PART I: Understanding the Understatement
He lies in bed while his eyes wander off in space. They aren’t looking for anything in particular; they’re just struggling to see through the faint morning light. He glances to a corner in his room and sees boxes and a Thigh Master. In front of him is a dresser with clutter piled high. Every drawer is open. Something about this place still didn’t seem familiar, maybe because of how small it was.
The sun reached just the right height to throw a beam of light across his face through a broken blind. He winced. It was time to get up. He lay there for fifteen minutes in silence instead. He let the sun get higher and the room began to warm ever so slightly. At just the right temperature he threw off his covers and walked to his computer. He searched www.wikipedia.com for the history of the Thigh Master, which had little to tell, but did link him to information about Suzanne Somers. Somewhere between an alcoholic father, a failed marriage, a Three’s Company cast change and dyslexia, she had become queen of The Home Shopping Network and for a moment he had an urge to even buy her book “The Sexy Years.” But before clicking “Buy,” he pondered how he got to this point so early in the morning.
He glanced over towards the window searching for something else to think about. Daylight twinkled through the slits in the blinds. For five more minutes he sat silently in a daze.
“I wonder how they make those blinds,” he distracted himself again.
There was a knock on the door. He drowned that out too. Then pounding came and finally a grumpy female voice echoed through the wood,
“Are you getting up? I have to go soon. Are you catching the train with me or what?”
It was only one month that he had been living in this new city and he was still adjusting to the idea of not taking a car anywhere. His legs were sore as his body got into shape not because of the gag gift Thigh Master in the corner of his room, but because of the hours of walking he now endured on a daily basis.
He, unfortunately, was living off of his savings, a small pile of cash he’d hoarded away during his college years. He sold old camera parts on Ebay, pawned his Christmas gifts and sold his car when he moved here. Over a five-year period he was also able to steal a few hundred dollars in quarters from his roommates. His savings were getting him through the month while he took his time to find a remedial job. He wasn’t looking for his dream job. He didn’t even know what that was yet.
“I’ll just catch the train on my own, Fiona.” He hollered back.
But really he wouldn’t be taking the train anywhere today. He was stressed about financial obligations but he told himself he would never steal quarters from her. She was sweet enough to let him settle in her apartment last minute when he called her out of the blue saying he needed to get away. They were old high school friends but they had also dated for a month as teenagers until she came to realize she was actually attracted to women and not men. To this day he naively wonders if he was the reason for her change in sexual attraction. He still ignorantly thinks it may have something to do with his inexperience in kissing at the time.
He decided to Wikipedia “kissing” while he thought about their history as friends. He came to discover that “the kiss” has become synonymous with life-giving symbolism in such movies as The Little Mermaid. He read on, finding out that biologically kissing is still not known to be either learned or instinctive.
“Learned?” He thought to himself. “I turned her lesbian because I couldn’t kiss?”
He chuckled to himself.
He got up and walked to the window. Below he saw an old woman struggling to carry her trash out. A few doors down he saw two women cat fighting, yelling absurdities about a found diaphragm, a small tub of petroleum jelly and red panties. He laughed as they started slapping each other. He saw below that the old woman looked up to watch the commotion too. She was giggling in a hearty kind of way; a way in which her mouth opened up so much he could see her bare gums.
He grumbled disgustedly and quickly shut the blinds, turning away.
He couldn’t get himself to leave his room. He jumped back into bed and snoozed for a little while longer.
PART II: Found Objects
A block away from their apartment on his way to the park, he found a printed out email on the ground.
listen fucker. i’m tired of this bullshit thing we call a relationship. how am i supposed to trust you when i can’t even get a honest answer out of the asshole that’s your mouth? i’ve moved on and you should too. don’t come calling me at 3am asking for a fuck anymore. Leave me the fuck alone. -Mary.
“Ha Ha Ha…” he chuckled for a while to himself as he walked on. He wondered who it was who had printed out the email in the first place let alone how it ended up in Williamsburg on the ground. He stopped and thought about it more, pulled out his computer and sat on a stoop. While stealing Internet from some unsuspecting household nearby, he typed in “Love letters”.
“A love letter is a romantic way to express feelings of love in written form. Sometimes sent in the mail, and increasingly by electronic mail, the letter may be anything from a short and simple message of love to a lengthy explanation of feelings.”
He remembered one time he had written his ex a love letter. She had been his college girlfriend. Things didn’t work out because she discovered she actually preferred women as well. She had told him she came from a conservative family and because of them she had avoided her feelings for women all this time. But she had fallen in love with someone in her biochemistry class their senior year. He came to New York to escape the rejection, but in retrospect he wondered if it was really just to escape himself. Who he had been in college was an ignorant romantic. He found comfort in this found email despite the ridiculousness of the fact that he had come across it at all. He knew somewhere some other guy was the asshole. But he fantasized about being that asshole himself.
Packing up his computer he headed for the park. He was planning to take the afternoon not to find a job, but to do some writing. He continued to look down as he walked on, hoping to find more objects to spark some memories. All the way to the park, however, he only came across what looked like a used condom and a twisted silly straw that was broken in half.
PART III: Plain Sighting
He picked up the silly straw pieces and threw them away.
At the park he sat down again, as he had in his room, staring at nothing and thinking about little. His blank stare went unnoticed by most. He sat quietly staring off again. He had never moved so abruptly before, and didn’t know what he had expected in coming here.
“Damn overcast again.” He began to write. “I’m sitting at the park watching people doing nothing. It’s satisfying to see that I’m not the only one with nothing better to do. The weather has this way of drowning out the day and washing away the colors. This muted mess is directly influencing my mood.
I watched Seinfield DVDs for seven hours yesterday. I ate two full bags of chips and drank three Cokes. I haven’t been able to write much.
I haven’t had sex in nine months.
I still haven’t found a job or even tried to really….
I’m curious why this lady in front of me is staring at… a tree trunk?”
The woman walked away and he was left looking ahead at what she had seen. He traced his eyes along the surface of the trunk and his vision blurred until the bumps and lines became intricate patterns. He watched for a few moments softly breathing, his mouth relaxed and slightly open. This was an average tree trunk, like something he would have glanced at from a far his entire life, but today he was lost in something about the way it just sat there. He got up and walked towards it. He stood a substantial distance away still, about five feet; with his hands in his pockets he walked around the tree. The people around him began to notice him now. For the first time in the month he had been visiting this park, he was the one who was being watched. It was plain to him now. As he looked up and down and around the trunk all he could think was, “Where can I get the Internet?”
Out of his daze, he grabbed his bag and took a walk to the nearest coffee shop and when he got there and found a seat, he searched Wikipedia again and read off the screen to himself,
“In botany, trunk refers to the main structural member of a tree that is supported by and directly attached to the roots and which in turn supports the branches… Just like many other living organisms, trunks can be vulnerable to damage.”
Michelle Lee Proksell