Our subject leans back in his chair. I can tell that he is tired and weary from many hours hunched over, staring at a computer screen. He has just finished writing a very emotional work. A beautiful and heartfelt vignette. His soul he poured out with every word, painting a picture of solitude and trepidation. But also one that illuminates with bright light; detailing that simple yet complicated thing, that infantile oddity into which we fold ourselves, hoping to shut out our antagonists.
Blood pumps fast, and his chest flutters as he checks for errors, tiny as they may be, he cannot afford a single one. In the kitchen, an empty coffee pot and two discarded filters are evidence of his commitment. Dawn has come, and sunlight pierces the room. Golden spears assail the wall beside, and cause him to flinch. Soldiering on, he finishes his inspection, satisfied that his work is technically sound. A heavy sigh announces his completion.
I stroke his greasy hair, hoping to reassure him as I often do.
“It is beautiful.” I soothe. Yes I, because I am always with him when he writes.
He does not respond. Scrolling to the top, he clicks through several menus. A window appears on his computer screen, offering him three conveniently opposing selections.
Upload. Delete. Revise.
For a moment, he remains in motionless contemplation. Hand on chin, he stares, but not at the screen. No, he looks into his scene, the one he wrote for us. Again, he feels the bite of emotion. I can tell what he wants. It is very simple because it is the same thing he always wants. He wants you.
But he cannot have you, and I know why. Instead, he will settle for what you see. Your opinion matters to him.
Rising from his chair, he stiffly crosses the room. He now stands before an overhead cabinet, below it, a counter. Out of place in a bedroom, it exists here nonetheless. With a sigh of reluctance, he opens the door on his right. From within, he pulls two small oblong cases. Setting them both on the counter, we see a handwritten note affixed to each. He first opens the case on his left; this one is labeled ‘me,’ it is empty. A moments’ hesitation delays him as we read the word ‘else,’ but he inevitably opens the second case. I can see that you and I have the same last name.
Inside there are two human eyes, complete with lengths of bloody nerves. I like this part.
Raising his hand, he presses his finger and thumb against the corners of his right eye. I, and probably the neighbors, hear him swear loudly as his digits disappear, almost to the knuckle. With a quick jerk, he wrenches free his eye. Feeling with his free hand, he finds the empty case. Placing the eye within, he reaches back to his face. This time with his other hand, he follows the same motions until two eyes rest in the case on the left.
For a moment, I am the only one who can see.
Lightly across the counter, his fingers feel for both cases. With each hand on a respective case, he picks up an eye with his right. Carefully guiding it to an open socket, he lays the nerves within, and pushes the eye to follow. Secure in its temporary home, his hands travel to its pair. Repeating as before, he fills the other empty socket.
Blinking and cursing, he snaps both cases shut, and makes his way across the room. A loud metal creaking greets him as he takes his seat. Dismissing the window, he brings back the first page of his short work.
You stare into a room, easily the most confusing spectacle you have ever beheld. You are not entirely sure if I have accompanied you to this place. There appears to be someone in the room, but it is difficult to be certain. You suspect that you have been placed in a bedroom. If the resident furniture could be called such, it would be most appropriate for a child.
First to greet you are the walls. White and flat, they are speckled with a jumbled mass of black markings. Hoping for more than a random design, you look closer. Confirming your suspicion, you find the markings to be words in your native language. Clustered together or spread out, their arrangement bears absolutely no meaning; you cannot find a single complete sentence that explains the reason for their vast number. Only one word is prominent. Lazily slapped across the rest, seemingly by a broom dipped in paint, is the word ‘GRAY’ in giant letters of fitting color.
A small heap of objects in primary colors is leaning against the wall. The objects appear to be large single letters. From the mess, you can see enough letters to to spell the word ‘TOYS’ at least twice.
Continuing the trend of text-based furnishings, your eyes shift to the centerpiece of the room. A large but plain bed occupies the majority of the available space. You again note that, like the walls, it has been named by a clumsy hand, this time with black stains across the white sheets.
