” the older woman inquires. “But I want to live,” Attila whispers. “For what purpose?” the older woman prods. “There were opportunities for me in that life,” Attila responds.

The older woman sighs, “Most people strive their entire lives focusing on what to do with their lives. The lucky few who have realized their potential have much bigger problems, the how. To think that merely determining what to do is the ultimate question is mere frivolous talk to those who have figured that part out. The next step, and really the only one that matters, is determining HOW to make the dream come true. For that, an even deeper search begins.” Attila shakes her head, feels dizzy, “What does that even mean?” “So now the dream is alive and well, simmering, brewing, itching at the soul for escape or at the very least, an outlet for expression. This is a great place in which to be. There are questions to be asked, however. Unfortunately, only one question matters: How does one do what one must in order to do what one wants?” the older woman continues, ignoring Attila’s confusion.

And then Attila is hit with a small revelation, At some point, it must be a relief when death becomes you. At this the older woman laughs a small laugh, “You are not dead, dear.” “What?” Attila exclaims. “You’re here because I brought you here,” the older woman adds. “Wha … what? … why?” Attila gasps. “Well, I would rather not go into too much detail, but I will say this—We know each other in the future, and the future you needs my help, and so here we are now, helping you,” the older woman lies. Attila considers this for a moment, “I don’t understand.” “You don’t have to,” the older woman consoles. “So then, what am I doing here?” Attila wonders. “You’re here so that you’re not anywhere else,” the older woman responds. “Anywhere else, like where?” Attila pries. “Anywhere but here,” the older woman answers. Feeling anxious and frustrated, Attila raises her voice and demands to know, “Why?” “But I already told you,” the older woman calmly reiterates. “Fine! Then what happens in the future that requires your intrusion into my life?” Attila extrapolates. “That’s the question you want to ask?” the older woman states, surprised. “Obviously,” Attila reveals, undeterred. “You’re not curious about how it is that you’re here or what this place even is?” the older woman attempts to redirect. “This is all a dream, so none of it probably even matters. So, fine, I don’t care. Just tell me something interesting, I guess, and eventually I’ll wake up,” Attila concedes. “But what if the place from whence you came is the dream?” the older woman challenges. Attila gives the implication little to no thought, “Well, then I guess that would be crazy.”

The older woman sits back in the seemingly uncomfortable, bistro chair and smiles, “If this is reality and you just woke from a dream, you have no qualms with that?” Attila’s tone changes dramatically, “What am I going to do?” “You should want to know the truth, yes?” the older woman poses. “There is no truth,” Attila responds; “I don’t understand life and how it really never makes any sense. I feel like I wake up in places I don’t remember falling asleep in, but then I have no real recollection about my life immediately before now. Life is but a struggle. I get it.” The older woman crosses her right leg over her left, shifts a bit in her seat, leans forward again, places her elbows on her right leg, lifts her right hand to her chin and rests her chin upon her hand, “That’s not life, dear. That’s your life.”

It’s At-la’s World, Afterall.

It’s At-la’s World, Afterall.

Dear Diary,

Karma might be a bitch, but at least she’s fair. People rarely get what they don’t deserve.


Atil ♡

“Many lifetimes ago, in the ancient days of yore, a forbidden forest grew wild and strong throughout the Hinterlands,” so the story begins according to a mother. “Where are the hin-terd-lands?” Attila asks, eyes wide, curious. “The Hin-TER-lands are a place. It’s where the forbidden forest grows,” the mother explains, calmly. “Yea but where is it, which country?” Attila presses. “It doesn’t exist in any of the countries or any of the continents of our world. It exists anywhere and everywhere. The Hinterlands are the lands unknown to mere humans,” the mother clarifies. “Why don’t the humans know about the Hinterlands?” Attila prods. “That’s what makes them Hinterlands. If people, humans, don’t know about the place, then it’s a hinterland, but this unknown place was called the Hinterlands,” the mother attempts. “I’m a human, and you’re a human?” Attila asks. “Yes,” the mother answers. “How do you know about the Hinterlands, then? If you know about this unknown place, then it’s not really all that unknown anymore, is it?” Attila challenges. The mother sighs, drops her head low and closes her eyes tight, “Attila, it’s just a story. Do you want to hear the story?” Attila nods, non-committal, and then she admits, “I want to hear a plausible story.” The mother chuckles a bit, “Do you even know what the word ‘plausible’ means?” “Yes,” Attila states smugly. “What?” the mother insists. “What, what?” Attila cajoles. “What does it mean, ‘plausible’?” the mother reiterates. Attila thinks for a moment, “It’s like … I want to hear a story that makes sense.” “Where did you even hear that word,” the mother inquires while taking a good hard look at the mere six-year-old child sitting upright yet sleepily tucked into bed. Attila puts on her best straightforward voice and replies, “I read it in a book that made sense.” “What made sense, the book or the word ‘plausible’?” the mother prods. “The book made sense and the word was in it, so it seemed like plausible is a word that makes sense,” Attila explains. The mother smiles and laughs aloud, surprised and pleased by the lighthearted exchange between them in the moment.

Dear Diary,

As a human on planet Earth, these days, the only thing you need to know is that Life does not equal anything but struggle. The sooner you realize this (and make peace with this fact) the faster you will be able to utilize the characteristics that make you uniquely human in order to reach your full potential. Your Life is not about finding happiness, but rather, about coping with the struggle that is Life. The more refined your coping strategies, the better off you will be. The other important thing to realize is that you know nothing, absolutely nothing.

On the other hand, if you want to be truly successful, you cannot work for someone else; you must have people working for you. This may seem obvious to you as you read this, but think about it, how many of you have people working FOR you? Here’s the other thing, how many of you even know where to begin in order to create a situation wherein you have people working for you?


Atil ♡

The two, in general, do not get along well or at all for that matter. Relationships between mothers and daughters have, for all of history, been points of contention, but for Attila and her mother, the contention runs deep. No one close to the family is in the know about how the relationship between the two became so strained, especially when considering the age at which such issues so obviously began to arise. Most who know the family have interacted with Attila, herself, and understand how she can be disagreeable at times. Some, however, know Attila well and describe the child, when at her worst, as pithy, vicious and petulant and, when at her best, as delicate, kind and delightful. The swings are dramatic and nearly instantaneous. Despite this emotional disparity, the strangest thing, to all, is when Attila seems almost docile, out-of-touch, absent of mind and all discernible personality. Being of a prominent family, the goingson of the family, as a whole, rarely go unnoticed. Therefore, the public, at large, assumes that Attila suffers from some psychological disorder that the family attempts, in vain, to keep under wraps with heavy doses of medication and the like. For the most part, however, Attila behaves as her delicate, kind, delightful self, and so, most people who encounter her, find that they not only like her, but also, they are deeply drawn to her. Of course, Attila seems completely unaware of her emotional flux, but she does, nevertheless, recognize the different ways in which people treat her according to whatever version of Attila they are encountering, except to say when she exists in her state of conscious obscurity.

“May I continue?” the mother requests. “Yea, sure. I’m just saying, if it doesn’t make sense, I have the right to know,” Attila bargains. “Sure,” the mother agrees. “Then yes, please continue,” Attila allows. “You’re the one who wanted a story, Attila. I, by no means, have to tell you one,” the mother reminds. Attila shrinks in stature and returns to the familiar look of a small child and nearly begs, “No! Yes, please, I want to hear a story.” The mother smiles but feels the heat of frustration rising within her, “Alright. Where was I? Oh, right, In the ancient times of yore …” “Many lifetimes ago,” Attila interrupts. The mother takes a deep breath and gives stern eyes to the small child. “Sorry, mother,” Attila apologizes. “Many lifetimes ago, in the ancient days of yore, a forbidden forest grew throughout all of the Hinterlands,” the mother attempts to begin again. Attila’s little face scrunches as if she’s holding in a deep secret. The mother looks at her and waits for the child’s face to relax. When, after a minute, the child’s face refuses to let go of whatever it is it holds onto so tightly, the mother finally asks, “What? What is it, Attila?” Attila shakes her head in refusal. The mother decides to ignore this tiny interruption and continues on, “Within the forbidden forest lived …” Attila’s breathing becomes rapid and heavy. “What’s wrong? What is it?” the mother demands, now shaking the child in an attempt to draw Attila’s child back to the present. Attila shakes her head furiously. “Just calm down,” the mother insists. Attila takes a shaky inhalation and exhales with a nasty cough. “Attila!,” the mother cries as she grabs Attila by the shoulders, ready to enact some survival maneuver; “Are you alright?” “Mother!” Attila shouts, and through gasps of breaths as if in pain, the child sobs, “the forbidden forest grows wild and strong throughout the Hinterlands! Wild and strong!” Immediately, the mother throws the child back onto the bed, “That’s enough! Go to sleep!” The mother rises from the bed, and without a kiss, she leaves the child’s room in disgust and warns, “Your games will be the death of you.”

