<%@ Language=VBScript %> <%response.buffer = TRUE%> You're not Bored, You're Just a Child
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You're not Bored, You're Just a Child

A gray day and neutral company finds Dean in search of his imagination, wondering why he has been forced to venture through his mind with the needless aid of his opinionless, pale-skinned companion.

by Craig A. Platt
Illustration by Jon Allen

May.30th.2001

The thick eyes and heavy smoke choked me into an awkward submission of silence and fallen glances. I was there only in body -- mind and spirit wandering out the door into the cold Manhattan streets. Late March and still 40 degrees outside.

I sat there at the table thinking thoughts too complex for the language I had been taught. I thought in emotions not in words, in images not in thoughts; I felt dizzy and moonstruck. The sun was setting outside and there was a dull gray besetting the entire area. The streets were beginning to become covered in a silver rain and the glass in the pavement shined like lacquer. A bus was sitting outside the window partially blocking my view of the square. To the west of it a fruit stand with a small Indonesian woman trying to collect her materials before the rain really let on.

"They said it might snow tonight!" I heard it, but my head hung there like a sleeping marionette, my eyes locked on the people strolling through the square behind the fruit stand lady; they seemed so careless. My neck felt gruesomely heavy.

Annie was still talking I think, and I wanted to look at her and say something clever. But I didn’t feel too clever; the rain made me quiet. The fruit stand had nice looking oranges but the strawberries looked extraterrestrial. They were covered in a green moss and the skin was wilted like paint after a flood. I looked past the fruit stand again at the pavement, at the little pieces of glass shimmering under the force of a million raindrops. I smiled for a second, just a second, revealing my teeth, then hiding them as soon as I realized it had happened.

"See you can smile," she was really trying to strike up a conversation. I looked over at her and she became unfamiliar and unsettling to look at.

The woman is the greatest puzzle in the world. You can love her one day caressing her face with your hardened palms, and the next day she will look like a stranger. She sat there and her brown hair was up in a bun over her brown eyes that pouted like a puppy. I felt as cold-hearted as a medieval king.

I looked past her at the counter where the short, fat, black woman served $5 coffee to 14-year-old girls dressed in $300 outfits trying to be little women. I wondered if anyone had a conscience. Annie moved her head into my frame of vision. She smiled and then stuck her tongue out. It was jovial, she looked a little more familiar, it was déjà vu.

"You see you can smile." She grabbed the back of my neck and kissed me on the lips. She tried to hold my hands, but I didn’t want to -- my hands were as clammy as a ninth grade biology teacher’s. I held them firm on my leg, on the pants I hadn’t washed in weeks. She just plopped her hands there on top of mine. She was smiling and her teeth were covered in a yellow film, I never noticed that before. I could’ve almost wretched, but I held it down. Outside there was a cloud moving past at an alarmingly fast speed. I imagined I was in a cartoon and the villain was in that cloud controlling it as it swept across the sky in a calculated move to cover him as he committed the ultimate crime. I was happy again I was using my imagination.

"Look Dean, you have to talk to me. How can we be friends if you don’t talk to me?" I had lost my heart, really it was gone, at least for the purpose of telling her in any form even remotely close to the truth. It was only lies that blossomed in my brain like the first flowers of spring. I smiled at her, unstuck my clammy hands from my heavy legs and placed them on her pale cheeks. She felt like cold Formica.

I kissed her forehead and whispered softly in her ear, I imagined my voice felt like a cool breeze. I removed my hands and pulled my head away abruptly, all in jerky movements. I was filled with nervousness. I smiled and then looked back out the window. The fruit stand lady was almost all packed up. She was underneath a military green rain slicker that was shining from the fresh spring rain and she looked so small and scared. Her back was hunched over. She was probably a sweet lady, she was probably married to a small husband with cancers on his face from working in the sun, calluses on his hands that made his palms discolored and disjointed, hunched over worse than she was. She started to push the fruit stand down 14th Street. I wondered where she took it. She had to have weighed no more than 90 pounds and she was pushing this enormous fruit stand. I wanted to cry; lately I have wanted to cry at everything I see.

