August 17, 2014 § Leave a comment
This photo appears in the story “Smiling with the lights out,” which you can see in its entirety via the index or via the story link sidebar here at Euclid’s Negatives.
July 13, 2014 § Leave a comment
story by eric m. martin
Photos by cassandra douglas
Gary wasn’t a big reader, but he’d read enough books to have come across stories of olden-day American preachers who baptized people in the river. It was always a river. Never a creek. Maybe creeks were too shallow. Didn’t have the same effect.
That was a hundred years ago. But there he was. A preacher in the river.
Gary was on his bike going home, passing through a park near the downtown area. The park was right on the edge of the river, which was empty nine months of the year. During summer, boats would zip along with people in tow, balanced drunkenly on skis.
It was too cold for that now, though it was not yet winter. Gary wore a t-shirt and long pants with one leg rolled up. He’d lost enough pants to the bite of his bike’s gears to learn to roll up one leg.
Not thinking about anything in particular, he was making his way through the park. Then he saw a man in a brightly white, but frayed-looking, robe-kind-of get-up, standing on the edge of the river, waist deep in the slow moving water.
Gary always thought the river was deeper right there. He slowed down on his bike.
“Come over here, son,” the man shouted.
Gary was fifty feet away. He got off his bike but didn’t approach the man. It’s too late for this, he thought. A hundred years too late.
“Come over here. I won’t bite.”
Gary pulled his bike up the little hill above the bike path and laid down his bike. Sitting down next to it, he faced the man in the worn-out, super-bright white robe.
The man looked at him but didn’t call out again. Gary waved one hand just above his head in a gesture intended to say, “I see you over there and I’m staying where I am.” The man seemed to understand.
Gary wanted to see what would happen.
Patrols came though this park every hour, cruising slow in big-engined squad cars that purred like hippos. Gary thought he’d wait and see if one came.
Two women who looked to be in their thirties appeared around the bend of the footpath a couple hundred feet away. You can tell age from far away like that most of the time. They were walking a dog, a white one. The preacher guy spotted them and looked back up at Gary then turned back to wait for the two women.
They walked slowly.
Is this how they did it a hundred years ago? Gary kept looking at the ragged white figure, waist-deep in the river. Back then the rivers weren’t so filthy. At least they had that going for them. Maybe people trusted the eccentricities of strangers back then. Now they only trust them if they’re on TV.
Did they stand and wait for random passers-by back then or put up flyers around town? They must have done something besides just stand in a river. This was no way to build a crowd.
The women’s dog noticed the preacher and started pulling at its leash as if the sight of the man in the water proved something to the dog.
It had been lied to all these years. You are allowed to go in the river.
Without barking, the dog strained at its leash. The women stopped walking and looked amused. They were still fifty feet away from the man in the river.
“Come on over here, ladies,” the man said. “I won’t bite.”
His repertoire was not especially rich.
The women looked at each other and patiently allowed the dog to wear itself out against the leash. The preacher turned to Gary. Gary waved again with the same wave, just above his head, his right hand moving once to the left and once to the right.
Pulling the dog away from the water, the woman holding the leash backed up the slope above the path. Her friend did the same and the women walked toward Gary, keeping their distance from the man in white. The looks on their faces said they were going to ask Gary what was going on.
“What’s going on? Who is that guy?” the woman with the leash asked him.
The dog had no interest in Gary. It sat down on the ground.
“I have no idea. I’m just waiting to see what happens when the cops show up.”
“Why? Did somebody call the police?”
“Not that I know of,” Gary said, “but, you know, they come through here a lot.”
The second woman chimed in, “I wonder if that’s legal, standing in the river.”
“Seems like you’d need a business license or something,” the first woman said.
In short shorts and tight shirts, the women looked very much alike, but the woman with the dog had stronger looking arms and darker hair than her friend.
“You’re welcome to join me and enjoy the show,” Gary said. He said it without any real energy. Sometimes being neutral puts people at ease.
The women looked at each other with a similar neutrality then looked back down at the preacher who was looking up at the three of them.
A jogger caught the preacher’s eye. A man was coming from the same direction the women had come from, moving swiftly but looking like he was tired of running.
He was going to pass right in front of the preacher.