Dear Diary,

During this time in humanity we are learning how to not accept people for who they are. Perhaps this was an innate skill developed for our own protection by choosing to surround ourselves with the biggest, brightest, and most capable of our “clan,” but now, we aren’t stuck within the confines of our immediate family or township. Today, we can choose to live anywhere, among the types of people we want, and for however short or long we determine, when considering our “happiness.” If there is something about your life that you don’t like, you can change it. You can even demand change from others simply by an ultimatum involving a threat of change. We can easily set the reset button on our lives.

The problem is that it’s becoming harder and harder to set those reset buttons. It will get to the point where humans will either be exactly who they say they are or they will be completely contrived. There will come a time when there will be no distinction between your “virtual” avatar and the “self” within you. What will happen when change is no longer accompanied by risk? What does that mean to humanity when the whole notion that social interaction hangs by the thread of truth is no longer verifiable? If you can construct a complete, “perfect” self, there are still decisions to be made. Those decision-makers…what would you call it/them?…your soul? Are the decisions you make the essence of who you are?

The reason why people shouldn’t lie to each other is because the only way a person can reach his/her awakening is if the truths about themselves are revealed to them. If someone has a fault, and the opportunity arises for that fault to be realized, do not lie to them about it, even if it will hurt their feelings. Awakening is essential to enlightenment. People lie in order to protect themselves, move themselves ahead of others, or to protect others. No matter how it’s looked at, though, a lie is between two people of a social relationship, unless it’s not. The most damaging sorts of lies are the ones about the self. When someone constantly and consistently lies to him/herself, the liar is doing far more damage to his/her own self than he/she would inflict lying to another. Humans lie in times of perceived danger; it’s antiquated and dangerous in our ever-reliant culture on sociability and prudent interactions.


Atil ♡

Like many adopted children, Attila had origin ideas of fantastic grandeur. Even before anyone explicitly told her that she was adopted, Attila had always had faint recollections of a life she could not reach; she always knew, on some level, that her parents were not her own. Unwilling, however, to be or feel ungrateful, she never made her parents feel anything less than her own. Nevertheless, once the family sat her down and explained the truth to her, Attila began to daydream, concocting all sorts of fantasies about her royal heritage or about how she had been born of forbidden love and so, must be hidden away so as not to burden a person of great fame with the shame of having borne a child under such frowned upon circumstances. Ironically, however, Attila was adopted into a family of great wealth and prominence, and it always sort of irked her when people would talk about adoption as being such an act of love and longing, and how people constantly reminded her that, “You’re the luckiest little girl in the world.” The reality is that the story of adoption is, first and foremost a tragedy, but everyone wants to forget that. A child was conceived and the person from whom the child was born could not or did not want to take care of the thing. It’s a tragedy. Sure, from the perspective of the prospective parents, the whole thing, adoption, ends up wrapped up in a bundle of love, joy, longing and wanting. However, for most parents, adoption, too, is a last resort. Adoptive parents are, so often times, stricken with the inability to reproduce on their own, so after essentially failing, they opt to raise an unwanted, parentless orphan. Again, the adoption story begins in tragedy. Only through the joining of a parentless orphan with childless parents may the tragedy be redeemed into a love story. Parents, too often, push the initial tragedy from their minds when the sadness of their own story is redeemed. They, the parents, fail to remember, however, that even though the child has a home and has parents does not mean that the child feels redeemed, has forgotten the tragedy. And so, for Attila, her adoption was always nice, and she was always grateful for the life and opportunities she was given, but her adoption, by no means, was not the greatest thing to have ever happened to her. And why should it be? Would parents of biological children expect the child to deem his/her own birth as the greatest thing to have ever happened to him/her? No, of course not, that would be ridiculous. And yet, adopted children are expected to exist on some otherly plane of gratitude and luck-filled joy.

Attila rolls over onto her belly, tucks her knees underneath her and begins to sob tears of rage, confusion, sadness and frustration; she feels trapped, trapped inside the body of her small-child self. What the hell is wrong with me? Attila wonders to herself. The last thing she remembers is living aboard an orbital out in space somewhere, far far far away in the future from when she exists now. What the hell happened? she stresses. Attila presses her mind for answers. Think, Attila! Think! The distant roar of thunder. Sitting up now, Attila wipes the tears from her eyes and looks out the window, beyond the glass toward the billowing clouds, threatening to release their contents. A strike of red lightning. What the …? Thunder screams and sears through the air; hands pressed firmly upon the window, Attila feels the vibration within the glass. The clouds part for only a moment as a streak of sunlight races across the ground below. Sealing themselves, hiding the sun from the world, the clouds return to their dark formation. Blue lightning scorches the sky above. Thunder rages through the clouds, and now Attila’s entire room rumbles ever so slightly.

Dear Diary,

I don’t waste any time on frivolous nonsense. Frivolous nonsense ought not be confused with pure, essential fun. Nevertheless, this aspect of my personality and character is something for which I catch the most flack.

It’s odd to think of transportation by air like that of ground transport. When I was younger, before only passengers were allowed beyond the airport terminal, I thought that planes took one flight a day. A plane would be sitting at the end of a long expandable tunnel, and I figured it was pulled around for the arrival of whomever I was waiting. The first time I realized that this was not so was around the time of middle school when we arrived at our designated gate and, lo and behold, there was no plane sitting at the end of the expandable tunnel! “Imagine that,” I remember thinking, “there is no plane waiting to take us where we need to go. Where is it?” Moments later the plane pulled in, a woman’s voice came over the loud system explaining her apologies for the delay and that as soon as the passengers of the arriving flight have exited, the plane cleaned, we would all soon be boarded shortly thereafter. That’s when it occurred to me, “Dad, do planes make multiple flights a day?” “Yes, of course. These planes will sometimes fly all day, back and forth between cities, states, countries.” “What?” I inquired out of disbelief. “Yea. These planes fly all day long,” my dad reiterated; “what did you think happened?” Embarrassed, I opted for something like, “Oh, I didn’t really know. That’s crazy.” All the while, in my heading, I was lambasting myself, Man, I really am stupid.

Also, the world was supposed to end today, and yet, here I am. I don’t know what that means. I also don’t know what it means that if a human could travel faster than the speed of light, we could transport ourselves anywhere through space-time in the blink of an eye. BUT then what does that mean? What does it mean to be made of something that cannot exist outside of a system of rules, relationships, and forces beyond my control? Can anything really be controlled? If nothing can truly have a choice due to the rules of being, then everything simply, IS.


Atil ♡

Unlike Attila’s relationship with her mother, Attila and her father had always seen eye-to-eye, at the very least, her father always understood her, on some level. That was, of course, until he refused. According to people who know the family, the two, father and daughter, were two peas in a pod, a king to his princess, a man protective of his only girl child. No one really knew what came between the two, but everyone knew that the loving relationship that once was the foundation of Attila’s childhood, no longer existed within her adulthood. Attila’s father would probably speak to their relationship as a matter of two people growing apart. For to him, Attila’s childish petulance, was just that, childish and ultimately, endearing when considering how he doted on Attila just so. As Attila grew older, however, her father no longer saw her dramatic, psychological swings as cute and forgivable; instead, he found himself caught, time and time again, between the love of his life, his wife, and the love he held for Attila. Thus, Attila’s father soon realized that Attila’s actions, despite being annoying to him, were painful to his wife, and so, Attila’s father decided that he would attempt to quell her outbursts, to no avail. He, Attila’s father, after all, had a reputation to maintain, and the family empire, as it were, began to suffer when Attila’s mother, the brains behind the family’s fortune, emotionally deteriorated after each contentious episode with Attila. Of course, the family thoroughly enjoyed the sedated-like breaks between Attila’s psychotic rampages, but deep down, her father wanted to know what was going on within Attila’s mind, where she went when she spent days on end in a sedentary, seemingly unconscious state. Despite what onlookers into the family drama thought or observed, Attila was, in fact, under part-time psychiatric care. Nevertheless, after a childhood filled with psychiatrists, psychologists, and even some spiritual advisers, no conclusions were ever made about what ailed Attila.

