entry_185At the base of the hill the long driveway comes to a T. From there it’s possible to turn either left or right to get to town–the direction doesn’t particularly matter because both roads meet up again after after a circuitous half mile. The fact that it’s a loop is the most interesting aspect of that road. Otherwise the two directions are about the same, and there’s nothing that makes one direction more compelling than the other. So it is that each morning is like participating in some recondite experiment: which way to go?

The one thing that saves me from numbing routine is the choice that I have of the two directions. I typically don’t know which way I’ll turn until I reach the bottom of the driveway, and even when I have a vague inkling, I’m often proven wrong. And that’s how I like it. This is one of those few perfect decisions that exists independent of cause or effect, and abrogates entirely the risk of routine.

But I’ve lately come to suspect that the specter of routine hides within the gestalt of my actions, if not in each one individually. It’s a difficult thing to know for sure, but still the suspicion haunts me.

For no discernible reason I began favoring the left route one morning, and stuck with the preference for a long while. Several days had passed before I noticed an elderly woman walking her dog just over the first hill–noticed her because she was always in the same place at the same time. A creature of routine, she was.

As days passed she took notice of me as well, and offered a friendly wave as I passed by. Despite the familiar burden of forced social graces, I waved back that first day, and continued to do so each morning. Meanwhile I worried at my foolhardy flirtation with regularity. Not only that, but I inferred expectation in that old woman’s smile, and it became more and more difficult to take my daily decision without regard to consequence.

A curious feeling of confinement set in–a kind of “claustrophobia of deed”–and my fingers tightened around the steering wheel. I found myself tempted by irrational thoughts, of routine-defying actions. I wondered at the consequences of swerving suddenly into the embankment with none but the woman and her dog as witnesses. Surely that would free me from any possibility of routine, unless I found a way to swerve into the same embankment every day.

Fortunately, the day did come when I turned right rather than left at the end of my driveway. I didn’t realize it until the deed was done, but it was just the beginning of a long run of right-favoring mornings. The drive was uneventful, though I often found myself preoccupied with thoughts about the old lady walking her dog. That she had no seed of variability made her vulnerable. Nature has a way of weeding out homogeneity, and I imagined she would be dispatched in short order. She would fall, and her dog would drag her into the bushes and eat his fill, and then dash away into fields of clover.

It was partially out of curiosity that I took the left route again, after two contiguous weeks of right turns. I felt I had barely avoided a pattern in the making, but still I couldn’t avoid the niggling feeling that my perfect indecision had been tainted by a baser desire to know what was happening on the other side. There was no turning back now.

Over the crest of that first hill I spotted the dog walker again, but this time she did not wave at me as I came fully into view. Instead she stood there with her arms akimbo, and waited for my car to approach. Then, just before I passed her by, she put out one hand as if asking why, and mouthed something like, “Where were you?”

Clearly I had misled the old woman, and now she felt betrayal. I had become a part of her routine, even as I foiled my own. We follow our little furrows, finding our little patterns, and try as we might to avoid them, sometimes even the lack of something is something.


entry_180“How about… mustard? Mayo? And… lettuce?” As if I’m not sure the woman behind the counter has even heard of them. But of course she has. I’ve been ordering exactly the same sandwich here for just shy of four years. Some people study the menu each time they visit a familiar restaurant, but I order only one selection from any given restaurant. The first time I visit an eatery I figure out which item best suits me, and then lock it in. Because of this, ordering no longer requires thought, which would seem to be of great advantage to the introvert grown wary of human interaction. However, once again there are subtle yet vexing expectations relating to social conduct that foil simplicity. The wait staff isn’t aware that my dialogue is pre-scripted, so for them I must pretend to study the menu every time.

In truth I know what I want for lunch before I tear myself from the restraints each morning. If it weren’t for my deep-seated fear of being brusque, I could deliver my order as I rolled through the front door, and pay the bill accurately before my ass hit the naugehyde booth seat. Instead, out of politeness, I feign thoughtful consideration, punctuated by bouts of almost troubled soul-searching. “Is there sourdough bread here?” Who can know, really?

