I think it takes about sixty minutes to go from here to the nearest Walmart. You have to drive up Lakeview (and I’m pretty sure anywhere you go below the Smokey Mountains, you’re going to have to drive up Lakeview), and you can turn left on Boynton and then left on Battlefield, or you can wait until Lakeview ends and turn on Battlefield then. Walmart’s in between a funeral home and a Civil War memorial cemetery.
Three greasy women, all wearing scarves, approached me at the front of the store as I was walking in. One of them grunted at me and stuttered firmly, “Where is the Family Dollar? Which way is it!” She was shaking, locked arms with the other two and shaking them also.
I froze, unprepared, I almost shouted, “Go left right here on Battlefield! It’s just down there; I think it’s a big one!” I don’t think there was much wind, but I spoke like a reporter in a hurricane, unflinching, reading straight through the teleprompter, gazing hopelessly into your eyes, vacantly, ignorantly spreading propaganda, noise, … uneducated nonsense.
The witch almost scowled at me. “Thank you,” they all said sarcastically in unison. They all had different colored scarves on, and the one in the dark, dull green scarf understood me and turned around. “Do not act if you cannot bear the consequences in the case of misfortune.” I had never heard anything like that before, and at the rate I was thinking, I definitely wasn’t expecting it.
I entered the store. I knew I was going to finally do it. I felt the burning deep in my heart; my stomach was churning, not because I felt any imbalance in my soul, but because I still had doubt in my mind: I doubted my privilege, I doubted my prejudicially unmonitored status, … I doubted my ungratefully raised position. I doubted that I could actually get away with it, but only for a moment.
I speedily trod past the seemingly threatened wage peasants, in reality unaware and mindlessly protecting their personal space, patient to engage. I felt like I did a circle around the entire building, and ended up back at the front before I finally took a turn for the electronics section. I have blond hair, brown eyes, and my skin is not the color of anything else (they had to make up a new word for it, like “flesh-colored”). Despite any of my delusions, the congeners never once bat an eye.
I about ran to the back of the store, but I halted abruptly at the toys. For some reason, when I examined the back of the wall for the emergency exit, I gave up in less than a second and journeyed into the automotive section right behind where they sell the bicycles. I stumbled past the batteries onto my knees on the floor next to the vending machines. I saw this on an episode of Seinfeld once: I started searching under the machines for change, and I found a dime, but not actually enough to buy anything.
I surrounded myself in a thick fog of negative body language: I developed a mild limp, a small hunch like you see a bunch of the people around here with, and I distorted my face to reflect unsociability. Then I approached the gigantic man in the blue vest with no depth perception and a price scanner. He literally lifted his glasses back onto his nose and questioned me supportively with his expression.
“Can you let me see the Wii, please?” I asked bluntly.
He paused and took a few steps back. He looked in a few different directions very rapidly and then back to me. “I think,” he started, “I have to get the keys from the … I think I’m going to ask the manager. Can you just sit there for a minute?” He rushed back to the half-desk-half-checkout and explained quietly the situation to the beautiful young woman with long, delicate hair. She understood immediately and retrieved the keys from under the counter. Then she said something to the giant, but I couldn’t hear what it was.
He walked back over to me, said, “It’s right over here,” and motioned for me to follow him. I kept my presence and watched his superior the entire time (and she never once glanced back over). We shuffled slowly to the shielded area, encased in glass and locked twice. I saw the Wii, and I knew right then that there existed no chances of my giving it up.
He slowly unlocked the treasure chest, impressively revealing the bounty in an even more beautiful light; the shiny, colored cardboard reflected back into my eyes. I glanced impulsively at every emergency exit, instinctively identifying at least two options other than the door leading out to the auto shop. My eyes darted back to the electronics checkout, but the silent yet mellifluous manager had disappeared. I shook it off and beamed at the glowing product. The titan looked behind me and handed it over, saying, “Let me know if you are going to check out.”
I snatched the prize from his hands and viciously read the fine print on the opposite side, walking at the same time. I distanced myself from the brainless gargantuan and casually changed aisles. I skipped a few aisles over and swiftly concealed the package on my person, leaning back into my familiar presentation. I advanced quickly toward the exit I was saving for Plan B, and forcefully rushed the door. An alarm sounded, but I started running without looking back.
There was a cargo container backed up to one of the two warehouse doors, and I just ran around it. I should have run out into the woods right then, because when I rounded the side of the building that led to the back of the warehouse, I swear to God, there was a worker smoking a cigarette. She froze and made eye contact, trying to examine me. “The alarm went off on you, sir,” she said politely even now.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I questioned with a raised an eyebrow. I started speed walking to the corner of the building.