The preacher raised his arms so that his sleeves fell back. Gary could see dark splotches of color on the inside of each of his biceps that were probably tattoos.
“This is the hour!” the preacher shouted.
The jogger slowed down when he heard that and stopped in front of the preacher. Looking at his watch, the jogger shouted the time at the preacher.
“No, this is the hour! The hour.”
The jogger shook his head. He was tired. He bent at the waist and put his hands on his knees, breathing hard.
Gary couldn’t hear what the preacher said then and he couldn’t tell if the jogger was saying anything. He could just see the preacher’s mouth moving and see that the jogger was looking at the preacher and kept shaking his head.
The preacher must have looked in Gary’s direction because the jogger suddenly turned around and looked up at Gary and the two women. Right then the women began to move.
They walked down to the path and pulled the dog along with them. Before they were out of ear-shot the dark-haired one with the strong arms turned back and smiled at Gary and said, “Let us know what happens.”
Then they were gone.
March 2, 2014 § Leave a comment
The Path of Least Resistance
Story By Brian K. Jones
Photos by Bree Fesh
Looking at himself in the mirror made him feel shallow and sad, he analyzed the imperfections of his face with despair. He tried to tell himself that he had little control of how he looked and that it was beyond vain to be placing worth on such matters. He couldn’t help it. He was fascinated by his repulsiveness.
George uttered the words at himself with a sterile disdain, “I hate you.”
His reflection in the mirror looked back at him with tired eyes seemingly saying, “I know you do.”
George closed his eyes and put his head down to look in the sink. Starting the water he looked up again and screamed violently. Running his hands through the cold water he started to calm, he splashed some on his face and turned off the sink.
George’s pants loosely hung around his waist as he walked around his apartment. He found a t-shirt and put it on before finding his keys. As he walked out the door he looked at the cluttered mess around his mattress and felt something inside of him sulk.
George staggered down the stairs and into the car his parents had given him for his birthday. Pulling into traffic he nearly sideswiped the car in front of him narrowly avoiding rear ending a pristine sedan at the stoplight in front of him, “Fuck!”
The light changed as George looked down at his pants which were stained with ash and smeared drops of beer. Snapping out of his daze he heard the car behind him honking. George rolled down his window, “Aww Fuck you! What’d I ruin your day?”
George put his car in first gear and stalled the engine. He sighed and started it up and raced through the intersection as the light turned red. He watched with great satisfaction as the car behind him was stuck at the light in his rear view mirror. “Fuckers…” he muttered as he pulled a rolled cigarette from the middle pocket of his hoodie. Lighting it up he played a CD from his favorite band The Bad Sandwich Chronicles. Singing along to every song he drove haphazardly to his place of employment. If anyone was born genetically predisposed to hate working in a retail environment, it was George. Yet, that was his lot at this stage of his existence.
George pulled into a parking space at Allmart and in doing so careened with a shopping cart. The cart went rolling towards an island of parked cars and struck an SUV with force. With the SUV’s alarm blaring through the parking lot George hastily got out of his car and walked swiftly into the store.
An elderly greeter smiled at George, “Good morning!”
George mumbled some sounds at her and faked a smile as he walked past. On his way to the employee break room he avoided eye contact with the customers, this was a rule of his and he followed it without fail when he was on Allmart premises. It had served him well; in retail, avoidance of the customers was key to maintaining sanity. They had a myriad of inquiries and a needy disposition that could drive even the most calm of us to quickly jump from the nearest rooftop. Quite simply customers meant work and human interaction, neither of which were George’s strong suit.
Swiping his badge through the reader 3 minutes late his supervisor Anna Smith watched him from her seat at the cafeteria style table in the break room.
“Late George…again.” She looked down at a magazine as he shuffled by her. George smiled at her as he walked to his locker, once behind her he flipped her off with both hands and stuck his tongue out at her.
“George I can see you in the reflection.” Looking up he saw himself in the mirror and he locked eyes with Anna’s reflection. He smiled and shrugged, hoping he could charm his way out of trouble.
“Just get your skinny ass to electronics.” She commanded. As he walked away she muttered, “Fucking loser” into her coffee before taking a sip.
“ You’re just…jealous.”