My self-imposed hesitation stems from my guilt over taking advantage of the service class. That, along with the knowledge that someone’s fingers will soon be touching items that I intend to slide across the back of my tongue. For this I make the extra effort to look the deli lady in the eyes, and to bow after each garnish is acknowledged. See how humble? But it’s all I can do to keep from weeping under the pressure.
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Ek_formica.tifThe first time I went through a car wash it was simple, because I had no idea what I was doing. That’s how it always is in the beginning. I am a little bird, beak open and pointed skyward. All I have to do is to look clueless and I’ll be told what to do. Drive up to the line? Sure. Align the front tire to the automated track? I think I can manage that. Pay at the other end? No problem.

The first time is always easy, and it follows that the next time will be easier still. With familiarity, they say, comes understanding. Another of the world’s mysteries unfolds before us, and we gain satisfaction in knowing something new. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work. For me, however, knowing a thing only reveals new complexity. As I cast light into each dark corner, I find that I’m actually in some kind of fifth dimensional hypercube, and there are at least 15 more corners to take into account.

The next time I’m at the car wash I’m already thinking about each of the steps involved. Should I take the initiative this time? Shall I see if I can improve my efficiency, shave off a few seconds by anticipating what comes next? I’m so lost in thought that the guy behind me lays on his horn as if to say, “Aaaaaaa! The residue on my car grows thicker by the second!” I align my front wheels to the track, and this time, I think, I’ll hold the steering wheel steady so that the tire rim doesn’t pull against the side rails. As the wheel begins to wobble, I tighten my grip, and the steering wheel nearly jumps out of my hand, and I come this close to derailing entirely. Must remain calm, it’s nearly over. The chamois brigade have surrounded my car. Now how did I get out to pay so easily last time? The first time I was here I slipped out with nary a thought, but now I find myself trapped in my car by seven car-wiping urchins in red track suits, and there’s no conceivable way that I’ll be ready to roll by the time residue guy is on my ass again.
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Invisible Connections

entry_169I had a friend who was always mindful of the path he took to cross a room. As he navigated between two chairs, around the table clockwise, and over to the coffee maker, an invisible line was drawn behind him like a spider’s thread. Such was his belief. Returning to his origin by a different route would spell entanglement, his efficiency declining throughout the day as he became ensnared in his own past.

My friend’s philosophy never worked for me because of the cognitive load. Where was the true origin, after all? Was it reset at will at the beginning of each day? After first coffee? Could the line be severed under special circumstances, or was that against the rules? My fear was that these questions could never be answered to my satisfaction, as seductive as the concept was. But my position was that if one was going to hold a belief then one must stay true to it regardless of the inconvenience involved.

Which is why I prefer to obsess over imaginary things that don’t require as much attention to physics. My obsessions should be troubling, inherently, but intuitive. Thus, for the most part, my preoccupations all have to do with social affiliations. These are the taffy-like connections that form spontaneously between people, usually those in close proximity. For these nonverbal accords to be struck, the sole requirement is that a group’s constituent members find themselves properly arranged. What denotes “proper”? Well, that is an elusive thing.

Office Orphan

By way of example, say that you’re at work and need some technical support. You stroll over to the technician’s desk only to find them having a conversation with someone else, so you linger at the back of the queue, waiting until they’ve finished their dialog. However, a connection of sorts has already been made, and when your party suddenly gets up and leaves with the other person, you must wait where you are until your party returns. Are there any other realistic options? Trudging back to your own desk without an answer would be as inefficient as it would be humiliating. Or, to follow the two of them… well, that would be tantamount to stalking. No, you must wait for as long as it takes. It’s a burden, clearly, for what if they have gone to lunch? Or what if they’re both enjoying a stress-induced bout of amnesia, and are even now wandering the streets, shirtless, howling?