She stands upon her bed now as she watches the sky collapse in all around her; she hears the familiar voice of her father shouting from afar, “Attila!” Her father comes charging through her bedroom door, “Attila, come with me, now!” Attila hears her father but remains still, standing, hands pressed upon the glass of the window that looks out onto the only world she knows. “Attila!” her father shouts again as he reaches for her and snatches her off the bed. “Father,” Attila gently whispers as she lays in the arms of a man she recognizes; “it’s time to go now,” she squeaks. “Yes, Princess, we’re going now,” her father consoles while carrying Attila in his arms as they descend the stairs to the safest part of the house. Attila’s eyes look heavy, “No, father, you can’t come.” Her father looks at her and ignores her words since, being the child that she has always been, her words are always somewhat surprising, and so, her father gently smiles down at her face and agrees, “Perhaps not but don’t worry, I won’t let anything happen to you.” Attila smiles a small smile as she tries with all her might to keep her eyes open, “No, silly. You can’t save me. I’m going away, and then what will become of you?” Stopping mid-step, her father gives Attila one last good hard look, “Everything’s going to be … “ And then suddenly, every window in the house shatters from a blast of green. Attila’s father jumps to the level ground from about four or five steps up and shields her body with his. A moment later, when the scene settles if but only a little, Attila’s father gently lifts his body off of hers as he examines her to see if she’s alright. Limp and unconscious, the father attempts to coax her awake, “Attila. Attila, wake up. It’s alright. Wake up, Princess. Attila.” The father checks for signs of life. With no immediate success, the father begins to weep, and as his eyes fill with tears of loss and sorrow, Attila slowly fades and disappears. Sobbing and about to yell for help, the father hears the running footfalls of the mother, “Honey, are you alright? Are you hurt?” The father feels the mother collapse at his side, “I’m fine. It’s Attila.” “What? Honey, where are you hurt?” the mother inquires. “I’m fine. I’m fine. It’s …” the father reiterates as he rubs the tears from his eyes and opens them to find that Attila is gone. “Where did she go?” the father gasps as he crawls away from the scene that he believed included his precious daughter … what’s her name. “Who?” the mother asks. “ … It’s … I … wasn’t she? … I can’t remember,” the father admits as all feeling and recollection regarding, what?, he cannot remember dissipates into obscurity. He feels sick, “I was crying for some reason, but … “ And then poof, everything, the house and everything they ever knew, and everyone, the father, the mother, their other children, every single person who filled their world, in an instant, no longer existed.

How to deal with anxiety, among other things.

How to deal with anxiety, among other things.

She wakes up every morning, motionless, now conscious of her own consciousness, eyes closed; she removes herself from her own mental vicinity and ponders, “Look at me, lying in this bed, sprawled out beneath the covers, a smudge on the mattress, a mattress that is not even large enough to fill the room, and I not even large enough to smother the mattress. This room, measured in mere feet, so tiny, yet still a part of something larger, the entire apartment. The apartment, still a part of the larger building. The building, an insignificant one of roughly a hundred that line the city block. One block. One block of thousands that intertwine, directing the flow of human movement throughout the city. This city, one of thousands of cities that litter this planet, Earth. One planet that routinely circles our Star. A star of an unknown infinite amount of stars that burn, embrace the little orbs that have emerged around each giver of life. The Earth, a speck of a planet when considering the infinitude that is the universe. Each city, a speck on the speck that is Earth. Each building, lining each street of each speck of a city that is a speck on the speck that is Earth. The compartments dividing up each building speck that line the streets of all cities that are specks upon the speck that is Earth. The mattress, which is a speck within the apartment contained within a building the size of a speck that lines the streets that create the speck of a city on the speck that is Earth. And I, a smudge on the speck that is a mattress in a room the mattress does not even fill. Then, after realizing my own insignificance, I coerce myself from the position of smudge in a pathetic attempt to create some sort of significance as an insignificant speck so forcibly existing upon this insignificant speck ad infinitum. I used to complain about where I live, wishing I could live elsewhere, only taking into account the various cities of planet Earth. How small and stupid to think about now. I used to live my life as though I had a choice at all. Where do I want to live when I grow up? What do I want to do? The delusion we’ve all bought into when thinking that we have any power resembling choice is so archaic. We make things, create things, in hope that our own insignificance will be less insignificant among the insignificance that is everything.” The statement makes sense to her now, “All truly is vanity.”

She’s bored; she’s mind-numbingly bored by the prosaic lives of those who write themselves out of their own histories, by those who cause their own obsolescence. There’s this idea, she believes, that people will somehow not go unnoticed, that, even if someone does nothing, something, for which they have had great hope, will happen, will come their way, that success is something that finds them. Perhaps this is true; perhaps this is even possible. “Just think about it, though,” she says; “Think about the ridiculousness of this fantasy. Do nothing, and by some, what, stroke of fortune?, a person’s gifts, talents, abilities, intellect, etc., will be admired and raised up on high for all the world to see? What gifts? The person has done nothing. What talents? The person has done nothing. What abilities? The person has done nothing. What intellect? The person has done nothing.” She pauses for a moment to quell the rage. “The world fools the fool by creating the perception of success by way of unearned attention. This, however, only rings true for a select few and only for a select time. The world also, nevertheless, fools the fool by reiterating the assumption that through hard work, anyone may find true, lasting success. This, however, only rings true for a select few and only through select means,” she outlines, if only briefly. “But then how can one succeed? What’s the secret?” the furtive man asks through an embarrassed look. She sees the shame on the furtive man’s face, “The world convinces the fool that there is a way to success if one simply follows whatever steps are being sold at any given time and place.” The furtive man has no qualms about being seen or, at the very least, being perceived as a foolish man, “So anyone could possess the potential to be successful, but luck is hard to come by?” She considers this for a moment, “But how many people do you know live up to their full potential or even try?” This, the furtive man now considers, “I think I only know maybe one person who I thinks really, you know, goes for it, wants to be successful and actually aspires to it, works specifically for it.” “The question was more rhetorical,” she interjects. “Sure, yea, but now that I’m thinking about it, I want to think about it,” the furtive man admits. She sits back and watches the man think.

After some time, the furtive man seems to have come to some conclusion, “Yes, I think that you’re right. I think that most people definitely want to be successful, but they definitely don’t want to work as hard as it probably takes to actually get there.” “Why don’t they want to work as hard as you believe success requires?” she poses. “Oh, I don’t know,” the furtive man quickly concedes. “Sure you do. Give it some thought,” she suggests; “You can think out loud if that’s easier.” The furtive man furrows his brows hard, deciding whether or not he wants to open his mind to her. She laughs aloud at this. “What?” the furtive man asks, concerned. “Oh, it’s nothing,” she brushes; “There’s nothing to worry about, though, you’ve already made your mind available to me.” The furtive man’s face contorts into a look of mild shock, but being the fool that he is, he decides he no longer wants to be that fool, “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Do you still want me to think out loud?” She chuckles a bit to herself, “Do you want to learn something through the powers of your own thinking?” Yes, yes I do, the furtive man quietly thinks to himself. “Of course you do,” she clarifies. “Okay, then,” the furtive man begins.