"You can be so sweet sometimes, but I wish you would tell me what you were thinking." Annie was a nice girl. I hadn’t meant to get to know her, but things happen I guess. When I looked at her I saw nothing, I saw no one, I saw an empty body. She wasn’t much of anything; she had no heart, no opinions -- at least none I wanted to hear. She was pretty, but not so pretty that I felt holy, not so pretty that she made me feet unbreakable -- there was something inside of me telling me I should find a girl that would make me feel that way. The most ridiculous part is she was better than me from a sociological perspective and a philosophical perspective, hell even from a religious perspective.

She had no place being with me, and she liked me for no good reason. She didn’t even know why. For a while I just wanted to fuck her, then I did, and now I can whenever I want. I never wanted to spend my damn Saturday afternoon with her. This was my time. I wanted to have it for my imagination -- my only time outside the world of gray cubicle horizons, a place where we collapse into a soulless world of dim visionless thoughts, rambling in and out of nothingness, growing sore in the body from those uncomfortable swivel chairs, a time when we do what is expected of us with our volumes turned down and the station switched to the black and white channel. I wanted to be alone but she didn’t understand that a man might want to spend a portion of his time alone. This time with her had grown ridiculous already.

We were in a record store slash movie store slash coffee shop and the mood was heavy, boring almost. The music was new and soulless. I wanted some Bird Parker, some Tom Waits, something painful. I wondered why the good music never made it to the airwaves and if it did would still like it. I was feeling bloated from the muffin I had eaten. Annie was itching for something inspired, she looked to me for what she liked to call "immaculate inspiration." She said she was amazed by my character, by my disposition, by my prolific style. I wrote a note to myself and shoved it in my jean pocket with a little pink-knuckled fist crumpling the paper down to the bottom of my pocket filled with lint. I thought it might help me later on.

I was hoping it wasn’t sex she wanted, I just couldn’t stomach it. Even the thought of her cold, white flesh like raw chicken pressed up against my hairy body made me feel pale and scientific. It was a long silence, but there was this music to fill it, a music that sounded like a shelf collapsing in the garage. I felt like I should finally open my mouth because behind Annie’s eyes I could see an insecurity building, I could smell fear. I wished I was a dog. She was young and immature. Behind her eyes I could see sorrow and indifference. She had no idea what would make her happy and therein was her problem. Behind her eyes you could see an enormous comparison going on, she was comparing everything in her life to everything else she had heard from other people and then coupling that with the music she listened to and the movies she watched. She was trying to figure out why the good girl got the good guy at the end of the movie and why I wasn’t more committed to her. She always just assumed that she was the good girl and that her beau was the good guy.

I laughed at her, I mean right in her face and she wasn’t as frightened as she was shocked. Her eyes floated like feathers to the bottom of their sockets. She asked me what was wrong. I pointed at something that wasn’t funny behind her. The fruit stand lady had disappeared, she was walking off into the sunset like a short Indonesian John Wayne, and I smiled at the irony. I smiled at the inability anyone else had to see the beauty in it like I did, and I smiled at the sadness I had inside me as I longed for someone I could enjoy that with. I felt like saying something and I wondered what was going to spill out of my mouth.

"Do you ever get bored with things?" Annie asked me.

For the first time today I had stared into her eyes. I had stared over her, through her and down at my hands and jeans all day. I was alone, but she was there. I felt embarrassed and blushed. My heart raced. I coughed, she put her damn hand on me again and I wanted to slap it off. She was this heavy lead blanket I couldn’t shake. I always found the same woman, the same type of woman at least with a slight variation, but at the core was that sour apple flavor, that tender disposition which just infuriated me. Where was the independence and the security? I laughed again.

"Are you bored right now?" She looked into me, she tried to at least. I could see the muscles in her neck straining.

"Look," I said to her. I coughed into my clammy hand, which smelled just like her perfume. "I just wanted to have a day alone." Big mistake.

She almost cried. I think she did, I never notice those things, if you do they depress you. I wasn’t in the mood for being depressed, if I was to get depressed I wanted it to be because of me, not because of her. Girls always cry at the wrong time, men always cry when it makes a point -- the kind that shines golden in the balding sun when it is declarative and powerful like a shoe slammed on a pulpit.