Spontaneous Servitude

Or maybe you stop to speak to a friend briefly as you’re leaving a party. It’s unfortunate that you didn’t spend more time talking to them during the party, but you were busy exploring the house. But say, did your friend find the opportunity to see the amazing cellar? You enlist the host to take your friend on a tour, and a moment later you watch as they both descend the staircase. Unfortunately, your transaction has committed you to a tacit contract which effectively bars you from leaving the party until your friend has returned, no matter how long that takes. If you left now it would appear as though you had consciously ditched your friend. And to follow them… well, not only would that be stalking, but it would also seem like you were looming just to gauge your friend’s level of cellar appreciation.

Social conduct is tricky business, even without the additional burden of subconscious game-playing. But it’s only the structure imposed by these games that prevents disparate groups from engaging in melee after orgy after melee. Have you ever wondered, as I do, what perverse constructs keep your friends on the visitor’s side of the orangutan cage? Even now, are those around you obsessively labeling, ordering, and concatenating each interaction in inscrutable ways that would be impossible for them to articulate? If so then be glad of it, for I believe that we are all merely savages in costume, momentarily distracted by the music of creativity, lest tooth and groin have their final say.


entry_168Seeing a friend off at the train station it occurs to me that there’s a last time for everything. This is the last time I’ll see my friend off, for instance. At least, while I’m standing in this position, wearing these shoes. The next time won’t be the same, because the configuration of elements will be different. An event, after all, is defined by the orientation of its component parts as much as anything. And it’s a good thing too, isn’t it? To repeat something endlessly is to rob it of meaning… or to create a religion.

So, an end to some activities is clearly desirable. It’s for this reason that we actively avoid people after having delivered our goodbyes. To chance upon them a few minutes later would be nothing less than bad form.

“I… I thought you were headed out,” you would say.

“Oh! I was, but I forgot something in here, so I had to come back.” Is that defiance in their eyes? It is! They have played you for a fool, having vampirically slurped of your farewell sentiment just moments before.

“Hm. Okay. Well, bye again.” Only this time you’re emotionally depleted, and forever suspicious. Needless to say, the rule of thumb is that if you see the person you’ve said goodbye to coming toward you from across a parking lot, the best thing you can do is to duck between two cars and crawl the opposite way. If they corner you then pull your sweater over your head and mug them brutally. Try to speak with a foreign accent to throw them off your trail. And remember that you wouldn’t be forced into assault if you’d made sure that all your goodbyes were final.
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entry_166Standing at the rental counter my palms are so slick that my car keys slip to the cracked linoleum with a clatter. I debate whether to leave them there, but the girl waiting on us pauses in the middle of her spiel and levels a pointed look at me. A moment passes. “You need to get those,” she says, and in her urban brogue I’m not sure it’s a question.

“Oh,” I say, as if I hadn’t noticed. I squat down to retrieve them and wipe my palms on my pant legs, feeling super-white and un-cool. “Sorry about that,” I say upon resurfacing.

Mine is a sweat of trepidation, because I don’t know the answer to her insurance question, which she’s just about to ask my partner and me. “You have the option of purchasing insurance for an extra $30,” she says, in accordance with prophecy. Her pen is poised at the appropriate item on the rental truck contract, and my eyes are focused way past that. I don’t even have a basis upon which to form an answer. Insurance? I frown like a monkey tasting a Rubik’s Cube, and the world slows to a dull smudge as my mind diverts every resource toward this one monumental problem.

The other questions–the size of the truck we’d need, how long we’d need it–are easily answered. I knew what I was going to say before I woke up this morning. But I hadn’t anticipated the insurance question. And it’s a philosophical question, isn’t it? Questions of quantity require little thought. There is but one right response, and I’m the only one who knows it. But insurance requires a deep understanding of myself and of my potential, as well as an instinctual understanding of the world around me. What are the chances that I may meet with peril? Will my reactions be quick enough? Or will I invite disaster through a string of bad decisions? Is there a flaw in my understanding of the world that cumulatively guides me toward the glistening beak of chaos? Or perhaps none of that is true, but the flaw in my character is one that will cause me to purchase insurance needlessly.