“People, you said, think success comes through hard work. But most people don’t want to work hard. I guess that means they’re lazy. But I know some people who work really hard. They like to work. They go to work happily and work really hard. But maybe they’re not doing the right kind of work? I guess they’re successful in their own way by having a good job and working hard at that job. They can eat and have the things they need. So they’re a success. But even these people want, um, they want more. More money or to be really rich or something. They just want to be rich. So then rich means success,” the furtive man smiles in surprise at himself. Eyes fixed on her hands as she plays with them atop the table top, she gently smiles back. The furtive man feels powerful and confident now, “So then, these people want to blame success on luck. If luck is the only way to find success, then a person does not have to feel bad for being not successful because they can just say they’re not lucky. Unlucky. This way, the person who works hard and has enough to live a good life can feel really good even if they are not rich because they can say that they work hard but just haven’t had that big lucky break or something. But isn’t it kind of lucky that they’ve been able to work? But people don’t want to work. They don’t want to work hard, but really, they don’t want to work at all. What do these people want?” She glances up at the furtive man, “What is it that you want?” The furtive man thinks hard, and then he thinks harder. “I don’t know,” the furtive man finally answers, and then a small revelation befalls him, “They don’t know either.” She nods a small nod and returns to fiddling with her own fingers, “People think that they are somehow unique in some way.” “But we aren’t, are we?” the furtive man somberly states. “Everyone wants the same thing, and yet, they believe they want something specifically special or different from everyone else; all the while, they don’t even realize that they don’t want anything at all really, except whatever it is that everyone else has and wants, which ends up being nothing at all,” she concisely muses. The furtive man’s brows furrow even more intently as he flatly states, “But you are not like us.” She smiles and looks the furtive man in the eyes. The furtive man begins to heat up as if she’s penetrating him and seeing directly into his soul. She eases her gaze, drums her fingers upon the table, with an air of sarcasm calmly accuses, “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

“Return to that idea of everyone not knowing what they want,” she directs. “What?” the furtive man asks, forgetful. She stops drumming her fingers, “People, they are all in want of something, but whatever that something is, they do not know, and so, they end up wanting whatever it is that everyone wants.” The furtive man begins to shiver a bit, “I don’t know if I agree with that. Just because nobody knows what they want, doesn’t really mean that they just want whatever anyone else has or wants.” “How so?” she challenges. “Well, people buy and have all sorts of different things,” the furtive man easily replies. “Do they?” she poses. “Yea, sure. I mean, sure everyone has main things that they need, like a bed, kitchen stuff, living room stuff, vehicles and whatnot. But people all want different versions of these things. Not everyone wants a black vehicle or the same size couch or, you know,” the furtive man deciphers. “Take a step back, though, from all that stuff that is supposedly so different. Imagine you were an alien visiting this planet and you could only see all of the parts as a whole. Would couches and vehicles really look so unique and different?” she offers. “I don’t know. Maybe. But guess a couch is still a couch and a vehicle is still a vehicle,” the furtive man contemplates but not too intently. And then the furtive man thinks he’s onto something, “But what about businesses and companies and stuff. There are so many businesses that all do such different things, so wouldn’t that mean that people are buying so many different things?” “Are there really so many businesses?” she wonders. “Yea, I think so,” the furtive man agrees. “What does it take for a business to be successful or prominent?” she poses again. “Well, they have to be the best. People buy from the business that makes the best stuff,” the furtive man confidently answers. She drums her fingers on the tabletop once more. Really? she squints and scoffs into the mind of the furtive man. “Yea, people want the best stuff,” the furtive man responds. “But do they buy the best stuff?” she asks. “No,” the furtive man replies almost laughing; “of course they don’t buy the best stuff.” “Why? You just said they want the best stuff, so why don’t they buy the best stuff?” she prods. “Cause stuff is expensive, so sometimes you just have to buy whatever it is that you need and can find for the cheapest price,” the furtive man states, almost smugly, as if she’s the idiot. And then it dawns on the furtive man’s mind, “Oh, shit.” “Yes,” she agrees; “if people are so unique in their wants, how could any one company provide and sell a product to enough people to be worth millions, billions, trillions of dollars? A company with that much prominence must sell its product to the masses. But if each individual was so unique, there could not be such a thing as an appeal to the masses. Therefore, since there is a way to appeal to the masses, people, in general, are not unique, and that’s not even the worst part—people are also not even individuals.” The furtive man sits back, “Yes, that makes sense.” The two sit silently for a while.

After considering this for a moment, the furtive man’s eyes light up, “But the worst part isn’t that people are not individuals.” She leans forward onto her elbows; she has been waiting for this moment of clarity to rise within the furtive man’s mind. “The worst part,” the furtive man begins, feeling hot, aglow; “the worst part is that people want all of this stuff that they don’t really even want, to be handed to them. People just want whatever is best because other people perceive and decide what is best, and so businesses make whatever it is that people deem best expensive to buy, and then people start to strive for things that they only want because other people have decided that those are the things they want because other people want them. Businesses use us to get our money. Businesses make us spend our money so that they can be rich and we’re always poor. But people don’t want to work hard for more money, they just want everything to be cheaper, but the things that are deemed best are expensive, but they are expensive on purpose. So maybe some people work harder to have more money, but then they just use that money to buy the expensive things. But most people don’t want to work hard to buy the best, expensive stuff. They just want it handed to them. But I don’t. I don’t believe in shortcuts. I think that people who take shortcuts are lazy,” The furtive man’s face flushes with rage. “You simply have not had a shortcut presented to you,” she condescends. “Yea, so. I know I would not take it,” the furtive man demands, obstinate. “You cannot know what cannot be known, and in this case, only the direct experience of a thing will reveal the truth,” she condemns. More silence for a time.

“There, a question remains,” she suggests. Blinking hard, the furtive man presses his mind for the obvious question. She drums her fingers gently, examines the fingernails of her left hand, and gently sighs. Feeling anxious, the furtive man finally takes a stab at the question, “When did money become so important?” “Yes,” she congratulates, and then continues, “but go back even further.” “Go back where?” the furtive man asks, confused. She responds with silence, allows the furtive man the opportunity to keep using his mind. The furtive man thinks through this again, aloud, “Most people only have enough money to buy what they need each month after being paid. These people have to work to get paid, and then they spend their paychecks on the things they need until they get paid again. Rich people do not work. So where does their money come from? It comes from us, the people who have to spend their paychecks on what they need. The richest people have a lot of money, and they do not work, or they do not have to work, but they have money. They’re also above us people who have to work. So they do not live or go places where people who work for money go. So where do they go? They live in some other world, but they own businesses that make the stuff we buy. So, they’re still part of our world; they’re just not in it. So they’re like gods or like powerful people. They’re powerful. Rich people have power. But where does that power come from? Their money? But not all rich people are powerful. Some people are rich and not powerful. But all powerful people are rich. But before money, riches, how did people become powerful? Who gave away the power? Where does power come from?” She grins and squints, And? “How do I become powerful?” the furtive man finally asks. “Yes,” she validates; “Yes.”

She puts on a smile so the world may see,

the she in her she wants to deceive;

with a plan and a purpose too great to relieve,

she pursues the perception wholeheartedly, naive.

“So now what?” the furtive man asks. She leans back, poises herself to relax until she feels a familiar mind. But be sure not to forget the finely tuned balancing act of ensuring that the public remains poor but not too poor, the familiar mind transmits. She squeezes her eyes shut to see if she can place the mind. Continuing on, the familiar mind smiles at her, Of course, the rich afford much beyond mere stuff. Still, she cannot place the mind, and then she opens her eyes as she catches the face of a man walking by outside. Hello, old man, she greets. Suddenly, however, she is overcome by a sense of inconsistency as she realizes that she recognizes the old man’s face, but she knows that they have not yet met. Sure you met me already. We’ve met many times. You could say that we know each other quite well, in fact. The problem is that you simply did not remember me when you see me in a few days from now, the old man almost giggles, delighted. She sighs, Of course, I remember you from tomorrow, but I will not have remembered you yesterday. But you remember me now? the old man inquires. Yes, she admits. The furtive man leans forward and watches her face as she seems to be slowly disappearing into nothingness, “Hey, are you alright?” She gently presses the pointer finger of her right hand on her own lips. “Oh, sorry,” the furtive man whispers as he leans back into his chair; he looks around and about himself to see if he can see whatever it is that she sees.