“George, you’re 35, you’re single, you have no prospects for a career, you’re doomed to a lifetime of Allmart employment, and I’m guessing you’ll die alone. I’m not Jealous.” Anna took a sip of coffee in celebration at her proclamation of George’s demise.
George corrected her, “I’m 32.”
Leaving the break room he quietly observed the customers as he walked past them.
Pan left: An obese woman in short tight shorts. “Blech…”
Pan Right: A 20’s something man with clean cut dress and recently trimmed thin beard. “Douuuuuche…”
Pan directly forward and Center: Woman with three kids parading around her cart like wild boars on a hunt. “The future of America.”
Pan Left: Attractive woman walking past. “Too good for me.”
Pan Right: Muscle built guy wearing an exceedingly tight shirt. “He could obliterate me.”
Pan Ahead Center: Young couple holding hands and talking. “I’ll never be in love.”
Finally electronics and the shine of dvds and gizmos, George smiled at his coworker Treyvon and walked back to the video game display. He began applying tags to games for the next hour. His thoughts ranged from middle east politics to preferred toilet paper texture.
George limped through his shift; his demons yelling throughout, his stomach rotating with the earth, his life passing him by.
When it was over he drove around town smoking cigarettes, hoping he could tire himself out. Inevitably, he parked in the ALLMART parking lot and stopped. He looked at the barren 2 am landscape and stared without thought. George’s mental landscape as barren as his surroundings, as uninteresting as the structures around him. With complete Clarity he thought to himself, “I am alone. We are all invariably alone.”
He drove back to his apartment and closed the car door as he exited. He walked up the stairs with his head down and the feeling that his soul had left him somewhere at ALLMART. He could sense it browsing through the sock section while he trudged forward alone and vacant, his every nerve aching with every step.
As he got up the stairs to his apartment in front of his door sat a calico cat, a kitten.
George looked down at the cat at first with disdain and then curiosity. He opened the door to his apartment and the cat bolted inside. George grumbled and watched, seemingly having little choice in the matter.
He walked to the fridge and poured a bowl full of expired milk while the cat danced around his ankles. Setting the bowl down with a groan George watched the cat slurp the milk with a fervor and hunger unknown to him.
George moved into the living room and turned on the television to watch the hockey highlights. The cat followed him an plopped on his lap. Cat and George looked at each other with mutual curiosity, a staring contest of muted empathy that no one was trying to win. Moving his eyes back to the television George bagan to scratch behind the cat’s ears.
“Now I suppose I’ll have to name you.” The cat began to purr.
“I’ll grow attached and then one day when I don’t expect it you’ll run off or I’ll come home and find you dead under the couch.” The calico mewed in delight as George took the scratching to a fevered frequency.
George started flipping through the channels while he scratched, “You can’t sleep in my bed.”
February 21, 2014 § Leave a comment
February 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
A Red Tree
Photographs by Adrienne Pike Adelphia
Story by Eric M. Martin
You asked me in late summer.
The last firefly was long gone. I think it was a week after we had a little party where we used the left over sparklers. We weren’t doing anything again until the holidays, I mean, we had no plans. No more camping. No more barbeques. The sparklers were the last fizz on the summer champagne or whatever.
Why would I want to sit in a boat for hours and put nasty worms onto hooks just to catch something I’m going to throw back? I just don’t get it.
“We don’t have to use a boat,” you said. “We can fish from the promenade.”
“There’s a little, like, micro-dock behind every cabin. We can take the dog and you and me can go sit on the promenade and do some relaxing fishing.”
“Don’t call her the dog” I said. “When did you want to go?”
“Soon. It’ll be too cold before too long. I think we should make a reservation for one of these cabins and go in a few weeks.”
Then you showed me pictures of the place on their website. With such an empty autumn staring us in the face I thought we might as well.
When we got there, the cabin was not at all what it looked like in the pictures. It looked like something out of “The Three Little Pigs”, one of the houses that couldn’t stand up to the wolf.
When I said that and said, “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and…,” you started to get angry. The skin around your eyes gets red when you’re mad, like you’ve just been crying. It makes your brown eyes look black.
I made up my mind for the thousandth time that this was not how things were going to be for me.
