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The long and the short of it

Alive and well, Harold Culokowski

He was lonely. If Harold Culokowski were to describe himself in any possible way, that’s what he’d say. Lonely. So when asked by a work questionnaire to describe himself in three words, as he stood sweating in his moderately-expensive plain white dress shirt with a moderately-severe case of baldness, all he could feel was a moderately-compelling inclination to stencil in the truth. At least that way, he wouldn’t even need the other two adjectives. The word would stand alo…

“Hi Haroldddd,” the d’s rolled for an eternity on the highest pitch humanly possible. Harold turned around slowly, knowing very well whose fire-alarm vocal chords these sirens belonged to. An undifferentiated mass still unformed since the time of creation greeted Harold with a sweaty, stretched smile. Thick hair blossomed from every crater-like pore, covering a bygone battle lost to prepubescent acne. Whatever skin remained visible was unimaginably distorted, so much so that even taut leather would be jealous if it could be. Galic. Herman Galic. The man was the devil.

“Galic.” The response was short and uninviting.

“Haroldddd,” the d’s thundered on again, “my man. You see what Louise was wearing today?” Herman, the amorphous blob, whistled so hard spit flew in the air. Harold tried to stop breathing if only for a little while.

“Fine as a blowing a dandelion on a summer’s day, if you know what I mean.” The massive man somehow managed to muster the strength to nudge Harold. He even winked. Harold didn’t know what Herman meant, though. He never did.

“I mean… fuck. Did you see her? Those curves just don’t stop.”

Harold hated swearing. He hated repetition even more. Worst of all, he hated Herman because he was all of these things fused into an unavoidable conglomerate heap of fatty tissue, bad habits, and Doritos.

“…I swear. How can we do it?” Diabetes-on-two-legs was still somehow gurgling out words in between his perfectly timed pants of exhaustion. It seemed that talking even made him tired. Harold assumed that Herman was so large that he was sucking everything into his gravitational pull, Harold included. It made him laugh. Orbiting around such a colossal man. One small step for man, one giant to step on for ma…

“You laugh now, Haroldddd, but losers like us will never get with girls like that.” Harold stopped laughing. Harold was indeed being vacuumed into Herman’s mass. Socially, he was no different no matter what he wore, said, or did. His only friend was Herman. And he hated him.

“Oh well. Less cushion for her pushin’.” Herman let out a mix between a chortle and a heave. To the untrained ear, the combination of the two sounded like a cat dying.

“Maybe.” The chill in Harold’s voice could have put a tingle down a polar bear’s spine.

As large as Herman was, he wasn’t dumb. Once upon a time, the counter example to anatomic proportions had a Ph. D in Mathematics. Joke around the office was that his dissertation was on how to devour pi in one whole, rational gulp. So despite his insurmountable weight, Herman saw through Harold’s coldness. “H-man – what’s got you down?

Harold made a mental note that he loathed nicknames as well. Herman’s greedy blackholes for eyes found their way to Harold’s questionnaire. “Ah, Haroldddd. Don’t worry. I had a hard time trying to fit all of me into just three words.” Herman placed his hands triumphantly on his hips as if celebrating his gluttony, “So instead of compromising, I just tried to be modest and wrote ‘Handsome, Lively, Funny’.”

Delusional. Atrophied. Comically-large. For what it’s worth, both Herman and Harold agreed on the last adjective.

“Here. I’ll make it easy for you. Just put what I did. Sure – you aren’t much of the looker type, but no one will even notice.”

Harold sighed and his hand gave way to fantasies of early childhood modeling and the luxuries of becoming prom king and having a wife who loved him and a life of being Hands…

*

The fridge was empty. Again Harold had forgotten to pick up groceries on his way home from work. Disappointed but not surprised, he began to move through his two-room apartment like a seasoned dancer, waltzing around from cupboard to cupboard in hopes of finding something to eat.

By now this routine had become habit and the scavenging tradition was near-to perfect: his hands were angled towards the divine while his feet shuffled from side to side with effortless jaunts. Despite never being athletic, his food hunt inspired unmistakable comparisons to nomadic people. Like them, Harold’s great endeavor to discover food in shelves that were more likely to house colonies of dust than sustenance was nothing short of primordial. There was an animal-like urgency in each movement and his eyes were as wide as dinner plates as he bustled about his house.

