Robustness (part 4)

Ezekiel was waiting in the subterrain for a subway train. He fudded the phrase as he said it, and repeated it several times until all the syllables were clear. Someone saw him muttering and made a face. He nodded in her direction until she turned her head and ran away. Had he won?

Though he wasn’t sure what he was waiting for or where he was going, he was confident he would find out. He wasn’t aimless and he wasn’t a vagrant, so he had a reason for being here. In his backpack, he had a notebook, most of which was blank, but a few pages in the beginning had some phone numbers and comments. Leslie was circled, whatever that meant.

Perhaps he should call her, but he didn’t want to talk. The thought of hearing his own voice was too much to bear. Besides, the fact that she was circled meant that he had probably called her already. Maybe she was waiting for him somewhere.

He picked up a discarded matchbook. It had one match left. He put it in his backpack.

Among the odds and ends he had collected included a glow-in-the-dark rubber ball, a Nintendo DS Lite with a brain training game, a self-published book of poetry he would never read by an acquaintance he hated, and a 0.22 automatic pistol, a gun that could shoot things, automatically.

He closed his backpack quickly. Wherever the gun had come from, it was in his possession, and there had to be a reason for it. He felt vaguely threatened. The underground air was stifling, and he couldn’t bear it. He went up the broken escalator to the street.

Leslie was waiting in a nearby square, next to a cube. He was glad he didn’t shoot her.

#automatic-life, #backwards-life, #guns, #idiot, #inventory, #misogyny, #not-misogyny, #uncertainty

Robustness (part 3)

Ezekiel resented privacy, the entire idea of it. He thought about this in public restrooms, how social convention dictates that some behaviors be done in secret. At ten years old he’d had the thought: what if no one else takes off their clothes in the shower? What if that’s just my crazy family? People might think we’re crazy. How would I even know?

A man nodded at him at the sink, and he realized that he had made eye contact while his mind was on other things. While he wasn’t paying attention, he’d studied the man’s face and taken in his wardrobe, down to the hole in the elbow and the open fly. With an empty face, he flicked the water off his hands and tried not to look around. The man was watching him with some curiosity. Ezekiel cleared his throat, expecting him to turn away.

“Well?” the man said.

Ezekiel coughed again. “Excuse me.”

He was done washing his hands, but he didn’t feel he could leave without seeming like he was trying to get away. He put on his headphones, though he didn’t have any music, and moved his body to the music he didn’t have.

“Well, take care,” he said as he left. The man didn’t bother replying.

Ezekiel resented privacy, how it was wasted on the wrong bodily functions. He only wanted it for thought.

#awkward, #bathrooms, #privacy, #social-anxiety

Robustness

As the train pulled into the station, Ezekiel thought about calling ahead, but it was best if she didn’t expect him. His plan depended on a certain amount of secrecy, if he had a plan.

He noted: he was the sort who made plans.

Before he talked to Leslie, he wanted to know what his objective was. He knew why he’d left the first time, and cringed as he remembered. He was certain that his infatuation was over, more certain, surely, than he had been at twenty-three that she was the love of his life. The insanity of who he had been then seemed unreal. The way he’d stalked her, engineered situations with her, tried to be her hero, all seemed like something he’d seen on late-night sitcoms. He’d nearly killed her trying to create an opportunity to save her. She had been more traumatized than grateful.

Once he stepped out of the underground, he would know what he was doing. Almost everything is based upon momentum, and as soon as he stopped thinking, he could proceed in the direction he was going. The escalators all went up. He walked toward them.

He had to use the bathroom, and noted: he was the sort of person who drank too much water.

The entrances to two opposite gendered restrooms were entirely symmetrical, and neither one had a door. Social convention dictated that he should enter the men’s room, but he resented that it said “MEN” so clearly on the wall. The women’s room was nowhere near as capitalized, perhaps due to space restrictions, but he felt a little oppressive using a MEN’s room, convenient as urinals might be.

He noted: he was a thoughtful person. He cared about rights. The thought satisfied him as he peed.

#fiction-in-parts, #idiot, #pretension, #regret, #restrooms, #trains

Robustness (part 1)

Amnesia wasn’t the issue. Ezekiel remembered the last five years down to the last detail. He had had jobs and relationships. That was all.

He was in an office now. Or he was undercover for special police. A reporter for a tiny newspaper in rural Arkansas. A bartender in a pansexual strip club. A line worker in a glue factory. He corrected a nozzle if it strayed off target. He was investigating a serial murder. He’d tell everyone. His boyfriend had no idea. His girlfriend knew everything. His gender-neutral playmate had no idea. His long-lost soulmate had no idea.

He had no idea.

A man on the train asked him, “Do you know how to get to The Glass Museum?” The man expected him to know, so he knew, but the man wouldn’t follow his instructions. Ezekiel repeated them slowly several times until they arrived at the stop where the man would need to leave. Ezekiel nearly had to push him out, but he wouldn’t find his way. The man was committed to being lost.

Ezekiel was more open-minded. He could ride the train, or he could ride the bus. He could ride a Greyhound bus to a place he had abandoned. He hadn’t had a job. He hadn’t had a relationship. He’d spent the last few years planning a better future, all alone, The Count of Monte Cristo without the money or moral imperative. He could get the money. He didn’t need justification.

In film, the screen blacks out and the characters return in the future, having done what they needed to do. The last five years were not forgotten. They were blacked out, and he would be whoever he had been. He would find out after the break.

#cognitive-dissonance, #contradictions, #fiction-in-parts, #robustness, #travel, #vagueness