Every story has a hero. Somewhere.
Laying on a porch in Georgetown, Missouri, with a yellow wave of sun washing away the creeping morning dew, and Ms. Jerrysmith laggardly waking to an imprint of a memory in between the frame of a dusty bed and a broken picture, and overhearing the listless lament of a lonely bird singing to the emptiness of a prosthetic junkyard, my father places his strong hands gently on my bare shoulders, “Be still. Be still, my boy.”
His pendulous jaw juts down and up from its frame as his lips lick themselves into a Southern drawl, almost as if they were unsure of their origin. In between a mix of a British accent and a drunken New Yorker slur, my father finds his voice. It wasn’t exactly fabricated, but it wasn’t exactly original either. My father, he was a faker.
Despite the fact that his father and his father before that and so the trove of fathers before all lived in Georgetown, he never quite enjoyed the pleasantries of the city. The desolate fields. The endless parking lots. The breathlessness of a city center. Such luxuries didn’t entertain him. He believed they were the testament of wasted and forgotten potential. “See that building?” He’d point to a derelict heap of corrugated, rusting metal, salmon pink siding, and crumbling red brick fashioned together in an equation that forgot to carry the one. “It’s beautiful.” He’d tear up. He’d pinch me until I did too.
He smiled a lot. He was smiling now as the early morning sun poured itself freely on the edges of his darkened, unshaven face. It wasn’t exactly a stupid smile; it was just that I couldn’t figure out where it ended. Licorice lips were worn like old leather, cracking even, and they curved themselves around his cheeks for what seemed like an eternity. When a person would face him directly, they’d see an equator circling around the circumference of his head. The illusion also made it seem like a desert was caught in an oasis, rather than an oasis being caught in a desert. The difference is the desert has no escape from its watery grave: his mouth. My father flashed this equator, this desert, this smile at me, and I felt like I was drowning. Or at least, burning from the inside out.
It may have just been the sun’s rosy glimmer that warmed my body from the toes up. Or it may have been the touch of callous skin onto my naked, smooth shoulders. Either or, even the indomitable morning dew wrestled itself off my limp, frail, and withered body. Soon, my body turned red, then orange, then blue, then black, then gone.
I am dead.
Ms. Jerrysmith began her day just like all the others. Rustling, nodding, and wondering. She knew what lay ahead, even though a tremulous gnawing feeling consumed her ravenously. She figured she would persist, if only for a little longer. So, she awoke. She showered. She dressed. She ate. She drove. She worked. She drove. She ate. She undressed. She showered. She slept. Sometimes, days just go by like that and people don’t notice it.
Ms. Jerrysmith did, however. Whenever someone asked her how her day was, she’d always reply sternly, almost anxiously, “So busy. So busy. Busy, busy, busy.” When the last “busy” lingered from the prison of her teeth, she was sitting down, doing nothing at all.
Jump back to routine, jump back to habit. Ms. Jerrysmith awoke the next day, and continued on her path like a dog on a leash. Although the leash was anything but tangible, every morning she felt its pull inside her stomach. Or, perhaps it was a push. Whatever it was, she had it checked out regularly. The doctors, who always flashed a smile of deceit and shook their leg from side to side periodically on the operating table as if their calf muscle was attempting to perform a tracheotomy on the wooden cabinets, simply said, “There is something wrong with you indeed.”
Ms. Jerrysmith knew it. Each time she believed that this visit would be the time where she would finally get some help. The pains, the doubts, the fears; all disappeared with but a few words from a professional’s tongue. The doctor could tell her anything. He could say that she had leukemia, meningitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and she’d believe it. In fact, she’d be ecstatic about it. She’d thank God He was finally answering her prayers of sickness. Hell, the doctor could even tell her she wasn’t human, and she’d say, “I knew it all along.”
“You’re too healthy.” They’d say instead of providing the palliative of verbal release.
She’d just sit, busy as she always was, and cry and cry and cry. They gave her a daily dose of reassurance – fully prescribed of course – and consequently sent her off as the weeping, sniffling, red-nosed woman that she was.
Such memories panged her as she was still lumbering on with her common schedule. Today, however, her schedule was untimely interrupted. Instead of waking up with a cement block of darkness marring her self-perception, she began to realize that her skin was quite wrinkled. It never occurred to her before, but it appeared as if someone stretched an elastic band and released it haphazardly across her skin. The scrunched aftermath, all boundless and indistinct, were her remains.
It was quite an accident. She didn’t mean to notice herself this way, nor did she wish to question what happens when the elastic breaks; rather it just so happens that what someone doesn’t want to know, they will always find out. Ms. Jerrysmith was no different. She was always under the illusion that her alabaster complexion was something permanent, one of the main precursors to why boys ravenously ululated her way. Odd, however, was the fact she couldn’t remember the last time any boy crooned mellifluously towards her. Or when she even heard a willful whistle. Or a volatile voice. Or a bursting breathe. She didn’t hear anything anymore except for her heart beating alone in a wooden-house that was falling apart under the vegetation that consumed it whole. All she heard was change; the untimely conqueror that it was.