And all of this, of course, reveals yet another level of control by the wealthy, for they can and may and therefore do buy themselves out of “illegal” actions. The super rich and the truly poor are the only types of people who regularly commit crimes, the old man continues. She winces at the old man’s condescension. Obviously, she comments; allow them to make enough money to acquire the things they need and aspire to the things they want but nothing more and nothing less. The old man chuckles, It’s amazing how the simple threat of monetary punishment is enough to keep the general population lawful. She sighs in an attempt to make light of the situation, Why are you here? Not why, what, the old man clarifies. The two are essentially the same thing, she retorts. Essentially but not exactly, the old man chortles. She solemnly clears her mind, makes space for the old man. The old man looks older now than when she meets him in the future, Impossible. What happened? What is happening, the old man corrects. Where is the older woman? she demands. Not where, when, the old man corrects again. Why, she states flatly, not really asking. How, the old man insists. Shit, she whispers. Yes, the old man agrees. Where is he! she shouts. With the Listmaker, the old man calmly answers. She takes a step back, shocked. But how? she wonders. Not how, where, the old man addresses. Cinoa, she gasps as she turns away from the old man. Yes, the old man whispers. The older woman, she whispers as she turns back to face the old man. Where is he, then? she demands. With the Listmaker, the old man reiterates. Where is the Listmaker!, you fool! she shouts, angry. At her tone the old man takes a step back, disappointed. I’m here to help, the old man states. Are you? she accuses. And now the two straighten to full height, full power. Slowly, the old man’s aging face returns to the less-aged face she knew when she will meet him. She remembers the distinction the old man made about how it is now why he is here that matters but rather, the what, What are you doing here? I’m trying to find you, the old man smugly answers. You’ve succeeded. So, what do you want? she challenges. Not I, you and not want, need, the old man gently states. She sighs and calms herself with a few deep breaths, Where is he and the Listmaker? No, the old man responds. Fine, she exhales hard; the games you play must be played. Yes, the old man smiles; so please, play. She sighs again, frustrated, knowing that she cannot simply play the old man’s games for she cannot refer to herself. The implications of the statement you require reveal themselves as impossible to render in a reality wherein one may speak of one’s self, she attempts. Perhaps then, the old man offers; there is another way.

She sees the face of the furtive man in the mind of the old man, He is soft of mind. The old man nods, Which should make the whole process quite easy for you. Suddenly, she gets the strange sense that this has all happened before, but she cannot be sure. No, not before, but it will again, the old man warns. She whips her head up and shoots her eyes into the old man’s face, What did you say? The old man takes a small step back, and then for an indistinguishable moment, he looks uncomfortable. Quickly, however, the old man readjusts his position and slowly walks toward her, No, none of this has happened before, but it will happen again. Nearly toe-to-toe, the old man stops just as each of their faces can feel the breath of the other upon them. She narrows her eyes, Is that a threat? The old man backs up a bit as her face relaxes into a kind, meek gaze, It’s like I will say to you—it’s a promise. A queasy sensation hits her in the gut as she ponders a few options. The old man listens in as she contemplates the reality of the situation, and then he interrupts her, Does the man who accompanies you have a name? She blinks herself out of her thoughts, Assumedly. I suppose then, the old man smiles slyly; I should introduce myself. Immediately, she understands the old man’s meaning. “Do not speak to the old man who is about to approach you,” she whispers through still-closed eyes. The furtive man jumps a bit at the abruptness of her command, for for the furtive man, she only just lowered her finger from her lips, but he, the furtive man, was under the initial impression that she would be “out” for more than a mere second. “What?” the furtive man requires. It takes another moment before she is awake and lucid; she blinks hard, wriggles her face of the feeling of sleep and stretches her neck. She looks around them, “Do not speak to anyone.”

The clatter of a bell that hangs above a door announces the entrance/exit of a potential/previous customer. Seated along the same wall as the front door that made its recent announcement of, what appears to be, an entering, potential customer, she and the furtive man are in the far corner of the space. She, of course, knows who enters. The furtive man, curious, looks to the door to see who forced the door’s bell to ring. “Who is he?” the furtive man asks. “None of your concern,” she commands. “He’s looking right at me and walking over here,” the furtive man states as he straightens up, looks nervous. “Remain silent,” she demands. “He looks nice enough,” the furtive man notices. She gives him a stern look. “Alright,” the furtive man concedes.

Friendship, according to the middle-aged Old Man

Friendship, according to the middle-aged Old Man

Everything hurts; everything aches, and he never really wanted to be part of any of this anyway. It was happen-chance and circumstance. Now, he realizes, everything has gone to shit, so far so, that even she has lost control. He needs to make a plan, but for what exactly, he cannot know.

When the old man was a young man, he could easily be satisfied, bought really, for the lowest of prices. The problem, when characterized as such by most of the people close to him, revolved not around his ambition or, what was it called?, monumental hustle, but rather, he lacked a form of persuasiveness, personal identity. At first, as an adolescent, the care-free, rebellious attitude hailed a fortuitousness, an optimism about his personality and the potential within. Seemingly gifted with skills ranging from music to mathematics, the adolescent old man dabbled in everything from woodworking and gardening to engineering and theoretical physics. All of adolescent old man’s interests were encouraged, praised and even funded by his friends and family. Everyone knew, of course, that the adolescent old man would be “the one” to “make it.” But then the questions that were looming in the adolescent version of the old man’s future became questions needing answers in the present, all of his previous, applauded efforts were now scrutinized with questions and constructive criticisms about how he must and ought to filter all of these dabblings into a marketable brand.

After a certain age, of course, each pursuit of a person must be scalable, built into a unique perspective that would ultimately allow for monetization—the person as the brand, the sellable object rather than a thing itself being sold as goods or services. This, of course, forced the adolescent old man’s hand, and by the time he was a young adult, the old man sold every itty bit of himself to the highest, nay, to the quickest bidder. With every new product that wanted to use the young adult old man as a tool for their own progress and devices, the young adult version of the old man transformed, shifted, sifted and sorted himself into whatever type of necessary mold each new branded version of his rulers required. In essence, the old man was being paid by advertisers, nay compensated by partners to simply live his life. And of course, people soon took notice of the old man’s proliferation, but somewhere deep down inside, the old man knew that the life he fabricated and portrayed himself as did not match the life he lived or even desired. But what’s the harm?, the old man constantly asked himself in constructed consolation. For years, the young adult old man lived under the direction of large companies that happily paid him to advertise to a willingly participatory audience. On some level, of course, the people who encountered, followed and ultimately loved the young adult old man’s life, were in on the scene, even aspired to be used as a tool as well. And so, for years, the young adult old man soon grew into an adult old man as his faithful following watched on, half in envy, half in pride. The flame that burns bright warms many.  

The old man’s family was transfixed by his transcendence into the world of emergent celebrity. Even though they understood that the adult old man really did not DO anything. On any given day, the adult old man would simply consult his list of sponsors and partners who were all aligned in a never-ending timeline of products that needed to be used, touted, experienced, etc. Most of the products needed a lot of preparation and planning, and so, the adult old man would plan accordingly and live out whichever product was on the table for that day.

Eventually, of course, the adult old man grew weary of living a life controlled by the whims of advertisers who made huge profits off of his life. Sure, the old man was compensated heavily and the celebrity was a huge bonus, but at some point he realized that he wanted something more; he wanted something real. What could he possibly do, however, since most of his funds were funded by doing the things that were offered and controlled as things for which he ultimately traded his life. Surprisingly, the old man’s family soon became fatigued with his constant, incessant self-promotion. Even more surprisingly, the old man’s family intervened, but before they could share their concerns, he admitted that he needed a change. Relieved, everyone, except a slight few, immediately began to push the old man into their own self-serving directions. Some wanted the old man to focus and pick a lane already, but most simply wanted to be within a close proximity to him so that, if all goes as planned, they too could trade their lives for the promotion of stuff. And then the adult old man finally began to learn some important lessons about the world and the people within it.

What the old man learned at first, revolved mostly around his own self. To the old man’s own amazement, he physically felt how much he lacked as a person. He was a shell of a man; a man pretending to be whatever it was that he thought of as “man.” For too long, he had basically done what he was told and with little to no opinions of his own, he embodied the ideal type of person any future advertiser could ever want. What advertisers wanted were people with little to no personality, since, without much of a personality, a person lacks not only intelligence but also, opinions. And when an advertiser wants someone to advertise something, the last thing the advertiser wants to deal with is a person who has an opinion about the product that differs from the message of the advertiser. So, of course, the old man, as an adolescent dabbler with no real intrinsic motivation, fit the mold so perfectly. Sure, it may seem odd how the adolescent old man lacked hustle yet still managed to rise through the ranks of self-promotion superstardom. But the reality points to something much more sinister. The adolescent old man was not much of a self-promoter in the first place, but he did promote himself. And when a person possesses a certain level of, say, attractiveness, his influence and prominence all adds up. Hustle, despite what most believe, is not what is required when tackling the ranks of self-promotion superstardom. What matters, in fact, is the ability to lack depth. Again, this may seem like an odd, perhaps somewhat obvious statement, but most people actually are striving, searching for something, something more. Some people, however, are more capable than others at ignoring what they cannot see and accepting the world for whatever shallow existence being followed affords. The other reality, arguably, is that most people honestly do not like to be followed and would rather, follow the lead of others. This is not to say that this type of person would dismiss a stroke of fortune wherein a person who would rather not be followed is suddenly followed by many for reasons either known or unknown to him or her or them.