Upon the bed sits a dress of simple design and dull pink coloring. You observe that it is most definitely sitting as though upright on an invisible body. Floating above the dress is an equally disembodied tangle of red. You step closer to inspect. With difficulty, you are able to discern the words ‘PERSONAL’ and ‘PREFERENCE’ woven into the braids that hang in front of the dress. You begrudgingly accept that this is hair.
Nothing appears to be happening, so you look around. Your eyes pass over a small window, outside which you see tiny collections of text colliding with the glass. You cannot actually read the words, but it is obvious at this point that what you see is intended to be rain.
Leaving this view with a grumble of annoyance, your gaze travels across the jumbled walls. Stopping on the only other distinct object, you stare for a few seconds at a partially open door. Unsurprisingly, its own title is carved into its brown surface. Beyond it is a gray fog. Straining, you can make out a few words as they fade in and out of focus. ‘BULLIES’ and ‘DOMESTIC VIOLENCE’ waft by quickly, soon fading into the mire. Finally, the faint sound of distant raised voices invades your hearing, you suspect a parent, but the tone is ambiguous.
Your interest is quickly waning, but just before total dismissal, a new sound catches your attention. Definitely female, and definitely young, you hear the voice of someone crying. Turning, you are surprised to see the dress moving. Along with the crimson hair, it floats toward you. Just past the edge of the bed, it stops and turns around. Dropping to the floor, it crumples for a moment, and you begin to hear an excessively loud crinkle. Amplified by each movement of the dress, the crinkle resounds throughout the room as a white object emerges from beneath the bed. With the object in tow, the dress and hair move atop the bed once more. Resuming its previous position, the dress sits motionless as the white object begins to unfold with an accompanying further increase in its nearly continuous crinkle. You become annoyed by the reiteration.
For your efforts in patience, the object reveals itself to be a diaper. If its shape and sound were not obvious enough, you would need only to read its name as printed across the front panel. The word disappears from sight as the diaper unfolds and lies down upon the surface of the bed. Bunching up to its arms, the dress contracts, shortening its already meager length. Sliding by itself, the diaper stops beneath the dress, and proceeds to fold itself into an assembled shape. Both tapes pull free as the wings of the diaper curve upward, only stopping once they secure themselves across the front panel, which crinkles ever more loudly in response.
A hissing sound, easily mistaken for that of a leaking pipe, reaches your hearing at the same time that you pick up the pungent scent of urine. Following this, the word ‘PEE’ becomes visible across the surface of the diaper, emblazoned in brilliant yellow.
“I’ve seen enough.” You finally speak as you notice that the room, the bed, and even the dress have disappeared. Only the diaper, now swollen to thrice its original thickness, remains before you.
Our author stares once again at the computer screen before him. We can hear the sound of a pig, squealing in mockery.
“I feel sad for the girl, but happy that she has a way to escape her troubles.” I once again offer my compliments.
“This is awful.” He moans. I am sympathetic as I know he is seeing what you see. I can always see what he sees.
Once again, he brings the convenient window to the center of his computer screen. Behind it, streaks of brown slowly descend from where black letters used to be. The window has appeared, but it lacks two of the previous options; only one remains.
“Please do not delete it,” I say.
“There’s just no character to it,” he shakes his head.
“But wait!” I yell loudly, trying to get his attention.
Again, he hears me, but continues. He nudges the mouse, and the cursor on screen moves atop the only remaining option. Instead of fingers, a chubby little pig has replaced everything beyond his wrist. He raises the new appendage.
He is waiting for me, but I have to act quickly.
“I really like it.” I say sincerely.
He hears me, and he knows that I really do like the story. But he brings the pig down on the left mouse button. Instantly, the computer screen switches to white.
I am sad for him. I appreciate his work. Unlike you, who never likes anything he does. But he only cares about you. To him, you are someone, you are everyone.
And I am nobody.