After thirty minutes of shimmying to music only he could perceive, a can of soup was his reward. With a click, a crunch, a yawn, and a ding, the tinned wonder was ready. It was that easy. Harold barely thought about it, but he was proud to live as a testament of modern day laziness. Technology, he said, was the meant to mitigate the pain of being human.

Can of soup in hand, he flicked on the television.

The day went by.

He fell asleep, and tomorrow began sometime in between.

*

“Haroldddd,” Herman slurped in the air around him as he was resting his elbow on Harold’s cubicle. From Harold’s desk, it appeared as though the metal frame was slowly bending.

“Did you get a look at Anne today? You could bounce a nickel off her and come back with a dollar.”

So all days began.

“Haroldddd, oh you should’ve seen her. The perfect dress …” Harold reverted his eyes back to the trivial task glaring on the LED screen in front of him. First quarter margins suggest that amplifying the medium return on th…

How did Harold get here, with a fat man for a reluctant colleague and a mediocre accountant job for a career and a love life that consisted with faded left hand pleasures? Thinking back on his life, he couldn’t pin his present predicament on anything out of the ordinary. His childhood was a happy one with every picture consisting of nothing but smiles. No troubles. No worries. It was all as it was supposed to be – average.

So as pubescent dawned, and waned, and a man was born from the aftermath of destruction. Harold became what he knew. Harold became everything he once was. Ordinary.

“She’d definitely give me a chance if only I…” the undifferentiated human bulldozer continued to blubber on. Harold closed his eyes and before he knew it, he had a soup in hand, a television screen for a companion, and tomorrow sneaked up onto him again.

*

“You know, I read an article on the Internet on how to get any girl. It’s not too difficult.” A snicker was let out with a wheeze. “All you got to do is …”

“Respect them for who they are, not who they pretend to be,” Harold said abruptly.

“No, no, no. Take them to dinner and blow a load of cash on them.” Herman let out a laugh that probably shook the entire office. “That’s what they like. Fat wallets.”

“What about fat men?” The silence was cut. Harold didn’t understand quite why he was talking so much to someone he detested.

Herman was taken aback. He sniffed the air like a bull about to charge. “What about them?”

Harold lost his composure, “Nothing.”

“Right. And it also said that men …”

Just as Herman was about to finish his sentence, Anne, the girl from yesterday’s ivory tower discussions, walked by with the grace of God by her side. She swayed left to right with hips that halted Earth’s spin if only for a little while. Big, animated eyes managed to beam in the poorly lit office space and her perfume blessed the room in brief scent of paradise. Everything around her was gray, but she was rainbow dancing in the rain.

She looked Herman’s way – probably because he was utterly unavoidable – and then gazed at Harold. She walked towards the two of them. “Hi.” The voice was so sweet Harold could taste it.

“Hi Anne. What can we do you for?” Herman’s once nasally intonation changed as he spoke. With each syllable enunciated, it was as though he was testing a range of sounds to see if any would, or could, woo her.

“I’m looking for Harold. Harold Culok…?

“Culokowski. That’s me.” Anne looked down at Harold sitting in his desk like a giant would look at a tulip. Herman remained utterly dismayed while Harold wondered if this – Vanilla and Butterscotch moisturizer – was what heaven smelt like.

“I was told to run this report by you. Do you have a minute?” Harold had a lifetime.

“Well…”

“It won’t take long.”

“Sure.”

Closing his eyes in the brief satisfaction that a only a human can experience when they feel as though the Universe is going their way for once, Harold opened his eyes to find himself talking to Herman again. Harold was in a different set of clothes. Anne was nowhere to be seen.

“And I told her, you know what, you probably can’t handle all of me anyways. Funny, eh?”

Harold was sitting at his desk once again looking at another of his infinite number of mundane files. People were shuffling like they always did in the background. No matter how hard he tried, he could not recall anything of Anne and his conversation. Her smell – that still lingered. But everything else was less than a blur.

“Herman.” There was urgency in Harold’s voice, “What happened with Anne yesterday? Did I say anything funny? I can’t seem to remember.”

“Yesterday? Haroldddd, that was three weeks ago. Heck, I can’t even remember myself. Probably nothing too hilarious or witty or anything like that, kid. Lucky if she even remembers you, fine dame as she is.”