The point is that as an adolescent youth, the old man fit the mold, the ideal for what advertisers called “top tools.” However, as the old man grew older, the adult version of himself began to rear its independent head and ask questions, questions the old man surely did not want to face. Thus, the adult old man no longer fit the top tool mold. The shift resonated loudly and clearly to any prospective advertiser, and within a month, the old man’s self-promotion superstardom had faded to nothing but a small glimmer of a past now long gone. The old man had all but lost hope until he received an invitation to join a psychology program for the gifted and talented. The specifics of how this program came by the old man’s credentials illuminated the depth and breadth of his former self-promotion superstardom reach.

Shocked but excited, the still young-adult-aged, adult old man quickly accepted. Within a week the adult old man’s existence in time met with the time at which he was to depart and off he went to the secure location of the program’s facilities. Unbeknownst to the old man at the time of his acceptance, the program would take place in outer space. This, of course, only thrilled him further. At the program’s facility, the adult old man underwent a series of psychological evaluations, and soon, he found out that the program was not a program wherein he would learn psychology or absorb any other science-related knowledge. Instead, the adult old man began to have suspicions about whether or not he and his mind was the psychological information from which the program would learn. Either way, the old man was satisfied, and admittedly, proud that the program would want to search his mind, and eventually, the old man learned that yes, he was the subject of the psychological tests, as opposed to psychology being the subject on which he would be tested.

“Of course I’m a bad friend. Being a bad friend is the only way to be a good friend. But, uh, yea, other people don’t really seem to see things my way, ever, so yea, I get it, I’m a bad friend. Here’s the thing though, maybe I don’t fully understand how to be the kind of friend that someone else wants me to be … uh … to them, but I know how to be a person, and if you want me to be a person whom you would also like to consider a friend, then why would you, as a person in want of a friend, that friend being me, want to change me, make me be something that I am not, something that fits into some molded idea of whatever it is that you accept as the … sorry … as an appropriate definition for whatever it is that you want friend to mean, be. Okay, here’s an example, or, I guess, here are three separate ideas of friendship that I can pull from my own life as real-life examples of people in my life who all wanted different things from me as a friend, none of them, really, being me.

“First example, a friend from my childhood, someone I grew up with. So, yea, supposedly, we went to preschool together or yea; there are pictures. Anyway, we ended up going to different schools through the middle portion of our grade-school education, but then we managed to connect when we ended up at the same high school. That time of my life was probably the best time of my life. We existed within a larger group of friends, but whenever that friend-group broke down into smaller more manageable pieces, this friend and I would pair up. Looking back on it now, I feel like we spent every waking moment together. Of course, this is not true, we both participated in totally different extracurricular activities, and yea, we had totally different schedules, and yet, we managed to do a lot together. It was a great friendship for the time. Fast forward through college and everything fell apart, which was fine. We went to different schools in different states. I mean, come on, it’s hard enough to keep up with your own family much less friends when you’re away at college. But things are what they are, and we were still very friendly when we did cross paths, which was about a handful of times over the course of four years. Oh, yea, so here’s something, the friend ended up becoming pretty good friends with other acquaintances of ours from high school, and even developed really great friendships with new people. But, this friend endured a … serious accident. Obviously, I don’t want to go into too specific of details, since, I don’t want to garner permissions for whatever, being able to talk about this person. Anyway. This friend survived a serious accident, and when this friend had to go to the doctor’s for a check-up slash extrication of nose splints, guess who was there in the doctor’s office as … compulsory support. That’s right, I was. Even with all of these friends this friend has made and had, I was the one who accompanied this friend to the doctor’s for, what was quite honestly, a mildly disgusting procedure. But this is neither here nor there. Yea, so we grew apart. I had no problem with that. I had built a life of my own without this friend, but honestly, I was under the impression that if our paths crossed, we’d get in touch. And then that assumption, stupid of me, I know, was blown to bits. Yea, that’s right, you’ve probably guessed it by now. I lived in the same city as most of her friends, while this friend lived back in our hometown. Every time I went back home to visit my parents or to use my parents, haha, I would hit this friend up for a quick visit or whatever. But then I found out that this friend had been to my city to visit friends and was in town for quite some time, no doubt, the friend did not reach out to visit me. And then it happened again and again and again. So, now, I had this idea about our friendship that the friend apparently did not have. It was sad, and sure, I was mad, but then I got over it … our friendship. We were no longer friends. So, when the time came for me to attend this friend’s wedding, fuck, are you kidding me?, of course I didn’t go. We’ve tried to rekindle our friendship from time to time, but who am I kidding? We’ve grown so far apart by now, and honestly, the friend hasn’t done much in the way of … uh … life, so yea. I’d be surprised if we had anything in common anymore. Of course I wish this friend and the friend’s spouse a wonderful, happy life, but be serious, I don’t really give a shit. Any reconnecting in the future will be because the friend will want to have the semblance of a relation to me.

“Now, as for the next friendship, things developed quickly and fell apart just as fast. As gay as this may sound, this next friendship was like a summertime fling or something really fucking gay like that. Okay, okay, wait, here’s the really funny part about this particular friend. So, we had actually met and were co-counselors at this thing that we were both volunteers at, but I definitely don’t want to get into the specifics of that at this time. Anyway, so we were co-counselors, and then I totally fucking forgot about this person. Like seriously, this is how not-suited we were to even be friends in the first place. I would later learn that this friend remembered me and definitely had an opinion. During this convo, I had to pretend as if I remembered this friend when we were co-counselors. Anyway. So, we met in college. Apparently, we had registered for the same class. From the first day I saw this person, I kept thinking to myself, where or what do I know this person from? I couldn’t put my finger on it for the life of me. Then, one day, after class, this person approached me, and we were introduced again. I immediately made the connection and knew it! Happy to have made a friend, yea I know how that sounds, we grabbed some lunch together and instantaneously became friends. I thought that this person’s actions were so bold and straightforward that I assumed, stupidly, that this would go down as an epic friendship. I wasn’t wrong, until I was. We had a blast for about a year and a half until things started to really fall apart. This friend would accuse me of only hanging out when it was convenient for me, but the friend failed to realize that we hung out when it was convenient for the friend as well. The friend had other friends, just like I did, but for some reason, I was the only one who hung out when it was convenient. It was starting to get really frustrating. Sometimes I’d initiate a hang and the friend would be busy. Other times the friend would initiate a hang and I’d be busy. But when our schedules aligned, we’d hang out. I never took offense to the friend being unavailable. It’s the way things are. I mean, fuck, that’s life. The friend did not understand things in this way.

“Then, I graduated, and the friend still had another semester. So, yea, we were living in two different cities, and even though we were only about an hour apart, we were living completely different lives. The friend was still in college; I was a working adult. And then, the friend couldn’t land a job, so the friend moved to a foreign country. Oh my fucking ay, this is when things went from bad to worse. The friend is … let’s just say … a fraud. I don’t know how to put it any other way. The friend goes to great pains to uphold an image. Obviously, everyone does this, but not really to the extent that this friend did. Of course it’s possible that everyone is as bad as the friend, but I had never encountered it to such an extent. Anyhow, the friend publicized a picture with a … significant other wherein the friend looked just truly miserable. I did the friendly thing and pointed out this little situation to the friend, and yea, all hell broke lose. It was a shit storm of everything horrible the friend thought about me and had basically held all wound up inside. So, yea, I think it’s safe to say that we’re not friends anymore, at least, not according to me … I? The point here, however, is that my behavior was completely … uh, on brand?, oh shit, mother-fucker, it fucking seeps in whether or not you want it to! Fuck! It was so typical of me. I don’t think anyone who knows me would be surprised by my … willingness. Sure, perhaps the comment was not warranted, but any true friend of mine should know what to expect. And, just as an aside, I know that saying anything negative to a so-called friend makes you a bad friend, which is what confuses me about the whole idea of friendship in the first fucking place!

