Note: This is a work-in-progress. All comments are solicited and appreciated. I’ll have 8 other vignettes before the story is through.
Jack stood atop the roof of his apartment building an looked straight down from the edge. When you pay only $375 (gas, electric included!) for a one bedroom, you find that people fix just enough that you have a good chance of not killing yourself. This, apparently, did not include closing the roof access.
Jack was about eighty-percent sure he was going to kill himself that night. He did not like the thought of suicide, because it always insinuated that the cause of death was self-inflicted. In Jack’s case, it was everyone else. Just simple cause and effect. The remaining twenty-percent, he figured, was his desire to prove everyone wrong.
“Prove Everyone Wrong” was printed in a stout font at the bottom of a piece of paper folded into nine symmetrical rectangles, worn by multiple openings and closings. This was Jack’s Manifesto. He took the folded paper and held it like a gun. This was his weapon of choice. Nine phrases, locked in the chamber. Each one was guaranteed to pierce the skin the second he fired. He only needed to pull the trigger.
Jack slowly began to reopen the paper and let the bullets fly.
1. FIND SOMEONE TO LOVE
“If there’s one thing I’ve always spotted in a man, it’s bull.” Veronica often began her alcohol-induced tirades this way. Her friends, while often supportive, listened just enough to make the expected nods of affirmation.
“Yeah, all of ‘em. You remember that one boy I had a year ago? What the hell was his name? Oh yeah… Ty’ree. Ty’ree – who did he think he was, all with that splittin’ his name in half like it was some contraction or somethin’. Stupid, stupid, stupid… all men… stupid, stupid, stupid…”
Nod, and a lazy stir of their drinks.
“I could tell he was full of bull, too, ol’ Ty’ree. Talks to me like he knows me. Sends me a text message at work, tells me he’s gonna take care of me and love me and three weeks later he’s asking me for cash like I owe it to him because he cooked me dinner once…”
Nod again. At this point one could listen to Veronica every third phrase and still ascertain what she was saying:
“Lair… Ty’ree… money… money… not-on-my-couch-you-don’t… your mama don’t like me?… waste of time, that’s what he was… I’d had better…”
Twenty minutes pass by and a brand new song blasts through the club, the bass easily shaking the rest of the audience away from the table and Veronica on the dance floor. Jack doesn’t dance. Jack’s a dance virgin. He just hadn’t found the right song he wanted to give my pride and self-esteem away to. These are precious things not given away lightly.
Veronica, however, continued to whore his listening skills. He’d give in and listen, but only for ascetic reasons. Everywhere he looked, he saw pairs. Speakers were always in pairs: left-right, left-right, front-back, top-bottom. Dancers were in conglomerations of pairs, lovers were in pairs. And here he was, Veronica’s pairing. And while she continued to accost his airspace, Jack saw no alternatives, and instead joined in the fray.
“Well, Veronica, Ty’ree just wasn’t your pairing,” he said, but had forgotten the pair idea was just something in his head, and not common knowledge.
“What the hell are you talking about? Have you been listening to me? I don’t even know what you’re saying. Pairing?”
Jack tried to explain, but to no avail. In the end, sometimes it’s better to be the puzzle piece that doesn’t really fit than be the piece that doesn’t connect anywhere at all.
After throwing his arms and legs around, and finding ways to touch as much of his body to Veronica’s while avoiding an erection (thinking about his mother’s general disapproval of his choices tended to work most effectively), Jack asked Veronica to come home with him for the night. The sex they engaged in that night reminded him of the way he scanned his groceries at the self-checkout line, or received money from the ATM. As morning broke, he watched her, and decided she was a girl who must love pancakes. He set about making the best damn pancakes this woman had ever tasted.
Jack brought the three blueberry pancakes adorned with Vermont “the-real-kind-that-you-pay-$30-for-a-tiny-bottle” maple syrup with a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice back to an empty bedroom.
Jack was a breakfast sandwich guy, anyway.
2. FIND A JOB YOU CARE ABOUT