“Wait what?” Herman was talking out of his ass – all two hundred feet of it – Harold was sure.

“I bet it wasn’t even five minutes long from the time she said hi and she left. Guess you weren’t too interesting. If she came to the lover Herman, now, that’d be a different…”

“How could it be three weeks ago? It happened yesterday.”

“Haroldddd, no it didn’t. I wouldn’t lie to you about lasses like that.”

Harold’s head was spinning.

“Are you feeling alright, Haroldddd? You’re looking kind of pale.”

A growing ache sprouted at the front of Harold’s forehead.

“I just need to close my eyes for a little while.”

And Harold closed his eyes.

*

“Bugger, I could hardly keep her hands off me.”

A telephone rang in the distance. A computer chimed that someone had mail. He was in the office again.

Nothing was different except for the superficial things around him. Herman perched himself on Harold’s cubicle like always, both testing the structural integrity of Chinese-based production and blocking all light from entering Harold’s small office space. He, like Harold, donned a new tie and shirt.

“And I, wouldn’t you believe it, had to kick her out of my house. Crazy girl for a crazy man.” Herman spit into his hand and clapped as if to congratulate himself on indulging his libelous, wild fantasies.

“What day is it, Herman?” Harold wasn’t wasting any time. His voice trembled as he spoke.

“May 2nd, bucko.”

“Wait, are you sure?”

“Of course. Something up? Forget something maybe? I always forget my mother’s birthday, too. Hahah…”

The pain surfaced again with increasing fury. Harold grasped his forehead. Whatever remained of his thin hair brushed the butt end of his whitened knuckles. He seemed unable to breath. It wasn’t his breath caught in his chest; it was an immutable limbo between exhalation and inhalation. He was choking, yet his hands couldn’t reach for his throat. The stiffened themselves on his keyboard, typing and clicking and clacking away.

“Your face is getting a little red, Haroldddd.”

Reworking the Veergat files into an export driven … Everything hurt except his meticulous fingers. They appeared so innocent, almost as though they knew nothing else except Harold’s work. To some, it was a signal that he was alive and well. Type, type, type. And yet for the first time in Harold’s life, he thought that being alive didn’t mean much. Everyone he knew was alive.

“Are you alright? Haroldddd? Haroldddd?”

*

“Haroldddd, my boy.” The pain was gone. “She was fine as wine, cheap like water, but she shined like a diamond.” So was his state of immobility. As before, the only difference was everything that always had to be in a superficial, antiseptic world – clothes, location of inane items, and the progression of people’s digestive tracts.

Herman laughed, “Then she bought me some dinner.” Harold’s hands still banged out banal statements on to some blank document. Harold needed to move. It felt as though if he didn’t move this very moment, he’d die. But he couldn’t. It was as though he was stuck to his chair which was stuck to the ground which was stuck to the Earth which was stuck to someplace in the Universe.

The pain was coming back.

“Haroldddd, Anne was looking fine again.” A month passed.

“Haroldddd, Janice was looking better than you could imagine.” A year passed.

“Haroldddd, did you see that new intern. Old folks like us can only guess the proportion of her curves.” A lifetime.

“I don’t want to live anymore.” Harold’s voice was crisp, unwavering. There was a certain hoarseness to it, a fact that he was tired of this: whatever he was doing, whatever little it meant, and wherever he was now. He didn’t want to kill himself; he just wanted everything to be different. He wanted to know the capacity of human greatness. He wanted to sit at the edge of the Universe, look at everything that was and ever will be, and smile. He wanted a reason to be happy again.

But in an office filled with gray, in a world that knows no colour, he was stained by his sadness.

“Cheer up, Haroldddd. All you need is a lady…”

Harold closed his eyes as tight as they could go, creating a cadaverous wall evidenced by humanity’s infallibility. It felt as if the room were spinning, though he couldn’t be sure. Darkness was adsorbed into light and the pain eventually subsided. Wherever he found himself now, he was warm. Sheets of soft material lapped themselves at his feet. He could smell the musk of aftershave and the rancid pungency of leftovers.

He opened his eyes. He was on his couch. The television was blaring on about a show where a coyote was chasing a roadrunner endlessly. And the day began again.

About kacperniburski

I am searching for something in between the letters. Follow my wordpress or my IG (@_kenkan)

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