I don’t know which is worse.

Should we get insurance? The question seems unfinished somehow, like something has been left out. Of course I’d heard her ask the question of everyone else, and it didn’t seem to be much cause for consternation then. But I was watching like I was sitting in front of the television enjoying a show about a truck rental agency that would never bear on my life. Maybe this is a test of how closely I was watching then, and the real question–the whole question–is: What are my insurance requirements relative to the insurance requirements of other people?

I remember now that the scrappy couple had discussed the question, and decided against it in less than ten seconds. Maybe it’s that much of a no-brainer. But they were both wearing overalls, and I would never do that. Perhaps they had learned to embrace their reckless natures. The glitter-like metallic blooms on their chests suggested that these were creatures who welded their own furniture. But then again, they were about the same age as I, so maybe I’d be at equal risk, regardless of temperament.

Insurance then.

The older black couple in polyester track suits opted for insurance the way a soul lost in the desert might opt for a snow cone. “Most definitely, give us all you got!” Because neither of them had any other sort of coverage of their own. Their story couldn’t be more different from mine. In fact, my coverage is so redundant that certain parts of my insurance statement are covered in the case of loss or injury.

So no insurance for me.

The gay, sandy-haired action duo in their checkered racing shorts (still dark with perspiration) fought about the question between themselves. He was so sure they should need it that it was almost a morality issue, whereas he found the idea patently offensive. The counter girl left them in the middle of their debate to help us, and that’s when the world went into motion again.

I wipe at the sweat forming on my brow. “I’m not really crying,” I explain to her as I blink my eyes through the salt sting. “It just looks like I am. Huh!” My voice-cracking puberty laugh should infuse the moment with some much-needed levity, but she’s looking less than entertained.

If I were the only human then there would be no right and no wrong. My way would be The Way, merely by the scarcity of alternate ways. Indeed, it’s only as competitors and adversaries are introduced to the picture that I must worry about whether my way is the wise way, whether my way makes sense in the greater scheme of things. Therefore I must possess the ability to see myself in contrast to other people, with their arbitrary, inscrutable viewpoints. In that light, how could I ever expect to come out ahead?

While I’m still worrying at the specifics of the greater question, my partner steps up and takes the decision for the both of us.

And that, really, is the only correct answer.


entry_164I don’t even know the name of the motel I’ve been staying in. I’m only passing through, but already routine has settled on me like residue. In the morning and at night, as I’m preparing, I find myself stealing glances at the appendage on my bathroom wall. Though the leg remains, the spider two whom it belongs is long gone. As out of place as it is, I can’t summon the will to brush the leg away. Day after day I see it there, next to the mirror. Each time I catch site of it I imagine it’s fastened there by the minutest trace of dried ichor, a bond that a whisper of air might break. But though the temptation exists, I leave the arachnid gam there, perhaps as a reminder.

It’s like dust, really. Dust with form. A trace of something that used to be, a hint of a thing once greater. We would be fortunate to be in the quiet company of such mementos: reminders of the past in a form that still piques emotion. Something more than just the pink, paper-thin scars so delicate that your lover once said they appeared to have been coaxed from the inside.

What gifts these artifacts would be, scattered about like discarded garments. The grainy gray suspicion of the girl you dated three years ago lies still on the sofa, her hands still covering her face to hide the tears. She is there, frozen as she was the very last time you and she were still friends. Next to her, in a faded box of gossamer and shadow are the family photos that were lost in the fire that you started. And don’t trip over the child who is you, now the briefest shimmer scampering underfoot to escape the wrath of some long-fallen authority figure.