Her father had died or abandoned or a combination of the two sometime when she was three and nineteen. Her brother followed the very same fate in between those hazy yet eventful years. Her lover as well. Every boy she met had turned out to be a disappointment, an utter rejection of decency and chivalry. They were brash, truculent fools who proved to be the exceptions to the theory of evolution. Instead of throwing their feces, they threw punches. Instead of howling like apes, they wailed at girls. Instead of unctuously picking lice off their mates, they picked their noses, and flung the proud excavations wayward. In short, she didn’t quite go bananas over men.
But her complete revulsion towards men was not the reason why she had strayed from them. She was indeed a woman, and sometimes, her carnal urgency took hold. So much so, in fact, that there once was a truly wonderful man, a white dress, innumerable flowers, a colossal cake, a overwhelming celebration, proud parents, foolish guests, blood and alcohol mixed effortlessly together, monkeys in monkey clothes, a regretting priest, lingering contrition, lingering doubts, lingering bravery, an empty container of Clorox, limpness, screams, post-mortem, autopsy, tears, digging, covering, flowers again, murmurs, darkness, darkness, darkness.
Somewhere in there, was love.
In 1826, there was no Georgetown. Instead there was a crawling expanse of mountainous land sprinkled with bottomless caverns, sparse fields, and a green carpet of trees and stumps. Oddly enough, the trees could never grow to maturity, and each wilted into stumps as soon as they budded in the spring months. As far as reckless abandon goes, the area prior to the metropolitan wonderland of Georgetown was the superlative example. Mother Nature had wrecked her havoc, and in doing so, created a beautiful mix of rock and greenery and barren stumps. Trees were born and died in peace. Animals basked in this natural majesty unimpeded. If a warped Eden existed, this was where.
Sadly, change is the only thing guaranteed in this world. Like Eden, the Fruit of Knowledge was consumed as soon as an unquestionably brave, possibly insane, and certainly drunk man lugged his inquisitive foot into the natural-stumped paradise. His name was Alex Georgetaw, and he was an alcoholic.
When he exhaled, he could have lit a match with the enduring alcohol that saturated his breath. At the time of his arrival, he was wearing tattered clothes, had not imbibed water in three days, and was but a few, brief moments from death. In short, he was a cherub with a flaming sword for breath, a fastening monk of the highest accord, and he was going to guard this Eden. Soon he would learn it was his Eden for only those who guard Eden live forever, and soon, Alex would too. In one way or another at least.
He didn’t mean to trudge his drunken self to this forested paradise, but luck for him was always spelt with an f. Born to a family of three, he was the youngest child belonging to a father who spent his time whispering sweet nothings to a whiskey bottle like a microphone in order to amplify both is voice and confidence, and to a mother who gave her life to give him life. She was sweet, so he was told. In the one portrait Alex saw of her, she was crying, or perhaps on the verge of tears. It is difficult to discern which as the painting had been burned largely from what appeared to be deliberate immolation. In the charred aftermath, however, one of the hands of his mother is clearly visible. In it, there is an object that is conspicuous enough: a rose. It has wilted and dried. Reason enough to cry, Alex always had thought.
Alex didn’t look like any of his parents. His eyes were too narrow, bodily frame too small. His legs were gnarled like branches of a tree warped by a tornado due to his years of alcohol abuse, and as a result, he was forced to outline his steps in an invisible line like a snail. While his disability was a blessing insofar as he did not have to go to war, it was also a curse because he did not have to go to war. This is because Alex wanted to kill himself.
Due to this predilection of fate, a self-inflicted one that is, he drank himself until lefts became rights, woman became beautiful, and drunken letters became written poetry. They read:
Frozen frowns freckled the forgotten field
while snow tipped angels sit in a sea of white;
the seedlings and buds willfully wait for spring’s shield,
as the wind shakes the willow tendrils with all its might,
for a tree is no more once it has died;
nothing save bare branches stretched in winter’s lullaby.
Writing can influence the masses, and his writing massively influenced him. Thus this drunken bard – in all his pseudo-Shakespearean glory – was fueled to search for all the trees and save them from their own demise. It was a honourable quest, one he surely believed was worth his life at the very least.
However being raised within a city, trees were necessarily hard to come by. Besides, the trees he saw always regenerated under the vagaries of the seasons. From life sprung death, from death, life. These trees did not need his salvation, nor did he need them. These trees already had all they needed: nutrients, water, soil, and leaves. Alex wished for trees that would make him question,” if trees could scream, would a person be so cavalier about cutting them down?” Then he remembered the war, where the North was fighting the South, where brothers took arms against brothers, and that he was sitting in a bar, drinking himself into an opiate ecstasy. So, in a drunken reverie the answer came to him: only if the trees screamed for no good reason.