Then we went in. Inside the place was actually nice. Everything was clean. It was a whole different cabin on the inside.
“I told you,” you said.
“Yep,” I said, “You did.”
A bag of nuts and dried fruit was wrapped up nicely in clear plastic with a corny, festive bow on top sitting on the coffee table in front of the new-looking couch.
You went straight through to the kitchen and the back door and went straight out onto the patio. I followed you and you pointed to the micro-dock or whatever you called it. The lake was still and clean-looking too, about the size of a football field or two.
A small dock went from the patio where we were standing into the beginning of the lake.
“See? We don’t even need a boat.”
The little dock had a row of quaint little seats on it that made me want to drink all day. The idea was just one of those flashes you get – you know the kind I got. Sometimes I still get those flashes; that’s why I went back to the cabin this summer when I was passing through the area. That’s why I’m writing you now.
“Let’s unpack,” I said.
And you agreed.
It didn’t take long. As the sun started to set we took our drinks onto the little dock and sat looking out at the water.
That was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. I have to thank you for that.
You volunteered to go get us new drinks from the cabin and I waited for you. You came back singing the one line you knew from that song your dad used to sing. “There is a house in New Orleans…” You used to sing that one line over and over as a joke. You told me your dad used to sing it around the house in a fake, basso voice and I smiled every time you sang it.
Until that day. I watched you coming down the steps of the patio to the little dock looking worried and singing that song and I remembered you didn’t like your dad. You blamed him for making you choose between him and your mom when they split and she moved to Wisconsin.
That’s why you sang the song, as a kind of revenge. To make fun of him. And I laughed with you. But later you didn’t sing it because of him at all. You sang that one line for yourself, as a kind of refrain,a mantra, which I didn’t mind. Not exactly.
Here’s the thing. This is what I wanted to tell you. When you came out singing that song looking worried, I thought again that this was not how it was going to be for me.
You must have known I’d say no.
It was over before you asked. I know you think it was because of the song. At the time I couldn’t explain that it wasn’t the song, but you wanted that to be it, because then it wouldn’t be your fault. It would be your dad’s fault, again.
It wasn’t the song and it wasn’t your dad. It was the worry that you put into that one line, “There is a house in New Orleans.”
The lake was calm and a breeze was blowing into my face when I looked away, over the water. One tree on the edge of the lake had brownish red leaves already. All the other trees were green and vibrant. There was something in this moment that I wanted to keep, something I didn’t want to end.
“Haley?” you said. “I want to ask you something.”
You put our drinks down on the planks of the dock and you got down on one knee.
“Haley, will you marry me?”
I hesitated and looked into your eyes and kept myself from turning to look at the red tree. I didn’t want to say no, because you’d probably lose it, get angry, and we still had two days at the cabin. Those two days flashed full of nightmare in my mind and the thought came back to me: This is not how it is going to be for me.
“No, Tommy. I don’t think I can.”
February 1, 2014 § 1 Comment
Story by Brian K. Jones
Photography by Adam Chapman
Why the fuck am I here? Why do I these things?
At times in my life I have seemingly sought despair out of boredom. There’s something mundane about happiness, when I find myself happy invariably I find myself segregated from reality; in a bubble of phony smiles and contemporary wall paper that makes me feel like I can’t feel anything.
An interruption to my self-loathing and lament of life made her way to my table dressed in a teal bikini bottom with her perky breasts exposed. She sat with a thud, I was instantly over whelmed and aroused by her thick coating of perfume.
“Hi sweetheart.” My mind could barely compute her words as it was mostly engaged by my visual reception of her walnut colored hair. Her lips had a pout that I could only imagine reveled in whispers and long slow kisses but only if you had the proper denomination of currency.
I thought long and hard about what to say to her while also trying to maintain an heir of tranquility, all I could muster was a meek “Hey.”
“What’s your name?” She picked up my gin and tonic and sipped from the straw while crossing her legs. Blood rushed to my loins.
I gave my standard alias for when I was in such a place, “Zack.”
We sat in silence for a moment and I noticed a beauty mark on her forehead. I imagined another life; one in which I woke up in the morning and looked at her slight imperfection and longed to kiss it but didn’t out of concern that I might wake the slumbering beauty.