Visited by these precious moments from times past, you could never truly be alone. These are phantoms reconstituted of vapor and web, flake and crumb, no longer content merely to coat your appliances passively. Now they will move and kick, and, if you dangle your hand over the edge of the bed, you may find, when you wake, a pair of dental crescents pressed into the meat of your palm.

I lean in close to the appendage on my bathroom wall, and for just a second consider licking it off. Eating the dried brown limb doesn’t seem an unreasonable notion. What a loss it might be otherwise, and a moral defeat! And what more responsible tribute than ingestion can there be to something you’ve personally dispatched?

Instead I direct a blow at it, and it drops at last, falling neatly into the envelope I hold beneath it. I’ll address it to my parole officer over breakfast in the diner across the way as I watch the flames leaping from the motel roof.

That will be something to remember.


entry_160Okay, I’ll admit it: most of what I know is made up; a complete fabrication as a defensive measure against the alarming banality of truth. As such, the line between the two worlds–between truth and fabrication–is sometimes indistinct. The defining factor seems to be the number of unicorns involved in a given thought. Of course there is no profit in revealing this fact to my adversaries.

So it is that, in order to avoid looking like an idiot, I will keep the topic of conversation within known boundaries by whatever means necessary. It’s easy enough to steer the typical conversation, which may exhibit, at best, a bovine bearing. But on occasion there will be the folk with an agenda, and when they start throwing down the “lepton emission” or “freemason conspiracy” jive, then, my friend, then it’s time for the fisticuffs. Usually all it takes to get things back on track is a, “Wait, what is it you were saying before about fabric softeners?” Any opportunity for exposition will find people willing to cede control of the conversation. They know in their solipsistic hearts that they cannot die suddenly in the middle of making their point. A former mercenary knows different.

In any case, the small library of information to which I have access is more than adequate to meet the needs of superficial discourse. If I do find my actual knowledge lacking then I can rely on such devices as oratory momentum, recombinant repetition, or simple blank nods of agreement to create the illusion of broader understanding, similar to the way a cat bristles so as to appear larger to foes.

There are exceptions.

When Leopold mentions one thing, it’s only so that he can follow it up with something even more obscure. In that way, the initial topic is nothing more than a conversational lure. This tactic is effective because the initial premise is often couched as nothing more than an unassuming observation, like whether or not cheese would compliment leftover tater tots. But then I’m suddenly embroiled in a baroque debate on the reliance of latter day patriarchies on rhetorical esoterica, and nothing short of a cardiac event will offer escape from that one intact. For example.

To make matters worse, there will always be a point, somewhere within his gnarled mesh of logic, where Leopold will let blare the trumpets of self-aggrandizement. This is not a thread well-woven into the fabric of his diatribe. To the contrary, the only reason he gets away with his ego posedown is because it comes at you from another dimension entirely. “It’s like the points Professor Lawrence Kohlberg made about moral reasoning,” he’ll say. “Oh, and did I mention I knew Kohlberg? He and I had similar conversations, and I probably influenced his teachings.” It’s a stampede of elk trampling your office cubicle.

Like a caveman you can only grunt, “I eat boogers.”

While Leopold harangues me from his workstation pulpit with his theories concerning the pitfalls of moral absolutism, I’m realizing that I’ve developed a rather complex point system just to cope. Clearly, Leopold must lose points for his debate techniques. Pouncing on people only to further his conversational dominance gains only demerits. On the other hand, for his overall inclination toward logical fastidiousness, and for being earnest, he earns points. I’m nothing if not fair.

Coworker Trevor gets points for being one of the funniest people I’ve come across. I don’t have to be particularly knowledgeable when I talk with him, but I have to dial up the humor. And not my native flavor of humor, but his variety: super-dry businessman, with a dadaist twist. And at least one foreign accent. It’s the only currency he accepts. But then Trevor suffers demerits for being a conspicuous ear wax smeller. He makes some attempt to conceal his sinister proclivity, but in such an inelegant, obvious way that the only thing keeping people from staring outright is pity for his obliviousness. He once broke character just to whisper to me, “Does your ear wax smell like apples?” Such intimacy I do not desire. I responded by picking up my telephone and holding an animated conversation with someone who wasn’t there until Trevor went away.