He needed proof of his answer, as all drunken men do. They need proof of love, of lust, of everything in between, and will hunt wildly for it. Alex was no different. From the bar, he searched for these desolate trees – stumps really. In this way, he found Georgetown. Or stumbled upon it after losing his way on one too many turns.
As drunk stories go, here is his adventure, “bar, lights, haze, darkness, falling, swimming, drowning, floating, waking up, Georgetown”. Once he awoke, his head pounded with an anvil and hammer only alcoholism could guarantee. Yet as his glazed eyes swam eerily around him, he saw what he longed for: nothingness.
Immediately, he knew he would love this land. He was so convinced that after building a mere shack from broken branches and dried leaves, he made a woman out of dirt and married her. As far as dirt woman go, she was beautiful. A bit muddy, but what woman isn’t a tad dirty? Sadly though, when he kissed her, she disintegrated. Like a good husband, Alex had a funeral in his old city, and the preacher just kept repeating “From dust to dust, dust to dust, dust to dust…”
Eventually though, Alex moved on, and focused on his city. People began to move in, hearing about this paradise, stumped as it was, from all over the world. Soon the town took shape from Alex’s wife’s natural ashes. Stumps were substituted with shacks, shacks with buildings, buildings with skyscrapers, skyscrapers with hope. So construction goes. Despite the harsh winters that waited, the never-ending struggle with summer’s heat, the floods, the hurricanes, the tornados, a metropolitan was raised from the bare cusp of Mother Nature.
Currently named in Alex’s honour, Georgetown also extends his legacy further: it has the highest alcoholism rate in the country, and the most suicides per capita worldwide. Although Alex could never kill himself, most of the tombstones in Georgetown would do him proud.
Realize, please, that my father is a saint. His actions have no reflections on his act, only on the play that we all participate in. From darkness, we all come only to be thrust into the spotlight with hands clapping together passionately, tears falling ardently, and bodies sweating profusely. My father played his part perfectly, performing all that was required of him in the highest form. He was truly an exquisite performer. He fooled me into believing he loved me. He fooled everyone that he could love at all.
It wasn’t that he lied exactly. He couldn’t lie, or at least I was led to believe he couldn’t. Like the many in Georgetown, my father was an adamant Catholic. Raised as such, he was a God-fearing, God-loving, God-apathetic kind of man. As far as Catholics go, he was quick to call out which misery that occurred to others was due to the wrath of God, but when misery occurred to him, he was lost in a stupor of confusion. Usually as confusion set, he prayed. Then, he waited. Then, he drank. What else can be expected of a religious society that guzzles down the blood of their Saviour every Sunday?
Not much, I suppose. Crusades speak for themselves.
Besides that, most of the memories that I have of him, few as they may be, are in Church. He, despite my slowed nature, my dawdling walk, and my unfortunate screeches, insisted that we reside right in front of the pulpit. While unable to voice an objection of my own, I straggled onwards as he raced to the front of the Church. Perhaps he believed that being closer to the priest and the majesty of the sacraments, he would be more likely to be saved. I was never sure. In fact, my father made sure I was never sure of anything.
Regardless of my father’s opinion, the masses that we attended were a highlight of my week. Unlike school, where I was sectioned off into another room, forced to play with persons as inept as I, and petulantly taught the reoccurring lessons day in and day out, mass was a place of unadulterated bliss. For heaven sakes, there in the front I was with God. I could even taste Him. Sometimes He was stale. But He was at least 6000 years old, give or take, so I didn’t mind. I was grateful for such an honour, and for that the fact that He gave me the blessing of life. Although, maybe it was a curse. My father thought so.
I can say this because I did hear my father once or twice question God why He had created such a dilapidating disease like cerebral palsy. “What benefit could it possibly have,” he asked penitently, “in an all purposefully, intelligent, majestic, beautiful, and unquestionably good Universe?”
I crawled into my father’s room and attempted to provide the necessary comfort with my purulent eyes, but instead of cherishing the adulation, he shooed me away. He pushed my weakened body away from his obsequious knees. I was disappointed, or at least as much as I could be. Such cruelty wasn’t new. On the other hand, my response was. Usually my disease only permitted dim-witted thoughts and actions to circle around aimlessly in my head. This time, however, I thought in reprisal, “It is better to live on one’s feet than on one’s knees.” I even said it, although mawkishly.
“Too bad you can’t do either.” He replied, not looking at me.
