Robustness (part 7)

The other people on the train had no faces. Their conversations were not made of words, but overlapping differently colored noise, looped in waves of approval. They were cardboard cutouts, animatronic puppets there to give a sense of legitimacy to the whole enterprise. Only one seat remained. Leslie went straight for it and fell immediately asleep.

Ezekiel stood and surfed with the curves of the rails. On occasion, he had to take a step forward or back to maintain his balance, and sometimes he was knocked to the ground by a sudden stop. He bumped against a couple with their lips locked against the other’s. The heads came off together, and the hydraulics behind them continued to pump and gyrate.

“Excuse me,” Ezekiel muttered, propping them back on their perch. The train lurched to the left and to the right until he admitted to himself that he had to hold onto something, lest he end up in someone’s lap.

When he held onto the pole, the train seemed stopped. He felt foolish clutching so tight, but he had nothing else to steady him. He was on display. The audience was trying to ignore him, which only made him more self-conscious. They looked in no direction without faces, all facing the center where he was dancing. They were not looking at him. They were not looking at anything. They were incapable.

Leslie sat in the corner, asleep. Ezekiel told her she had the right to remain silent, and that anything she said could be used against her in a court of law. She had the right to an attorney.

Some of the cutouts scoffed and sputtered. One of them spit in his direction, though it was just a malfunction. Ezekiel had a conversation.

#alone, #cops, #dancing, #fiction-in-parts, #loneliness, #mundane, #one-sided, #puppets, #train

Celebrity

Though she had her collar pulled around her face and generic dark glasses over her eyes, glances accumulated as she emptied her cart onto the conveyor belt. Soon a normal would say something.

“Is that Nancine?”

“I think so!”

She pretended not to hear. She had headphones on after all, giant 1980s style cans. How much of her face did she have to cover before she could hide?

Reaching for the divider, she looked up at the tabloids, just to see what they were saying about her today.

“Nancine Snubs Lovers, Buys Cucumbers”

“Is the icon out of touch with salad trends?”

The cashier made no comment as he bagged her produce. He wished her a good weekend in a welcome, impersonal way.

On the news that night, he described the interaction as “forced.” The newscaster pressed him for more details, and he gave them, describing her clothes and her furtive, prey-animal movements.

“Do you think she’s hiding something?”

“Almost definitely.”

Nancine took another bite of her cucumber sandwich and changed the channel. Some pundits were debating whether her friends had abandoned her or she had abandoned her friends. Had they simply drifted apart? Somebody must know.

The noise of the debate put her to sleep. Tomorrow she would call someone, she told herself. She didn’t have the energy today, but tomorrow, she would.

#absurd, #celebrity, #microfiction, #mundane, #social-anxiety, #social-phobia