Trevor’s point scale is not nearly as granular as Talia’s, whose overall score fluctuates faster than it takes to say the word, “actually,” which she does, constantly. Sometimes more than once in a single sentence. On the positive side, the extra syllables afford me time to think when the subject of the conversation threatens to reach my comprehensive event horizon. Still, though it’s to my advantage, I must count her repeated acts of blind iteration against her. It’s just sloppy.

Throughout my day points are ticked off like arcade bells. Clive sits at a weird angle, and Bertrand is a mouth-breather. Drusilla whistles off-key at her desk while she’s working, and Deirdre speaks in a high-pitched monotone that resembles a modem handshake sequence. I must concede that life among these creatures is made possible only by my comprehensive rating and categorization system. Also by the fact that unicorns replenish my life force.

Plus, they’re just good eatin.


entry_159Officer… Lindstrom. Her badge catches the sun, and I’m blinking the spot from my eyes when she looks up at me from her small pad of lined paper. “And when did you first see the car?” Her notes are a disconcerting scribble. Do I really talk like that?

Perhaps I could read what she’s writing if I spoke more elegantly. Then again, maybe I shouldn’t fight it. “Ghkklllrrrrgghhh, thrbblll ffkkkggggg.”

“I’m sorry, what was that?”

“I said it was around three in the morning,” I say. I look beyond the front porch to where the mystery car sat idling last night. Gone now. “Just before three, maybe.”

She stops writing. “How much before?” she asks. A stickler. Just then she’s hit with a yawn, and it’s one of those yawns that involve every muscle in the face and neck. And while she is helpless I peer into her mouth, positioning my head to get the best view.

By the time her eyes return from the recesses of her skull the illusion is already shattered–officer Lindstrom is nothing but meat. She can play servant of the peace all she wants, but she is no more than a beast in uniform. This thought inevitably leads me back to myself, and I become uncomfortable as I think about organic components strung together, vital processes pushing out hair and sebum, eating and evacuating…. I’ve stopped breathing again, and nearly fall over for lack of oxygen.

I don’t like to think of myself in that context. It’s not that I fancy myself more than the sum of my parts; I hold no such illusion. I prefer to think of myself–my person–as being made up of a single uniform material, like luncheon meat. The actions and motivations of officer Lindstrom here are determined by chemical, by instinct, by genetic imperative. I, on the other hand, am pure thought riding around within a tangible carapace. Rather like a corndog, I suppose.

From the dawn of thought I’ve been fascinated by systems. Not just physical bodies, but by environments, workplaces, and living quarters. Each one is a unique sculpture of will, a shrine to a given process. In a public place my attention is often held rapt by the momentary glimpses of the office beyond an employee door. A whiteboard smeared with the blue of changing shift schedules. Worn clipboards pinching sheaves of inventory sheets. Or V-shaped notches in teeth after years of gnawing… what?

In the midst of this activity that I cannot possibly fathom, my fantasy involves recklessly insinuating myself into some procedural chain, undaunted by my complete ignorance. “Gimme that,” I would say to the stultified worker drone. “Let me show you how a professional does it.” And I grab the shoe horn, or the blast shields, or the stainless steel calipers, or the strap-on baby mask, or the novelty vomit, or the environment-safe glitter, or the sock puppets with blue button-eyes, or the machine that goes ping, or your mother, and I just start doing whatever the job requires as if it were second nature to me. What one man can do another man can do, isn’t that how it goes? At least until the authorities do their thing.

But now, aren’t people the most inscrutable systems of all? Acting and responding, picking stuff up and putting it down, idling their cars outside my house in the middle of the night, and writing my every word on a leaf of notebook paper, albeit not very clearly. “Never mind,” I say.

The creature who is officer Lindstrom looks up at me again. “What never mind?”