This is why masses remained such an ebullient period in my life: I couldn’t hear him pray. All prayers were done silently, beautifully silently. On top of that, every mass my father would sit me onto his bony lap, whispering what the priest was doing, and why he was doing it. I did not have to worry about being pushed away, ignored, and let down to a height lower than I was already crawling at. My father was, as I said, “a saint.” In the House of the Lord, it was certainly true. There on his lap, I found heaven for a little while.
It was also because his lap – and legs for that matter – were an exquisite example of what years of mediocre work could do. Discoloured and gloriously corpulent, his legs were the remains of a weathered landscape of human tissue. As such, bumpy patches mapped themselves around his flesh, and during each mass, it was like I was riding on miniature mountains turning into molehills, and these molehills transfigured into human flesh that worked itself into a hardened, callous consistency from an oafish life of toiling around on oafish tasks for oafish pay. In short, his legs, and him by extension, were oafish.
Although he was never diagnosed, an autopsy would reveal that those individual lumps that riddled his legs were in fact cancerous tumors. By the end of his life, they were so pervasive and malignant that it ironically appeared as if he had cerebral palsy himself because he was as stiff as a board – or as comparably stiff as I was when he treated me like board. My father must’ve asked himself those times that he prayed to God, and waited, and drank, “What does one do with boards?” Maybe God replied, “They burn them.” Omnipotence sometimes gets into people’s heads, God included. Just ask the antediluvian human beings. The Infidels.
But despite the rocky-road that shaped his legs, mass was also a time of enjoyment because while whispering the common routines of an arcane tradition, my father persisted to tickle me with his moustache. It was not that he meant to, but rather that the ear is a very sensitive organ, and as far as sensitive organs go, it cannot resist the grazing of a few hairs on its skin. Due to my disease, I was supposed to be inane, indolent, and unreceptive to the little hairs. Fortunately a miracle of science or a miracle of magic or a miracle of both must’ve fallen my way, and I could enjoy the little hairs for what they were: whoopee cushions.
As they cascaded up and down my ear, sometimes harder and sometimes softer with each word my father uttered, it sounded like a whoopee cushion was firing off instead of a brazen, sonorous voice of a man. To put it simply, my father was whistling farts in my ear. Maybe that’s why I didn’t follow the mass, nor did I believe much of the sermon. It was all farts to me.
Interestingly enough, my father was known by those whoopee cushions for hairs. Everyone in town only had to see an outline of his mustache, and they’d cry, “Kandell Jameson.” Even in his police report, he was described as, “… a man who dons a permanent mustache, drinks heavily, has a record of maltreatment, and has peculiar bumps on his leg.”
That wasn’t all true though. He didn’t always have a mustache. He did shave it off once, and what was left was a face blemished by prepubescent nit-picking, numerous mistakes, and nights best left forgotten. What was left wasn’t my father, it was something else entirely. It was as though with the removal of hairs, he had become an invisible man, neither known nor seen by others. Only one time I observed him so exposed, so bare, so foreign.
It was the night he killed me.
Ms. Jerrysmith continued to look at herself in the mirror. As far as accidents go, this was a minor one. As the glistening yellow flood of light poured over Georgetown as it had done before daily Ms. Jerrysmith existed, a ray escaped the discolored blinds of Ms. Jerrysmith’s house. Illuminating a dusty mirror, Ms. Jerrysmith saw herself unlike ever before.
Instead of looking through her reflection and assuming a perpetual magnificence, she looked at something she had never truly seen before: herself. Due to the curtains enveloping the mirror, and the darkness swallowing the room whole, it appeared as though Ms. Jerrysmith was on a stage of sorts. The theatre was called, “Ms. Jerrysmith unadulterated.” It was an audience of one, and when she shuffled, it seemed as though the bed may have been clapping for an encore.
Her pink chemise was dull and practically transparent in the golden sunlight’s solitary ray. Underneath the thin rags was an older woman than Ms. Jerrysmith remembered. Where her hourglass shape once been stood an oval now bursting from its skin-laden prison. Where endless locks of brilliant blonde hair once cascaded was a short, grey rat’s nest. Where firm breasts, flaccid bags. Where nimble fingers, immovable planks. Where lively smiles, a permanent frown. Unfortunately, all that remained were memories, and it seemed even those were fading.
Suddenly, in the midst of seeing herself for who she was, became, and always would be, she had a brilliant idea. First things first, though. It was as she was always raised. “Don’t sweat the petty stuff, and don’t pet the sweaty stuff.” As such, didn’t sweat at all, and took care of what needed to be taken care of before brilliance took its course. So she looked at her answering machine: no calls. She opened her mail: no post. She walked to her neighbour’s house: no one home. Perfect. She was alone. She just had to make sure. With one last check into the sky, and a loud echo answering her scream, she knew that she was alone. It was a beautiful cloudless day.