“Fine, now, the last example of a friend I actually seriously liked. So, I had also met this friend one time before we actually became friends. The friend was a sibling of a friend of mine. Anyway. When I graduated from college, I moved to the capital city of the state within which I resided. The city was only an hour or so away from where I went to school. Since I had grown up in that same state and had friends, I put a few feelers out and found an apartment. At the time I didn’t know that the building was owned by the friend who was the sibling of the person who would soon become my friend. So, I lived in the building for a few months with a particular love interest, and funny enough, I actually received a few notes posted on the door about how we needed to be quieter when we … listened to music … haha … no … when we fucked, but also when we listened to music. Anyway, I immediately assumed this person was a fucking cocksucker, so I paid the person no attention aside from a few congenial exchanges of greeting whenever we passed each other in the hall. Shit. I honestly don’t know how we actually became friends. I think one night the person made a big dinner or something and invited the sibling, who was my friend-ish and myself along with my love interest at the time. And then I think the person introduced us to a great phở place or something. I honestly can’t remember now, how we went from acquaintances to friends. But whatever. As it turned out, this person was super duper into dope, so we lit it up every once in awhile together, and it was great. I can proudly state that this person was my favorite friend … like maybe ever. Anyway. We would smoke dope together, and I even was this person’s supplier for a time. The person was older than me, which was nice, and we just like got along. There was none of that, you’re busy, I’m busy shit. Of course, it was convenient that we lived in the same building. But then the day came when I realized that we were actually friends and that I liked this person more than any other friend … ever. And obviously, this excludes the love interest, but that’s a completely different story. So, one day, the friend came over wanting advice about a certain … person of interest. It’s hard to use love interest in this context since the friend definitely didn’t love this person, or at least, the friend didn’t want to love this person. The point is that this friend came barging into my apartment and demanded that I tell the truth, that I lay it out there, that I say what’s on my mind regarding the friend in question and the person of interest, in question. I was blown away. I couldn’t believe that I had finally found a friend who understood me. The friend didn’t want to hear whatever it was that the friend wanted to hear. The friend wanted to hear the truth. So I told the friend the truth, and from that day forward, I considered that friend my best friend, and I can honestly say that I had never had a best friend before. And then maybe six months or so later, I left the country, forever.

“So yea, I get it. I am a bad friend. I know that I’m a bad friend, but I’m also the best friend any person could ever hope to have. The problem is that most people do not understand friendship, and by extension, most people do not understand me as a friend. In the eyes of the world. I’m a very very bad friend. But according to me and what I consider makes a good person, I am a great friend, the best anyone could ever have. Luckily for me, I met someone who understood and appreciated this about me. Unfortunately, that person died many lifetimes ago. If that’s all you want me to say, I have no problem saying it. I’m a bad friend. I have no friends. So, all you’d have to do is ask anyone I have been friends with and they’ll tell you for themselves. I’m the worst best friend. The thing you will learn from these people, however, is that they’re bad people. That is why, in their eyes, I’m a bad friend. I could go on for days and days breaking down every single friendship I’ve ever had, and the bottom line would be the same, I’m a bad friend, but the people with which I was friends are worse people. Not in a blatant sense as if saying, ‘You’re a bad person.’ I mean, in the generic sense of saying, ‘You’re not good at being a person.’ Admittance is not the problem; I’ll admit anything. I do feel like I’m just talking about myself a lot, though, but I guess that’s kind of the point.

“I would say that I probably learned about what it means to be brave from another one of my past friends, with whom I am, distinctly, no longer friends. Anyway. This friend was particularly outgoing and socially … magnetic. I would consider myself a shy person, but I’m definitely extroverted. I think that people definitely get the wrong idea about quiet or shy people. I think most people think that if a person is shy or quiet, then that person must be reserved or introverted, preferring to not be around people, but if that were the case, then how is it that you’re in the company of a shy person? The shy person is specifically not sitting around at home being introverted; that person is out and about, being among other people, notably those who are judging the shy, quiet person as an introvert. But that’s beside the point. Well and the same goes for socially magnanimous people as well, such as my friend. This friend was, like I said, socially magnetic, loud, entertaining, bold, you know, socially adept. And wouldn’t you know it, the friend was a hardcore introvert. I mean, like an introvert’s introvert. So there you have it. The confusion for people, in general, regarding introverted versus extroverted people is that I think most people think that intro/extroversion is somehow tied to your personality, when that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. Intro/extroversion seems to simply label a person’s social preference, but no matter what that person’s personal preference for solitary or multitudinous socializing may be does not really determine the personality of a person. Meaning, if someone prefers to be alone, that doesn’t automatically mean that person shares any personality traits with say, a recluse agoraphobe. And when someone prefers to be surrounded by people, it doesn’t mean that that person naturally shares traits with a narcissistic attention whore. But again, that’s neither here nor there. What I’m trying to get at is the sort of flipped nature of my friendship with a boisterous introvert while I was a shy extrovert.

“One day, this friend and I were out getting a bite to eat or something, and I asked the friend something about how the friend is so socially magnetic or whatever, and then proceeded to explain how jealous I was because this friend had so many friends, was so social and it was just crazy to me that the friend was so socially adept. The friend promptly sat back and wondered at my musings. To which I sort of responded by explaining my jealousy as stemming from what seemed to be the friend’s bravery of sorts and that I was always so scared or nervous to speak out or be part of things out of fear of looking stupid or something. Then the friend laughed and laughed and looked at me as if I was crazy. What the friend said next was when I learned about what bravery actually meant. The friend explained how the friend felt nervous and scared most of the time as well, but the friend just pushed passed it and sucked up the fear and just went with it … whatever it was. Sometimes, obviously, the fear would get the better of the friend, and the friend would feel like a coward. Most of the time, though, the friend found that other people appreciated when the friend was socially dynamic. The friend also thought that being an introvert actually made the friend better at reading people and situations, which then allowed the friend to behave appropriately, i.e. being boisterous when necessary, being reserved when necessary. Basically, the friend believed that being socially bold is not about having no fear at all; social boldness is about recognizing one’s own feelings, reading a situation, and then behaving accordingly. According to the friend, there’s nothing more obnoxious than a loud-mouth controlling and demanding the center of attention when the event is all about another person, that person specifically not being the loud-mouth. The same rings true in the opposite direction as well. If you are the reason why everyone has gathered to have a good time, it’s equally distasteful to be quiet, shy, and altogether unsocial.

“Clearly, this insight blew my mind. First, I had no idea, ever, that this particular friend felt uncomfortable in social situations. Second, I had no idea that this friend was an introvert. But when I looked back at our relationship, it all sort of made sense. The friend had a very precise, well-calculated social schedule, and I always sort of thought the friend was calculated for some social reason that gave the friend control over the friend’s other friends or something, but the more this friend shared with me about social interactions and the friend’s own approach to it, I realized that the friend needed more alone time than social interaction, which was why the friend scheduled social time so thoroughly and thoughtfully. The friend, in my friend’s words, explained how social interaction was physically draining. Interacting with other people took so much effort and awareness that the friend actually felt emotionally drained and exhausted, the way that you feel after a hard workout, was the way the friend put it. And just like the body needed rest from time to time, the friend’s soul/mind/emotions, whatever, needed a break as well. That’s introversion. But when the friend interacted with people, you would never know that the friend preferred to be alone. It was so crazy. I felt exactly opposite. I always wanted to be around people; people fueled me, made me energetic. But you would never know that I wanted to be around anyone at all with how I would act and behave when around others. The friend helped me with this too, since, I wanted to be more like the friend. The best thing I ever did was to share this part of myself with this friend. Now that the friend knew what I was going through and dealing with, the friend helped me combat my nerves and anxiety about feeling or looking stupid in front of people.