I shake my head. “I made the whole thing up.”

Her arms fall by her sides, pen and pad forgotten. “Sir, look…. Would you mind explaining why you made the report this morning?”

“Because,” I say, and shrug. That’s really all there is to it.


entry_156I used to pretend that my pencil was a rocket. As my Grade 3 teacher broke the world into morsels digestible to eight year olds, I was launching golden missiles into space. I would squint with one eye open and, holding my Ticonderoga by the metal band around the eraser, move it steadily upward into my field of vision. Then, once the lead tip (or “nose cone”) had ascended out of view, I would deftly switch hands, grabbing the tip in my other hand while releasing the engine in time to see it sweep seamlessly by. Persistence of vision provided the illusion of unassisted flight across a constellation of adolescent heads. This business was hardly subtle, and on more than one occasion I was spotted by the teacher, my attention compromised, and made to participate in undesirable activities.

Daydreaming wasn’t the problem. Daydreaming is never the problem. The problem before the child with fantastic proclivities is figuring out a way to attend to matters of mind without gaining the attention of the authorities, as participation represents a spiritual forfeiture, and, to a lesser degree, an endorsement of dogma.

Several years passage found me an asocial tyke not yet at home in my own skin. A recent growth spurt had seen my legs replaced by mysteriously articulated stilts over which I had yet to gain mastery. But, though I was as awkward as a moist fawn, nothing could keep me from my running. I ran constantly, whether circuiting the school playground or dashing to the teacher’s desk to hand in my paper at the conclusion of a pop quiz. I had but two gears, fidgeting or sprinting. And if my energy seemed boundless then I can only attribute it to one thing: the power cartridges in my shoes. In the heel of each treble-striped Adidas was an invisible cylinder, shallow and wide. These provided me with a capacity for physical activity that few could match, and which fewer still could even tolerate. I would extract spent cartridges from my soles at least once a week, and this behavior became so ingrained that it continued–albeit with slightly diminished frequency–right up until my graduation from High School.

My tendency to running abated sometime during Grade 8, once I became aware of the disapproving glances of the girls. The girls had existed prior to my awareness of them, to be sure, but never in any substantial way. I’d seen them, if at all, as representatives from some obscure and transient sect, no more than shadows really. But something had changed over the Summer, and now, as I became more aware of them, they became painfully aware of me, as in Lovecraft’s tales of spectral beasties from beyond. And oh how the girls judged me, and tormented me by their mere existence. And so I had no choice but to withdraw, again.

As a teenager, during my final years of innocence, I spent most of my time pretending that I was a hollow giant, and that people–tiny to me–watched my every movement from my observatory eyes. I became hyper-conscious of my physical structure, and went about my business in a plodding, calculated fashion, supplying sound effects if I felt particularly alone. Sometimes I would pick up something nearby–a die, a salt shaker, a floppy disk–in order to satisfy the curiosity of my inner audience. A whine of hydraulics brought my arm toward my eye windows, and the little people would lean forward in their theatre seats, straining to examine each new artifact in as much detail as possible. As reserved as I had become though, there were still occasional difficulties. Using the lavatory became a challenge, for instance. I couldn’t risk seeing myself after all. And I remember one day when my stepfather caught me peering down at a sock that dangled from my fingertips. When I noticed him he just shook his head and went silently into the other room. I wondered how long he’d been watching me, and what his inner audience was saying about me.

Now, more than a decade removed from that age, I find that some things do not change. I haven’t used pencils in decades, the soles of my shoes are too thin for cartridges, and the theatre seats behind my eyes are empty. But presently I’m pretending that I’m an adult, and I do adult things such as buying my own hats, and working in an office during the day. And though none of this makes the least bit of sense to me, though I am certainly a fraud, I’ve garnered nothing but approval–praise even–for so successfully mocking the trappings of adulthood. This pretend life of mine is not as interesting as my more youthful pursuits, not by any measure, but fewer people are apt to question it.