Like many baby-blue weathered days, Ms. Jerrysmith decided to go to the beach for her brilliant plan to enfold itself out. Good place as any, she thought. She set herself down at the beach after a long, silent two-hour drive, and began to walk along the sandy shores. Her pink chemise, the only clothing she brought, whistled in the wind effortlessly. Her short hair swayed its ugly ends randomly. Her pale skin chilled in the water. From above, her feet looked like duck feet, all wrinkled and stained blue with veins bulging out of worn skin. Each deep footstep created a remembrance of her in the moistened sand and each footstep was also a testament of her existence in this world. They were marks that were meant to be everlasting, like writing one’s name in concrete or stepping on the moon, but each wave rolled on and erased her footprints. It seemed that they the waves were an outward display of her worth to the world. As soon as she steps down, she is forgotten. The world knows this. Ms. Jerrysmith does too. So does the metal in her hand.
As all brilliant all ideas go, she first began with a nerve firing off. Then, she fired off a series of muscles. Then, a gag reflex. Then, a gun.
Or better yet tried too. It seemed that her memory had faded away so much that her dexterity wilted away also. Her fingers could not perform such a simple task of placing a gun into her shaking mouth and pulling a small trigger that was balanced on a hairline. Sometimes, old age takes too much from a person. Without choice and juvenile rashness, we are but beings with metal in our mouths. We are helpless.
Consequently, she was left there on a beach with onlookers wondering what a woman in a nightgown could be doing. Some with more fortunate eyes than others uncovered this unfortunate scene, and hollered for the police all the while Ms. Jerrysmith stood frozen with age – an ice age of sorts. No one on the beach moved, except for the police who had to storm into the tragedy unfolding. They, although many of the police men did not recognize it, saw a woman placing a metal warped into a weapon on a tongue that could shoot bullets that dug deeper than any bullet, beaches lapping themselves endlessly on a shore in an indifference only Mother Nature could promise, and problems that felt like an entire world was falling apart when in reality it was the Universe just slowly expanding, pulling everything apart slowly. This included Ms. Jerrysmith’s preconceived notions of herself, the police’s authority, conscience, and life. What the police saw on the beach was old age, unrequited love, the Big Bang, the Big Crunch, and anything and everything surmised in one word: gone.
Luckily – or unluckily for Ms. Jerrysmith – the event went without incident, save for a few hotdogs slipping from their protective buns in shock upon hearing the news that a “crazy woman was going to kill herself at the beach.” Sadly, Ms. Jerrysmith never got that chance. She was easily dislodged from her catatonic state by two shots of a tranquilizer. The gun, acting like metal is supposed to, dropped into the water, and would eventual rust. Ms. Jerrysmith, like the gun, fell into the water also, although she would not rust, but decay bit by bit. Other than that, morphine was the only other shot Ms. Jerrysmith would be experiencing that day.
Upon analysis at the hospital, it was found that she was not crazy, despite what the few beach-goers said. The psychologist was puzzled about this. So, as all people do when befuddled with something they do not quite understand, he quizzically asked, “Why?”
In between the haze of reality and the anesthetized ecstasy that Ms. Jerrysmith found herself, she decided to answer truthfully, or at least as truthful as a woman perceived as crazy could be, “Because you wake up in the morning every day, and see a reflection. Today I saw myself instead of seeing a mirror, and hated it. I was ugly. Alone. Depressed. Forlorn. Old. Forgotten. I was pieces of a broken mirror made full. ”
As all good psychologists do, he began to scribble down the key words, many as there were. So unto paper did Ms. Jerrysmith’s problems go, and like anything on paper, they were meaningless. He wrote Forgotten, followed by Depressed, then Old, then Alone, then Crazy???.
Although the c-word was heavily discouraged in the psychological field, the psychologist didn’t mind it. Freud thought there were no crazy people; only people thinking others were crazy. But this psychologist wasn’t Freud, so he didn’t worry about such distinctions. He tossed the c-word freely, almost instinctively. It made his job easier.
Besides scribbling down Ms. Jerrysmith’s conditions, the psychologist had heard such a lament before. As such, he ushered his voice in commandingly to quell the silence between them, “You are beautiful to someone, Ms. Jerrysmith. Someone finds you beautiful.”
“Do you?” she retorted quickly in a derisive tone mixed with apathy.
He shuffled around for a bit, opening and closing his mouth as if he were testing the words out before he used them. He tried to doodle to buy himself some more time. On the page, juxtaposed between the three question marks connected to Ms. Jerrysmith’s potential mad-hatter diagnosis, the psychologist noticed he created a warped image of a cross. As one of the few non-Catholics in the city, the psychologist found this funny, amusing even. So he accidently – and embarrassingly – let out a momentary chortle.
Not being one to assuage her emotions, Ms. Jerrysmith’s faced swallowed it’s previous apathetic nature only to leave behind a storm of sadness. Clouds bellowed themselves under her eyes like a raccoon. Being already more than half a century olf, it seemed she aged tremendously more upon hearing the laugh. In the light, it almost looked as if she was mummified already. She looked dead, and was simply waiting for the next life to come her way.
