Thumb

While the rest of the class performs sun salutations in synchronized bows, Caleb stands breathless on his mat. Something in him has come loose. He looks ahead, to the sea of butts in sweatpants around him, and tries not to stare.

“Remember that you control your own comfort. Remember the sources of that comfort.”

Everyone is focused inward, on their respective inner children, who have been scolded since adolescence to stand rigid and tall. Like everyone else, Caleb is here to undo that damage, and as he turns his attention inward and touches his toes, he remembers his thumb.

Until he was thirteen, his left thumb lived in his mouth. Not when anyone else could see, of course — he had some survival instinct — but every moment alone, he had kept it there, until the pacification it provided was finally outdone by the shame. He tied his arm to the bedpost one desperate night, and from then on formed nuanced opinions on social issues.

He returns to a standing position. This is a judgement free zone. As he returns his prodigal digit to its rightful home, he feels the erasure of two decades. Perhaps this position completes a circuit within him, a mudra. He bows again with elbow tucked in, and he is stretchier, more fluid, more of a human being. Maturity is pretense, he realizes, something we have to prove to each other. We live between quotation marks.

The class has turned their attention to him, and they applaud his breakthrough. He continues to perform his asymmetric gestures to the heavens, up and down, long after the class has stopped. He is a fever. Even when he falls forward onto his jaw with the full force of his body, he swallows, satisfied. He will always be complete now.

#memory, #nostalgia, #pride, #shame, #society, #sucker, #yoga

Bully

Although he was proud of his son for discovering his identity so early in life, Sutherland had worries. While he was fine with whatever a seven-year-old thought gay was, probably not much different than what other nine-year-olds thought of close friends, he didn’t have much faith in the youth of Polk County Public Schools. They would be ruthless, if not yet, then soon.

“Son, you have to watch your lisping. I’m your dad and I love you no matter what, but other people don’t know you yet, and they’ll see any sign of weakness as a chance to attack.”

Allen nodded seriously at this advice. He was a good kid, sensitive and socially focused. When Sutherland corrected him on his walk, “You’re swinging your hips too much. You’ve got to make your motions deliberate,” the boy followed his advice exactly, and asked clarifying questions.

“What should I be doing with my arms?”

The boy would be great at choreography someday, Sutherland thought.

He remembered how unhelpful his own father had been, about everything. Interests in painting and guitar had been personality flaws. With a little encouragement, he might have gone to art school, but the way his father sneered at him about impracticality turned him into the vague professional he was today. He was not his father. He would do all he could to help his son be the best person he could be.

“You cannot wear that shirt. They’ll kill you. You go upstairs and you change it right now. And stop that mincing!”

The boy complied as best he could, without complaint or will of his own.

#abuse, #good-intentions, #identity, #parents, #self-fulfilling-prophecy, #society

Robustness (part 10)

As the echo of the firearm’s explosion filled the car, Ezekiel waited for some courageous bystander to tackle him and be a hero. That would have felt right. Instead, he opened his eyes and looked around. All the strangers remained inanimate. Bits of glass on the floor left him able to pull the lever whenever he was ready, completely according to plan.

“Any objections?” he announced. Leslie rolled over in her sleep and tried to fight the fluorescent light out of her eyes. “Is anyone opposed to my pulling the emergency cord?”

He faced everyone, though they refused to reciprocate. The faux pas of orating to unknowns was meant to embarrass him, and he blushed slightly for their benefit. Knowing he was embarrassed, they might be more compelled to reassure him, or at least to acknowledge him, or at least to be alive.

Pulling the gun from his injured backpack, he waited for any kind of reaction. He shot a bullet at nothing in particular, psychopathic. Briefly, he pointed it at a man whose face annoyed him.

“I think we’re almost at our stop. Go ahead and pull it,” Leslie said.

Not the trigger. He nodded. Gripping the handle with both hands, he braced himself against the closest bar and yanked down with both hands. The lever did not move. He lifted himself into the air. Back on his feet, he wrapped the straps of his backpack around the knob, and pushed his feet against the wall. As the switch gave way, the lights went out and the train shook. Individual cutouts fell over, and the screech of steel brought Leslie to her feet.

“I was joking. Dipshit.”

They stepped out of the wreckage and onto the platform. “Sorry,” he said.

Leslie ran forward. He had to chase.

#embarrassed, #fiction-in-parts, #robustness, #society, #unreality, #unresponsive

Teenager

He stared at his hands in disbelief. He hadn’t even been angry, not very. Not enough. Only a psychopath would act as he had acted, but he wasn’t a psychopath, he knew.

“The asshole had it coming,” he told himself, but he didn’t believe it. He tried again. “I didn’t have any other choice.”

The house was dark when he came home. Experience had taught him how to sneak through the back door. It made less noise than the front, and was closed off from the rest of the house.

The seventh and thirteenth steps creaked. He counted and stepped over them.

As he entered his room, he turned on the light and started to remove his shirt. The blood was his, from the struggle, but he didn’t want to explain. He didn’t have a lie prepared.

He jumped when he saw his dad sleeping in his bed. The light hadn’t stirred him, but the brief exclamation from Noel’s adrenaline-poisoned body had, and the man woke up asking questions.

“So you’re home. Where’ve you been?”

Noel’s body shook, and he shook his head. He couldn’t push his tongue against any part of his mouth. All that came out as he tried to talk was a slow stream of dribble.

His dad shushed him. “You don’t have to talk. I know. It’s okay.”

Noel looked up. He started to shake his head again, but his father went on. “Just tell me. What did you do with the body?”

Noel gasped. He wouldn’t explain. He couldn’t.

“Never mind. I’m proud of you, boy. I was a few years older than you when first took a life. You’re a man now.”

Noel nodded. He didn’t believe it yet, but he nodded.

He would be a man the rest of his life.

#male-aggression, #male-bonding, #microfiction, #murder, #rape-culture, #society, #teenager, #violence