"We will bury you," I thought out loud, remembering ninth grade social studies.

"What was that? Bury who?" She was clinching her fists into softballs of white flesh, all they were missing were the red laces. I looked down at my shoes, they were caked in light brown dirt. Where did I find mud in Manhattan? Immaculate! I thought Christ and mud and ashes to ashes and dust to dust and what the hell does God have to do with anything in our everyday lives. I thought of left and right and whether I thought of them the same as Annie might. I thought of her brown eyes and the way she was cinching her brow like a Shar-Pei dog. I wondered whether my mind was inside or outside of me at that very moment.

"So do you get bored with stuff?" Was she trying to get to know me? I wanted to get up and leave, and all of a sudden a dream I had overwhelmed me and took over my time.

It was not death, I never dreamed of death, but instead I dreamt of something I liked to call the anti-death which was nothing like birth or death and instead was the moment you realized the moment you wanted to remember was passing you by. And in this dream that moment was a series of words spelled out in the sky by an orange sun, by friends and families running from me and to me as I danced in a country of fields and winds. I danced with nature as the long stalks of grass filtered and fumbled left and right and back again and back again and back again, and then I fell to the ground with my heart pounding a lump into my chest. I laughed, laughed like a dog following his master to the refrigerator. There was nothing left to say. It was my dream and Annie was on the edge of her chair and I closed my eyes and wished that I had a history of fainting so I could fake fainting now.

"Are you angry at me about something?" I wish she would just shut the hell up! I wonder how Carver would write this, but my memory is shot.

I rubbed my hand through my hair, nails down to my scalp, very angrily and deliberately. Flipped through the pages of the history I was creating for myself. I searched for the perfect similar situation, through the file cabinets of my brains. I wondered if I had a prepared speech tucked away for Annie, could I please her once more to buy me some time until the next, did I want that time? It was all too hard to figure and I looked down at my hand, at all the crooked little brown hairs I had just pulled out of my scalp. I wanted to laugh out loud but there was too much phlegm in my throat. I could stand up leave, but then she would follow me.

"I am bored with this," I waved my hand palm up toward the entire room. Oh good work boy, I thought, put it off on commercialism, on society, blame it all, very modern, very garde. I walked into the canals of her eyes and stared at them. She stared back and she was speechless for once. I looked back down and fidgeted. She wasn’t satisfied yet but I had at least a moment to collect all of my thoughts and line them up neatly and alphabetically. This was crazy, I didn’t need this, not at all. I was working it over in my brain, I was working it over in the hard wood floors, this damn Bon Jovi shit that was playing, this damn death that was playing.

"You’re not bored, you’re just a child." She flashed her teeth, evil, I thought about it wrong, wrong, and wrong. I imagined Henry Miller or Norman Mailer reaching across the table and smacking her properly. Men aren’t supposed to hit women though, but she hurt me more than any bruise. I could reach across and put her in her place in a matter of seconds with a quick blow to the eye. I could insult her back, call her a cunt. I imagined it for a split second. I looked over my shoulder at the enormous, black-as-night security guard who would have hauled me out by my armpits. I wondered if there was any one who would even take a break from their busy important lives and notice, after all this was New York City. But I didn’t, I looked at her and apologized. The words seem foreign to me now, I forget them or maybe I have blocked them from my memory. A real man would’ve done something decisive. I made her happy somehow. I ambled through my files of poetry and said something so convincing that she actually left happy, she actually asked me to call her later.

She left and I was alone like I had wanted. The rain fell like knuckles on the pavement, I heard the songs blasting through the store, and I wondered where the road was leading. A taxi was blocking traffic picking up a passenger in the middle lane on a green light and car horns sounded off like an orchestra of morons. I watched the confident women walk by in leather pants that hugged their thighs like a desperate boy holds his first Playboy. They all looked important to me. Annie was a dime a dozen really, but my heart began to pound when I thought her name, where was she now. I looked out the window again, a man holding a newspaper over his head ran desperately for a dry spot under an awning, and I pulled a book of stories from my bag and turned it all off.




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