Finally, while Ms. Jerrysmith’s face cringed itself into a prune consistency and an eternity or so past between the two without a word, the psychologist said “I’m not sure my wife would like me to answer this question. I’m happily married, you see.”
There was a transitory silence, yet it was deep and pervasive. Even the constant flickering of the incandescent bulbs seemed to wane into the nothingness between these two human beings. Breaths were halted. Brains turned off temporarily. Then, just like that, it was Ms. Jerrysmith turn to let out a chuckle – a harrowing, blood curdling chuckle, that is.
She laughed and laughed and laughed. Tee-hee. Tee-hee. Tee-hee. She hissed away. Spit flew every which way. Nothing was saved from the impending watery demise. The cross on the psychologists page, Ms. Jerrysmith’s conditions, the psychologist himself; all were soaked in the salvia of what seemed to be a crazy woman. The psychologist was repulsed; maybe it – whatever she had – was contagious. Who knew, maybe Crazy??? was a disease. Maybe everyone in the hospital was infected with it. The psychologist was frightened with the very thought. Then he remembered that he was in the hospital. Maybe that meant he was Crazy???. As far as crazy thoughts go, that was probably the sanest thing the psychologist had ever said.
The wet, salivated aftermath of the psychologist paper turned itself into an inkblot. The psychologist, while Ms. Jerrysmith was laughing hysterically, noticed it. He wondered what he saw in it. The lines were blurred and fuzzy. There was no distinct shape really. If only someone would ask him, he’d be able to tell them what he thought. To him, the wet, dripping ink figure looked like a butterfly.
The psychologist’s musings were interrupted, “And yet you come here to me, trying to decipher my problems, even though you have a loving wife while I’m here struggling to find someone who will even talk to me unless it’s their job. You don’t know suffering. You could never understand.”
She was right. He could never understand. But that was not his job. His job was not to understand but to diagnose. He couldn’t do that either however. The butterfly was on his mind. It was so majestic there on the page. Its wings, however, were clipped. It seemed stapled to the page, and the psychologist only wished to see it go free.
Ms. Jerrysmith saw he was distracted. She knew with what for she had seen it too: the beautiful creature caught in the prison of paper. While the psychologist stared down at it, oblivious of his job, his wet face, and really anything around him, Ms. Jerrysmith said whimsically, “It is not a butterfly, but a flutterby. It looks nothing like a fly, and contains no butter, but it does flutter as it goes by.” She hit the paper from the psychologist’s moist hand, and watched as it fluttered down just as she said it would.
She never saw the psychologist after that. Saddened at that fact, she was soon discharged home because no one could find anything wrong with her. As such, schedule shot itself back up, and before she knew it, she was asleep, ready to begin the day again.
“Where be your gibes now” was Georgetown’s motto, and it wouldn’t change as time sauntered on beyond Alex Georgetaw’s existence for those were the first words Alex said when he stumbled upon the unbridled city landscape. Prior to that fateful day when he awoke in the cold waters of what would become Georgetown, he envisaged a beautifully repulsive land. He was hoping, although drunkenly, to find a land that was filled with green vegetation juxtaposed with barren rock. For every vibrant animal that populated the land there would have to be an equal amount of skeletal remains of the same animal, less vibrant of course. All in all, the land would have a perfect balance between death and life. It would be purgatory here on Earth. That was one of the reasons Alex went searching for this land. He was tired of waiting only to wait more in the afterlife. He wanted shorten his wait. Alex Georgetaw, on top of being an alcoholic, was an economist, as all economists are. This is because he wanted to cut the middle man out.
So when he awoke to the sound of water swirling around in his ears after stumbling around in a drunken daze, he was ecstatic to find a place so filled with life, but also so wonderfully filled with death. While gazing around at his Heaven as well as his Hell, he was reminded of Shakespeare and the skull of Yorick. Odd enough, a verse blurt itself out from the back alleys of his mind and unto his moistened lips, “Where be your gibes now?”
Alex wondered the answer to that question briefly. Never having studied Shakespeare before, he would never have an answer to such a literary mystery. Alex assumed, however, his gibes were here. The mockery that he was branded with before would be forgotten. His life prior had past. He had died in a way and his skull was somewhere far from his head just as Yorick’s was. A new Alex would be born, and with it, a city for him.
While not being a man of discipline of any kind, Alex was certainly a religious man, as all men without discipline tend to be. Without any morals, he found them in God, and ensured that he abused God’s morals heavily. It was the least a religious man could do. For the first thing he did when he was named mayor of Georgetown was build a whore-house. Then he built a Church, and asked for forgiveness about the former. He said, “God. I just wanted you to have more followers.” It seemed reasonable enough: the Church of God is not a place of saints but of strippers.