I stared at the dancer on the stage, gyrating her hips to some shitty metal song and I wondered again to myself, “Why the fuck am I here?”
“So what brings you here? You don’t look like a regular.” Her eyes shifted to a portly man in his fifties sipping on a domestic pilsner with a wide smile on his face.
“I’m…confused.” I looked off the old pervert and stared down at my hands which were slightly shaking.
She took another suck at my drink which was apparently now hers’ “Confused about what?”
I took another long look at the dancer on the stage and wondered about her family while she pulled her thong aside to show her everything to everyone. “Life, I guess.”
She scooted her chair closer to me and whispered softly in my ear, “I think you’re supposed to forget about that shit here.” She ran her fingers up and down my thigh as she spoke and I stopped her just short of reaching it’s destination.
“Yeah well, like you said. I’m not a regular. I never caught your name.”
She giggled and sat back in her chair, again with the consumption of my drink. “Star.”
I pulled the drink from her mouth and took a long swig, “Sounds phony.”
“Does it Zack!?!? You’re quite the detective!” She let out a boisterous laugh.
I thought to myself “you’re quite the whore” but quickly remembered that I had chosen to come here. It wasn’t Star’s fault that I hated life, it was my own and it certainly wasn’t her fault that I had a genuine distrust for anyone with two legs that wasn’t a child or retarded.
She ran her hands through her hair and played with it for a bit, a nod to her being self-aware of her power of men . “So you want a private dance?”
Of course I did, but I resented that she knew she was attractive. Her coy hubris lit a fire in the stove of my resentment for all things human and I brushed her off. “Maybe later.”
She blew a kiss at me and got up and walked toward the old pervert and sat at his table. I watched her ass as she left and felt my stomach pang in hunger. I’d have her all day if I could but certainly not under these transactional circumstances. I thought briefly of saving her and building a two story house surrounded by a picket fence built with my bare hands so that she could leave this shitty place. I imagined her reading shitty romance novels and making meat loaf while I was off at work. Then, I remembered that I was no god-damned carpenter and that I’d grow to resent her in a hot minute, so I just looked at her as she started up the sales pitch with the horny old bastard. She saw me looking at her and winked, I looked down and sighed.
I gulped down the last of my gin and tonic and walked outside to have a smoke. The fat bouncer gave me a dirty look as I walked past him. I lit my smoke and breathed in the cancer fumes, the filthy exhale proof that I was still breathing.
I looked around at the shit bags smoking and realized quickly that I didn’t belong here or at least that I didn’t want to.
“Who the fuck am I? What do I want?” The thoughts recirculated through my mind over and over again. Not this. I pulled at my smoke and walked toward my car resigned to the fact that I would return to my hotel room and fall asleep while dreaming of Star and wondering what it would feel like to love and be loved, to be accepted by someone completely. Fleetingly, I would imagine that life was OK.
I lumbered into my car and started north towards the Holiday Inn. I passed through some seedy neighborhoods and dreamed of release as I saw the drug dealers and the hookers on the corners plying their trade. The commerce of misery was, still is, and always shall be strong. I pulled over without thought to the corner where a drug dealer was standing. He hopped in the passenger seat without invitation.
“What the fuck you doing here honkey?” He pulled a tooth pick from his mouth.
Fear penetrated through the mountain of depression that had formed atop my psychological person and it began to hit me true and sincere. “What the fuck am I doing here?” I thought.
“I’m not really sure.”
My new passenger looked around at the streets and pulled up his shirt to show a pistol kept beneath his waistline before returning his glassy red eyes to my face. “You see all this mother fucker? You see the liquor store? You see the ho just down the road, the junkie in that alley, the pushers on the end of the block, the street lights that hover above us? Do you see that shit honkey?”
I watched, looked upon the things that he pointed out, “Yes I do.”
He paused and stared at me, “Good. This my fuckin’ hood honkey, and you know what? All of them mother fuckers belong here. They live here, I watch they asses every day. I know they cousins and they moms. I don’t fuck wit em’ lest they need to be fucked with. That’s respect for my own. I respect the mothafuckas that belong here.” He paused, “Do you know what don’t belong here?”