“I won’t really go into the specifics of what went down, or I should? Okay, so when we spent time together, the friend would ask me a question, and then I would answer. And then the friend reminded me that I needed to ask the friend either a follow up question or the same question. Sometimes, in social interactions, you don’t actually have to care about what anyone says, but you do have to say something so that the person cares that you’re there. So, the friend would sort of nudge me when I wasn’t saying anything. I’d explain that I didn’t know what to say, and the friend would say how sad that was because if you’re in the presence of another person, not a stranger, aren’t you curious about who they are? But then I explained how I didn’t know what was appropriate; how do you know how personal a question should be? The friend said to start with something prosaic, almost meaningless. Each answer should give you some insight into how much that person with whom your conversing is willing to share. A gentle introduction is a good start, especially if you know that you’ve encountered each other before but maybe haven’t ever spoken to each other. So, something like, “Hey, I’m sorry if we’ve met before, but I don’t remember your name. I’m So-and-So.” And then take it from there. If the person is standoffish and seems offended that you’re speaking to him/her, just walk away. It’s not that big of a deal. If the person is friendly and nice, then just admit that you’ve the seen the person however many times it’s been. There’s nothing wrong, according to my friend, to be the “lesser” person when trying to gauge a person. In fact, the friend would argue, that’s it’s better for the other person’s ego to feel as though they are better than you when you’re first meeting and trying to figure out if the other is worth talking to. The person doing the ego-stroking is ultimately the person with the upper hand at this point in the relationship. As the introductory phase of an encounter progresses and moves into an acquaintanceship, things will change, but there’s nothing ever detrimental about placing yourself beneath someone you’re trying to, perhaps, get to know. Once you’ve gathered the necessary info about whether or not you want to really get to this person, then the conversation will change.

“At this point, the friend explained to me how the conversation, if worth your time, will flow smoothly. If it’s not worth your time, then no harm done, you rubbed a person’s ego; they’ll most likely like you because you made them feel good, and whatever your intention was, doesn’t have to be made known to someone you no longer want to get to know. And there was my biggest flaw. I simply couldn’t get through that first phase unless I already knew that speaking to someone would be worth my time. I had too much fear in making a fool of myself by talking to someone for a minute and then basically not talking to them again if I didn’t want to. I felt so trapped or committed to a person if I even just spoke to them. And that’s where the bravery truly comes in. I guess I just thought that people would see me as just “feeling them out,” and if I walked away no longer interested in them, I would be seen as someone terrible or … I don’t really even know. But when my friend explained how I needed to be the one who was just interested in a person, then I’m not the one who will be rejected; I’d ultimately be doing the rejecting. If I just waited around for people to talk to me, then they’re the ones who are feeling me out, and then I’m the one who has to sit on pins and needles waiting for them to decide whether or not I’m worth their time. But if I take the bold step and approach others first, then I’m the one deciding whether or not I want to talk to them. This whole first step in social interaction blew my mind. I was never the same after this particular friend shared this knowledge with me. And for that, I will forever be grateful. Unfortunately, we are not friends now, but again, that’s my fault. I’m a bad friend. But I have had some good friends in my life. This one in particular changed my life in such a way that I don’t know if I could thank this friend enough.

“But honestly, I totally got over friends and friendships when I realized how much effort it took to maintain them, and all for what, having a friend? And then once you start to outlive friends and people in general by an entire lifetime, multiple lifetimes, the whole idea of the thing seems pointless … or futile. But ever so slowly, everyone started living longer through the curing of illnesses and the sheer technological advances that makes, in essence, immortal life possible, and so there was a time when friendship seemed not only possible again but also, desirable. Of course, the specifics of my, uh, condition became ever more complicated. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s totally awesome being me, but when your existence is completely tied to someone else’s existence, life gets a little tough when that person is not someone you’d want to be inevitably tied to. You know what I mean? And normies can’t even commit to a marriage for a single lifetime. It’s pathetic really. I mean, over the course of my existence, which I assume you know cannot really be quantified but its extensive, I have been invited to many a wedding. And the strangest part about people getting married is the celebration of anniversaries as if the couple has somehow accomplished something by still being together. Obviously, I get the celebration in the sense that it’s like, ‘Wow, look! It’s been such-and-such so many years! How great and lucky are we?” But why are they counting at all? When you marry someone, you commit to a lifetime with them, so once you’re married, it, at least according to me but I know no one cares because no one has ever cared about what I thought or think, well, I guess until now, but anyway. Yea, if you’re going to marry someone, then that’s it. You marry them, and then you live your life together until you’re dead. It’s pretty simple to me. So to celebrate each passing year seems like an egocentric celebration of the self and its awesomeness for doing something you’re supposed to already be doing. Kind of like the celebration of one’s birthday. The person who is celebrating his/her own birthday, didn’t do a goddamn thing that requires any sort of celebration. Congratulations, your mother brought you into this world! You’re the best! Jesus fucking christ, it’s so fucked up. I mean, if anyone should get a party on a birthday, it should be the fucking mother for christ’s sake! Shit. What was I getting at? So yea, the situation of friends and friendship became ever more apparent to me as I slowly began to realize that friendship is kind of a sham. That’s not to say that friends and friendship was always a sham.

“I definitely believe that there was a time when friends meant something. But for most of my personal existence, the experience has been less than satisfying. It kind of takes me back to one of the friends I was explaining earlier who used to get all butt-hurt that we only got together when it was convenient for me. Some people simply want to socialize for the shallow purpose of not being alone or for the even shallower purpose of being seen with someone else, socializing. The whole friendship endeavor ends up being another way to claim some kind of status. Friends are a status symbol. The more friends you have, the cooler or better you are than someone who, say, has no friends. You know the type, they’re euphemistically considered ‘Type A,’ but the reality is that they collect people so that at any given moment, they can always socialize. It doesn’t really matter to this kind of person who it is that they’re socializing with; they just want to socialize. Which at face value, doesn’t seem harmful or wrong. It’s their personality. Why judge someone for being who they are? Well, it’s not really judging, it’s merely stating a fact. Some people will truly hang out with anyone rather than no one. And yes, obviously, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this type of person; it really is just a matter of taste and personal worth. A person who is willing to hang out with anyone has no real social value. It’s not like this person wants to connect with you as a person, his/she merely wants to connect with a person, and that person is, most often times, him or her own self. They need another person to constantly share their lives with, but they don’t share their lives in a meaningful way. And honestly, I think that this type of friend collector has deeper issues that end up seeping into more important aspects of their lives, such as having a sort of willy-nilly attitude about the responsibility that living life demands. Everything about this type of person’s life must kind of become really self-centered because, as they invite person after person after person to hang out, they don’t care about the other person; the invitation is for the benefit of their own selves rather than a desire to connect with a specific person they had hoped to hang out with. I’m no longer really making any sense, but I think the point has been made.

“Oh, but the main thing I was trying to get at was how exhausting it is to get together with people. You can’t plan anything too far in the future because other things might come up, and you can’t be too spontaneous because people have plans. So then there is this constant kind of half-assed commitment when someone will agree to some time and place only to flake out or cancel. Then, maybe you turned down some other invitation because you had made plans with someone who has now cancelled, and wouldn’t you want to now accept the invitation you turned down because you had plans that are now cancelled? Well, you can renege on your initial decline and announce that you will actually go to whatever thing you were initially invited to, but you’ll look like a complete ass who had had something else better but now does not. I mean, who wants to have someone show up at a shindig who turned it down because they had a better offer, but now that offer didn’t pan out, so now this person is showing up at this second-rate affair? Fuck. So then you just end up pissed at the person who cancelled on you, and your night has been ruined. That’s not even the worst part. I have a theory, well it’s not really a theory because most people probably already know this, but friends are tiered, and friend groups overlap. So, maybe you have a core friend group, but you’re also a fringe member of a few other friend groups. I think that most people do not flake on their core friends. But when you’re a fringe member, you will be flaked on, and you will flake on that group. So, the worst part becomes when you do not belong to a core group, and you’re just a fringe member of all your groups. This means that you’re never prioritized if you make plans, but you are probably invited places and show up to whichever one you think is best. There are definitely some people who are only invitees, and then there are those who are at the center of a core group who makes the plans. Obviously, it’s much riskier to be a get together instigator, but I believe you have a clearer idea of where you stand if nobody flakes on you. And when you’re the instigator, you, obviously, have the freedom to flake and decline any other invitation, especially if the invite is from a lesser member of a friend group.

“See! Shit. That’s what I mean. Friends and friendships are a total fucking waste of time. No one truly feels loyal to a specific group of friends because at any moment, some other better group of friends might come along and maybe you could become part of that better group. Sure that means you might have to do some time in the fringes, and therein lies the crux. This never happens, obviously. When a person is or has become a core member of a core group, that person will not do anything to fuck up their position. And again, the totally shit-fucking waste of friends and friendship.”