Alex reasoned such an action as such: sins by definition are actions that are not good. A religious man like himself should never perform sin because it is not good. God would not want that. But sin made Alex feel good. Really good. So sins are actually not actions that are not good. So, he surmised, he should perform sin.
And sin – glorious, unadulterated, heinous, vile, macabre, insidious, iniquitous, deadly, repugnant, abhorrent, spiteful, reproachful sin – he did.
This is how Georgetown was crafted, from stumps to stumps, sin to sin, human to human. It was in the spirit of Alex’s sinful nature that a new Eden – God’s Eternal Kingdom here on Earth – would be constructed. He wished to dedicate the city to God, nearly calling it Godtown, but then reminded himself that God had enough praise. Besides, who did good acts but God, and according to Alex’s twisted logic, who sinned but God? And after all, sin was bad, and Alex didn’t want to name a city after a bad man. So instead, he named it after himself.
The city, though, had much work to do in its initial stages. Trees combed over trees, rocks folded over rocks, dirt built up upon dirt. It was insipid, yet an entirely different world then the metropolitan Alex was used to. The first time he was in Georgetown, he studied the ground that he walked on. Ants moved among the grass stems like shadowy figures moving between the boles of trees. Birds chirped happily with indifference to his presence, gazing too at the ground. Wind whistled and wailed around the three of them, and Alex saw with unquestionable clarity that there were other worlds than this one – the one he was forced to live on. They were worlds layered so extensively that they molded together when viewed macroscopically. They were like the sections of an onion or the pages of a book. For a few seconds, he thought he might ease into one of them and be gone, vanish like the ant did behind the grass blade.
Then some of the water from the river dripped from his blackened hair, travelled down his craggy face, and balanced at the tip of his nose fearlessly, only to drip down to the ground in between the ant and his footprint. In this heightened reality, where paradise combined with hell, he watched the drop descend with infinitesimal slowness and when it finally struck the earth it rang like a hammer on an anvil.
Everything was amplified. He heard the scurrying of the ant who dashed away confused, the birds swooping down because the ant revealed its position, and the wind carrying the tune of nature forevermore. Abruptly, Alex could see the connections between the worlds. They were as strong as silk, thin like hair, and they pulled apart the world he once knew.
There are events in this world – every world – that echo like ripples of water. Tug a thread and the entire tapestry alters. Move a pawn, and your king will be checkmated. The world has consequences, and Alex realized this. He was a consequence, a series of them that led up to a certain point. He would cause more consequences through his existence, no matter what. Even in his death, he would cause consequences. That’s part of life. The ant taught him that in its death.
Little did he know how disastrous each little consequence would be.
My father began to do something he dreaded: cleaning. Although men have a natural anathema to tidiness, my father was forced into this predicament. It was because of his actions, and the lack of them, that his good nature dwindled in the face of opposition. He didn’t know I would struggle. He didn’t know I would or could cut his face. He didn’t know how much I loved him.
Maybe it wasn’t logical to come to such a conclusion, especially with his self-righteous gift to me. But we are creatures not of logic, but of emotion. Emotion is weaved into us genetically while logic is something invented, fake even. We defined the convention in logic rather than it defining us. But emotion, that’s something we feel right down to our core. So I loved my father, whatever logical fallacy I was committing didn’t concern me. Besides, I am only human, humans make mistakes, and logic is made by humanity. So maybe logic is a mistake. That’d be a logical conclusion.
Pouring cold water from a rusted faucet, my father stood apathetically as blood mixed effortlessly with the clear life-giving liquid. He was a stoic frozen ruin of what he used to be. No longer was he human. He had lost that privilege when his emotion vacuumed itself from his veins. Instead, he simply was. Flesh covered him in a deceitful illusion of manhood, while nerves fired off a lie of humanness. To make matters worse, he was without a mustache, and thus, was no longer my father.
Prior to this ghostly apparition of the man I used to know, he took me to his room, placed me on my knees and said pray. His breath hissed itself into an infinite curl. I smelt the alcohol on his breath like a diaper filled with feces. While not being out of the ordinary, something was different. Usually when drunk, he was like all the others. Happy. When not, he was like all the others too. Sad. For some reason though, when he commanded me to pray, he was mad. Shaking, crying, standing behind me kind of mad.
A rattle snack wiggled in between his hands as he hurled me to my knees. It was metallic. It’s teeth were sweetly grinning at me. They were sharp, or at least looked that way. I would soon find out if they were.
While sleeping off the tiresome hospital visit, Ms. Jerrysmith dreamt that she had truly pulled the trigger there on the beach. Blood poured everywhere. Screams rang off in the distance. Her head was a seesaw of fetid flesh and brain goop. Her eyes oozed from their sockets, landing in a slurry of carnage mixed with sand.
