you want all to be lost because it would be convenient. it would be tidy.
—Do you still love me?
—What kind of question is that?
—The asking kind.
—You think I don’t love you?
That’s not what I said. That’s not what I said but you can’t hear what I’m asking, and I can’t ask it again because then you will get mad and the conversation will continue, and you will place your knots on me, one and two, hitch me up like a dog in public, shamed for his animal brain by the same world that brought him into it.
you think about yourself in objective terms. brown hair. brown eyes. long-sleeve shirt. employed. runner, server. smoker.
“i feel” were the first words to leave your vernacular. “i want” came next. to qualify the self is to entrust it with a purpose. push everything out and make the brain empty, no matter how reptilian. the lizard feels cold, it wants sun, and so it struggles a tireless struggle.
—You’re going out?
—Your shift’s not for another hour.
—Well, are you just going to hang out there?
I can’t tell you. I can’t tell you. I can’t stand you. I can’t stand you for always finding holes in my words and having yours fit perfectly into them. I can’t stand the way your sneeze sounds like a mouse squeaking when it’s caught in a glue trap and I can’t stand that your questions pick pick pick away at me, rip out my hairs one by one until I am bald and you can see every aberrant inch of my scalp. I wish that you would hate me back and we could both just hate and hate, be made useless by our hate.
you are an embarrassment to yourself. you hesitate. you do not act on instinct.
—Coming down hard.
—Any turkeys around? We could get one while they’re fresh from the kill.
—Please, I’m not being an asshole.
—Someone call the papers.
I empty my mind. I make memories into strangers. I forget my name on a daily basis. I take but I do not keep.
you go in early to your shift. the cook is happy to see you. he smiles a vacant smile and he sniffs a couple times as he greets you. you watch his eyes shimmy down your hips. his apron is stained with grease. the same grease that congeals just under his face.
you avoid him in all ways but physically. you are his in the only way he cares about.
—Gonna be a busy one today.
—You’ve got plans after?
—Well, you know where I am.
He is disgusting. He disgusts me. I hate his paunch, and I hate the way his eyes look at everyone and see no one, and I hate the way that there is nothing to him, nothing at all but overly familiar smells. I hate that he cooks all day and he is still so hungry. I hate him but there is so little left of me that it’s a weak hate. It’s a tamed hate. He knows it.
you take an order. you fill drinks. you feel him look at you when he is looking into the grill. the steam blocks his face and spells out obscene things to the other cooks and servers. you know that they can read it, that they’re reading it and whispering things about you.
—Another side of fries for 11.
It’s dripping. It’s hissed out in anticipation. Ssssure. The lizard and the snake, they’re kin, aren’t they? But the snake eats the lizard all the same.
the rain patters on the dining room roof. people see you but they don’t remember you. when you’re turned around, it’s like you disappear to them. they continue their conversations as you place their plates on the table. you’ve been nothing for so long that it’s easy to be even less.
you imagine what it would be like if you took a steak knife from the table and drove it into a man’s neck. would anyone notice? would anyone be able to say that it was you who had done it? well, they’d see the blood on your shirt.
—This will be your last one for tonight, unless we get some stragglers.
—No, not really.
—You’re off tomorrow, no?
—Yeah. I’m off today too.
—Well, get some sleep at least.
He raises his eyebrows at me once as the shift ends. I nod. It’s automatic. Can you cover this table? Nod. Can you grab my drinks while I use the bathroom? Nod. Can you suck my greasy dick in my greasy car as I run my greasy hand through your greasy hair? Well, of course. It’s my job. It’s who I am.
you’re handed a stack of money in mostly ones and you jam it into your backpack. you think about leaving. you think about just going home. you think about leaving with the money and never going home again.
maybe you could make a living at this. surely there are other cooks like this. your fingers and toes could curl just around that softest part of their thigh, and you could live there in that warm spot for the rest of your life. you do not go home. you know where the cook is, and you go to him.
—Took you a while. Thought you might have gone home.
—You want some too?
—No, it’s okay.
He has a tattoo across his hip and I crawl against it. The hair is thick and patchy, like an ape that wasn’t sure if it was coming or going into man. When I take him into my mouth, I feel that perfect nothingness settle in my mind. No hate, no fear, no nothing. It is so quiet in his car I might have thought I wasn’t there at all, that nothing was there anymore, that I’d slipped between here and somewhere else, somewhere I’d never have to think again.
you don’t pull back when he cums. he tastes like cigarette ash, and that taste shapes the nothingness back into the greasy car. it holds you down and forces you to remember that you are still here.
you are still here, you coward. you were too scared to leave and too weak to stop trying. you don’t have a reptile brain after all. you have a human brain, incensed and violent. it asks horrible things, and all the hate that you feel for the cook attacks your own organs malignantly.
—What if I killed you? What if I had lured you out here to kill you.
—You want to kill me?
—Well, you know where I am.
I stand in the rain outside our place for almost an hour before I put in the door code and head up to the apartment. There are puddles on the stairs from every person who has come in and out of this building before me. I blend into their footprints.
you see her on the couch, on her phone, TV blasting. she nods at you. you kiss her and hope she tastes his cum. but she is sexless. her lips barely fit against yours. two different animals entirely.
—Yeah, but you’re soaked.
—I’m all wet.
For her to notice these things, she would have to see me. There’s nothing left to see of me. I have taken away the parts that make me distinct. I simply am. The only ones who notice me are people who can make use of those who simply are. I am a warm body waiting to be propped up in someone else’s fantasy. I’m less than a lizard.
you think of things less than a lizard. a roach. a protozoa. you aren’t sure what a protozoa looks like. you think about things you do know like an extension cord. a toaster in the bathtub. it all sounds so childish.
—Do you think I’m childish?
—Yeah. Do you think I act like a kid?
—I don’t think you do much of anything. You left your dirty mug out again.
—That’s not what I mean.
—I’m watching this.
I could die. It would be easy to do. Convenient. It would wrap a lot of things up. It would be tidy. Or I could kill. That would be harder. I’d have to try harder. But it wouldn’t be hard on me, in a deeper way. It would just be a matter of muscles and tendons.
you think about what it would be like to kill. a part of your brain does not allow you to imagine the carnage. you feel a frustration at the fact that you still have these sensibilities and sensitivities, and then you feel frustrated that you are frustrated.
—Well, I’m going to bed.
—Okay, good night.
I don’t think I hate myself, at least not completely. If I did, I would be gone already. But who would hate a warm body? There’s nothing to me worth hating. It’s a waste of energy. There are bigger things, worse things in this world to hate. War. Cancer. I’m not as bad. I’m not anything.
you sit on the bed but don’t go to sleep. you try to think of something happy. instead, you think about the cook’s car. watching from the back seat, peering over the console. switching then to a bird’s-eye view, only listening to the sounds. then in thermal vision, a sudden bead of red entering your stomach like a soul.
There should be nothing left to me at all. I took so much away already. But I am still here, eating, breathing, sucking, shitting. Chipping away at the world bit by bit and making it worse. I could die, you know. I could die.
you lie down on the bed, in the middle. it spreads out in both directions. you imagine the bed full of people. you imagine the bed empty, and then your apartment empty, and then the restaurant empty. you empty your mind and imagine nothing. you get used to the nothing, and the sun rises eventually.
you do not die that night. when you do die, it happens in a small and insignificant way, just like you wanted. you fade out from existence quickly. neither she nor the cook mourn for longer than a matter of weeks. you get exactly what you want. it is as unsatisfying as everything else.
—What do you mean?
—You have the rest of forever.