I sat paralyzed, I wasn’t sure what the nature of my need was. I didn’t even know why I stopped aside from the fact that it seemed instinctively wrong and so I wanted very much to do it. In truth, I didn’t even like drugs. “Me.”
Toothpick back in his mouth my new friend smiled wryly and revealed the top of his teeth covered in gold. “You know what? You a smart fuckin’ honkey, yo know that? I know what you’re lookin’ for but you aint gonna find it here, you aint gonna find shit down here man.” He smiled and looked at me, pulling his shirt up again and putting his hand on the pistol. “You only gonna find that you just don belong.”
I pulled out my wallet and took out all of the cash I had. I handed it to him and he looked at me and smiled again. He opened the door and started to get out. “You stay safe my man, this aint no place for you.” With that he got out and slammed the door shut. Walking with a swagger he looked back at me and tipped his ballcap, I let out a sigh and started up the engine.
I pulled out in the street and kept north. My hands finally stopped shaking as I pulled into the parking lot of the Hotel.
Entering the hotel room I flipped the TV on and turned off all the lights before collapsing on the bed. I laid above the covers with my clothes and shoes still on; flipping through 63 channels of nothing for about a half an hour while I tried to process the evening. Finally I turned on my side and thought of Star and a house with a picket fence. As I began to drift off I could hear the rain gently pelting the window of my hotel room while the wind whipped at the trees.
January 26, 2014 § Leave a comment
Smiling With the Lights Out
Story by Brian K. Jones
Photography by Adam Chapman
It started 21 days before the Mayan prophesied end of the world. I wasn’t too concerned about that, it struck me that the end of the world was unlikely to be forewarned; more likely that it would come unheralded. The breadth of everything you once knew obliterated into a scream of abstract nothingness in a quick spasm as you sat to take a restful shit or stepped in to kiss your wife after a long day of work. Yet still, civilization’s death loomed inevitability like the long shadow of work on an early Tuesday morn.
The radio DJ prattled on about the weather, his fake charm nestled in every phonetic uttering. Deliverance of the streaming rot into the hollow shell of my skull; I braced for a turn felt a booger in my right nostril and picked at it lightly. Driving to work on slow country roads was like a long slow dance with a slovenly captor. One who was so confident in your captivity that he allowed you to stray just far enough that you might pretend you enjoyed the spoils of freedom. In many ways it was worse than true cell block captivity.
Arriving at work felt a little like being the last greasy potato chip being stuffed in a bag by some well lubricated automaton. Just in time to be the last of many uniformed consumable items sealed shut in a foiled receptacle that would last ions longer than that which it carried. Swiping a key card into a kronos machine I looked into the maze of cubicles and quickly realized all of the bathrooms had been wrecked by the morning shit brigade. Every cuckolded, sit-down pissing, domesticated man monster had been hit by the attack of the brown army and the deliverance of mine would be carried out in the precarious and anxiety ridden hover position.
I sighed and walked to the cafeteria where I procured hot water for some tea. I dropped a bag of earl grey in and focused on the cloud of brown seeping through the pristine and clear water; slowly snuffing out the opaque tranquility with its suffocating essence. I tried to think of a relevant metaphor to the mutable nature of existence but was interrupted by my boss Mr. Anderson.
“Tea again Smith? God you’re a faggot.” He transitioned from a relaxed posture into a dominant pose so that he could exert his authority over me. “Listen, have you finished the Quarterly analysis and the T-3000 reports yet? I need those on my desk by noon.”
I sipped from my now fully brown tea and thought about kicking Mr. Anderson in the balls and kneeing him in the nose before urinating on his face while he groaned and pleaded for me to stop. “Uh sure Mr. Anderson, they’ll be on your desk.”
“Good, go kick that pig in the asshole Smith. Time waits for no man, not even me.”
I sat down in my cubicle and stared at pictures of my ex wife and my daughter for a few minutes and thought about if what Anderson had said even made any sense. Time probably did wait for him, the insufferable prick.
My fellow coworker and slack happy friend Johnny poked his head in my office and threw a sandwich bag full of Percocets that hit me in the head. “This week’s supply shit clown.” He smiled and winked at me and moved on his way.