“You have something under your arm. The alarm went off on you. I see it. I’m getting the manager,” she said calmly and reproachfully as I began to sprint around to the front. “Don’t run!” she called out. “I’m calling the police!”
I ran past the front doors, and I didn’t see anyone headed after me. I jumped back into my car and violently started it. I began to follow my own inappropriate directions to the imagined Family Dollar and was about to make a turn back onto Boynton when I saw the three old women from the beginning driving back down the opposite direction in an old burnt-out Crown Victorian looking forward with dead eyes. If they’d seen me, I surely would have lost my own sight forever. They never saw me though; after all, they followed my directions.
I used to live life with bipolar disorder: two worlds. In one world, I was living the perfect white male life. I had a white girlfriend, whom I was very committed to (we were going to get married). I was starting on a path to fully achieve my childish dreams of accumulating wealth, taking advantage of the increasingly apparent privilege whose answers I naturally received. It was what I showed to the world, what I identified as, as a straight white male in the southern United States. Everything in my life was looking good on a resume.
There was an other side of me that no one saw, not even my closest friends ever got more than a glance of my true character. I used to and still stay up late at night in almost a trance, a dream-like, quasi-conscious autopilot whose connection with myself surpassed my own; who, dying, urged to escape, to present his perverted nature; whose action on his misunderstood compulsions is an abomination.
I kept myself safely hidden, his hibernation catalyzed by a significant other. I fell in love after almost three years of friendship. I had never experienced true love in my life, but my connection with my sixteen-year-old girlfriend felt sacred especially at mass on Sundays and the Rosary on Wednesdays. I had never before shared my secrets so openly, bluntly, or romantically, and yet selectively so guarded. My true side revealed itself like a row of crooked teeth behind a mask. Still, I dove headfirst into the presiding stigma, and floated gracefully through the conservative aura, like a fairy, until I was fully submerged. Rigorously, together, my soul mate and I swam close, enough to see each other through the cloudy gel. Still, I caught glimpses of the other kids’ bathing suits through the fog; and at the end of the day, I wasn’t looking at any bikinis.
I cherished this spiritual, sexual, and beautiful friendship I shared with my long-time friend, and couldn’t see straight through the red lenses of love. The relationship had its noticeable downfalls, and my young mind was beginning to understand the interchangeability of the human being, however originally valuable.
As my environment changed, I adapted, I changed. I developed friendships in three different states; I learned how to play the game. I stayed out when the going gets rough and waited until it gets better. Never though had I encountered a friendship as strong as most recently.
After I started college I symbiotically constructed a dependent relationship with a best friend of mine, substituting my former earnestly romantic feelings for marijuana. In my confusing transition between idealistic partners, I mistook my thoughts for residue from previous human interactions at that level of platonic intimacy, the embedded fusion of talking and fucking that had earlier encompassed my social life; on the contrary, these emotions but reared their head, quiet and queer.
My interpersonal ingredients and material addictions spiraled down the funnel and violently reacted, system safely separated from surroundings in an Erlenmeyer flask. The observed species: a gas that rose up initially and escaped, letting off a faint and discerning odor; a beautiful hot pink liquid, not yet decanted; and a dark brown, powdery precipitate.
Brian and the Pet Sanctuary
Of course it’s a fucking Muslim. He’s got a goddamn turban and everything. If you want to live here, you should at least try to make it look like you want to. They’ve got Islam or whatever over wherever you came from; why did you leave if you just want to do the same thing over here?
Jesus Christ, it seems like I run into these fucking dirty people every goddamn day. “Just take me to fifth, please,” and for the love of God, “don’t try to run up the meter. I live here.”
The guy looks at me in the mirror like I’m supposed to convert or something. “Fifth Street. Five.” I swear to God if this guy doesn’t speak English I’m getting out. “Right away,” he said, and he even did that rolling-r thing, “R-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-right away.”
Jonathan was calling me, now of all times. “What?” I answered firmly.
“It’s the Hendersons again. They say that their dog is malnourished.” I knew they weren’t coming back.
“Tell them to fuck themselves.” I had to hang up on him. He gets on my ever-loving nerves. And now we’re catching every fucking light. “Hey, can you go faster, please? I’m kind of in a hurry.” There’s no use in being nice to these people; they just want to take your money and send it back to Pakistan or wherever.
“Sor-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-ry, sir, I’ll try to step on it.” Bullshit.
I finally got to fifth, goddamn twenty minutes later. “God, now I’m late.” I still gave him a fucking tip, because sometimes I wonder why I’m a good person anymore.