From there, with her eyes dangling and dancing on a floor of sand, she saw the havoc her shot caused. For once, she had become noticed, if only for a little while. Nothing else made her happy. To Ms. Jerrysmith, if there was a wet dream possible at sixty-three, this dream would have caused it.
Like all good dreams, however, it turned into a nightmare. Ms. Jerrysmith realized that people noticed her only because she was different. She, unlike so many humans, was headless. In the end, although she attempted to take her own life, she had substituted it for something else entirely. Instead of being miserable, she became a circus act, which really was more misery than she had previously. The spectators’ eyes, numerous as they were, fell on her like they would on the bearded lady or the Siamese twins. Her act was the headless woman. It was a one of a kind act to say the least, and it was horrifying.
Before she could perform her act for the CPR crew who would try to salvage whatever portions of her body remained and could be identified, she awoke. As soon as the dream begun, it was ended for a doorbell wearily rang in the distance. Awoken from her momentary lapse of human fragility, she resumed her self-contained busy self. She had to answer the doorbell. Her inherited instincts took charge. So she muttered under an exhausted breath, “First things first.” She checked under her legs. She was disappointed. Yellow coloured the bed sheets. If only looked from afar, it appeared as though Ms. Jerrysmith was pale Queen Bee without any followers.
The doorbell rang again. Then again, and again, and again, ever more hurriedly. Startled at the frequency and urgency this late at night, Ms. Jerrysmith swallowed down her dignity. She smiled. She walked. She opened the door, despite staining herself yellow, and thought she heard a thunder fire off somewhere in the distance.
In the doorway, was my father. Or what was left of him. He didn’t look at Ms. Jerrysmith. His hair was wet. The rest of his body was a chimney dressed in a film of ash.
After seeing his city spawn into an urban wonderland, Alex could not help but be proud. After all, the city would be his remaining legacy. Now that he was craggy and nearly a walking fossil, he couldn’t help but realize that his clock was winding down. Each breath he took was shorter than the next; each pain, amplified ever more so.
Even though he could not control the sandstorm that is age, the city stood as an everlasting example of his youth. Although he would pass away, the city would be ever-changing, ever-evolving. Juvenileness would be the essence of the city. No two decades would be the same, and Alex made sure of this. In his city planning, the only rule he ever ensured was, “change”. That was Georgetown’s sole policy.
To do this, he left vast areas of the city undeveloped, and the ones he did develop, he ensured they were done with shoddy craftsmen ship. Paradoxical at first, such a design screamed of impending doom. Buildings would topple over on the very onset, and nothing, besides destruction, would remain. And while this is inherently true, it did not happen with Georgetown. Sometimes, impending doom turns out to be nothing more than a fart in the wind.
Thus as Alex wished, the city changed every decade. There was never a concrete policy as all were tinkered with. Volatile as the city became, things soon became neglected. One of them was the mental health department. Georgetown never had one. Ever. If they did, maybe I things would’ve been different.
Alex’s fault, I suppose.
I told myself that it was all right, it was all okay. Even though I was scared, tomorrow always came. So did the next day. And so on. I would be there, wherever it was. I always was. I always would be. Whether on my knees or not was not for me to decide. Besides, sometimes we have to be on our knees before we learn to stand.
Although, I should’ve realized I couldn’t do either like my father told me once. That, however, didn’t matter much at the time. What mattered was what my father said to me next. While the carpet burned itself into the canvas of my skin, and my hair stood on end, and the rattlesnake continued to hiss around, he said, “You are a disgrace.”
Ms. Jerrysmith peed herself again. To see a man so broken in front of her door – to see a man at all – it made her anxious. She questioned whether she was still dreaming, but the warmth shivered itself down her leg. It reminded that she was still very much alive, and very much regretting that fact.
Ms. Jerrysmith became lost in her self again. She began to vacillate between the best way to kill herself. Noose? Pills? Razors? So many options, yet so little courage. What a waste of potential.
In Alex’s last moments, he was a pitiful old man. His life was shaped through a timeline of skyscrapers and monuments that Egyptians could only rival. He was successful. He was rich. He was miserable.
Despite finding his Eden, filling it with the prosthesis that he so chose, and hauling an gargantuan profit, he could never be satisfied. There always was a little bit of discontentment. It caused him to drink until the early morning every night. On his death bed, he was drinking and smiling.
A smiling villain he was.
Then, he let the rattle snake go. A smile licked his lips. God looked away. Blood spilled on the floor bit by bit by bit.
She didn’t have to wait long. The ghost at the front door came in, grabbed her by the neck, mumbled, “where’s my s…” and cut bit by bit by bit.
He began to lose breath in spurts. Then, in anger, he threw down the bottle, staring at his broken reflection. It told a story of breathlessness and infinity, future and past, bit by bit by bit.
Then the bits fluttered away.