I popped a pill and sucked down some more tea. I fired up the quarterly analysis reports and started mowing down T-3000 reports with fervor reminiscent of Patton’s army in North Africa. By 10:30 I had all of my shit done and set down on Anderson’s desk. He gave me the dreaded pat on the back and we bullshitted about things I didn’t care about for a good quarter of an hour. Nothing like a little bit of numbness to promote the vile tendencies it requires to succeed in a corporate hierarchy.
I went outside to smoke and watched as a thunderstorm rolled in from the west; a sullen gray turned my shadow into a slowly dissipating outline. By the time I flicked my cigarette into the parking lot, rain had begun to drop in random singularities around me. I opened the door and a drop hit me on the nose.
Consecutive series of right angles and the white hot hue of fluorescence brought upon an anxiety filled panic. The ring of phones, clickety clack of typing fingers, and combined murmurs of a hundred simultaneous conversations about logistics, business strategy, and streamlined filing systems roared like an organized hurricane. I decided that my work there was done for the day.
Driving the rolling hills from the office to the nearest chain restaurant, I thought more about the end of the world and popped another Percocet. 6,000 years of civilization up in a flash and all I’ll have to show for it was a meandering confusion about why I existed at all. Surely there must have been a point to all of this; perhaps not, most likely that order and consequence were figments of our collective imaginations.
Some segment of me wanted it to end, a part of me would smile as the grotesque circus finally collapsed in on itself as humanity spun in a sad rain dance praying that theoretical internationalist gods would save us from ourselves; it was that thought that made me certain that the apocalypse was far from nigh. It’d be when we had achieved a true utopia that we could only be received into the bliss of extinction.
I sat down at the bar of an Applebees and looked over the shit beer selection on tap.
“What’ll you have hon?” The cold disdainful opening salvo of a seasoned bartender.
“I’ll take a Sam Adams.”
She looked at me somewhat suspect, “You know they’re 4 bucks a pint? Miller lite is 2.”
“Nothing’s too good for me,” I said with a smile.
She rolled her eyes and grabbed a glass and began pouring from the handle. I sat with anticipation as I stared at the mid day news. War, death, and a sprinkle of humanity; even muted the sound of the choreographed sales pitch of ratings driven sensationalism disguised as news seeped through the room playing off of our learned mores and arbitrary values.
I sipped at my pint and struggled with the sound of my mind. A young girl sat at the bar next to me. Her eyes were a bright bluish green that made her brown hair sparkle. I tried to hide my enthusiasm for her by staring at the TV but I couldn’t help but share a few nervous glances with her. She caught me in an awkward stare as she sipped from a Coors light.
Smiling as she swallowed down the drink; I interrupted and she coughed but quickly regained her composure, “Hi, I’m Anna.”
I stared into the almost coral green of her eyes, slowly muttering the word, “Hi” in an almost surprised fashion.
She giggled again rolled her eyes and turned towards me, “Why hello sir. How are you?”
I was taken aback but tried to keep cool. “I’m good, I mean miserable but good I guess.”
She giggled again, “What’s your name?”
“I’m Paul…Smith. You?” I looked down at my beer as to avoid eye contact with her captivating eyes, hoping that I could forget the beauty and hopeful light that I suddenly seemed to be basking in.
Her hand extended for a shake and I obliged, “Anna Wells, A pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
For the next three hours we talked about life and the dimmed obfuscated lens that I view the world through seemed to crystallize and clear even if only for that moment in time. Somehow the warring factions of anxiety in my brain; one frightened by the end of the world and one paralyzed by the notion of it continuing, laid down their arms and embraced a tenuous peace accord. Bayonets no longer drawn on the opposition or trained on themselves, they gazed solemnly at one another, blankly.
I put my hand on Anna’s and she received it warmly, I rested my head on her shoulder and watched some muted pundit on the TV spew vitriol about a subject he had formed an opinion about in the last 15 minutes. Anna’s hair smelled of lavender and cigarette smoke; I closed my eyes and everything went away save for that of Anna’s sturdy shoulder and the smell of her hair.
Anna pulled her shoulder out from under me, “Hey, are you ok?”
I looked up slowly, “No. I’m definitely not.”
She smiled again, “Do you want to talk about it?”
I thought about that for a second, “No. I’d just like to forget.”