NUMEROUS CHARTS AND GRAPHS
I had a crush on a boy in eighth grade. James Martin. He was a short geekish guy with glasses and a cool younger brother. He was into Dungeons & Dragons, paintball, and ROTC. His most beautiful attribute was his smugness.
His hero was Erwin Rommel. I didn't really know who Rommel was, but I found a biography about him at a yard sale I had attended with my grandparents, Rommel: Desert Fox. The back cover said that he was one of the greatest military strategists in the world and had worked for the Germans in WWII. I had, until then, not been able to understand James' involvement with ROTC -- he just seemed too smart for them. Those words in the title helped explain -- Desert Fox. Now I knew what went on behind the closed doors of our school gym during ROTC practice. It wasn't fat balding Mr. Muncy who led the troops; it was the Gymnasium Fox, James Martin. The problem was that I had been imagining him as a grunt. He wasn't a grunt, of course, he was a tactician, a leader. I imagined James on the basketball court with a miniature model of Shepherdsville, KY, with a pointer and easels supporting numerous charts and graphs and those geeks in red berets offering salutes to his brilliance.
James and I were in English together. I loved English because each day the teacher would put a sentence on the board for us to rearrange. "The girls and I ate a spaghetti dinner and then decided on a movie." Each day, I took that sentence seriously, I worked as a composer, not whispering, not looking up, until I had something great. "My colleagues in gender and I, forbearing the whimsical determination of a celluloid, partook of a red messy Italian staple." I would raise my hand excitedly, not impressing my classmates. I always liked to think that James was smirking approvingly as I read it, but couldn't tell because he sat behind me.
The book was 50 cents, and I knew it probably wasn't cool to buy a gift for a boy. I imagined James might laugh at me, smugly. But I bought it, maybe just to have a piece of him. The book worried me, though. It would be there on my dresser, knowing I wouldn't read it, knowing it was in the wrong hands. Finally I took the book to school. My friend Amy saw it and asked me about it. "It's for James." I shrugged. "But I don't think I'm going to give it to him."
One night, I was drunk, single, 27, and brave enough to do something about my musings over whatever happened to James Martin. On the phone he seemed happy to hear from me and offered to come to my apartment and take a look at my computer. We sat on my couch and he told me that he was married to a pagan and had dropped out of college. He told me that she lit green candles to bring them money and that he believed it would be coming soon. He attended Wiccan ceremonies but said he wasn't a warlock. He was smug and greasy and supplicating when he asked if I wanted to have a threesome with him and his wife. He never did fix my computer. After I declined and ushered him out the door I sat on my couch and just couldn't figure it out. I picked up the book I was going to give him that night. I had held it with me through the years as a shield against bawdy football watchers in bars, well-meaning quiet guys with no original thoughts, flighty musicians who saw girls as sport. I had held it as a standard for men, smart and smug. My Gymnasium Fox. What happened to him? And then I saw it, the pagan-goth grrls and boi's gathered round him at night in a remote corner of Cave Hill Cemetery taking off their clothes in grim salute as he waved his hands oddly around the easels supporting illustrated charts of sexual positions and color-coded candle majick. He was the Wiccan-Orgy Fox.
Last night my dad told me, "Every time you pull up, I keep thinking a superhero's gonna step out."
But this time I was alone, and it had been almost nine hours since I had eaten anything. I was asleep for about eight of those hours, though. Anyhow, I just stared at the numerous charts and graphs on the computer screen as she readied the needle, tourniquet, and vials.
"I have a couple requests," I said, "if you don't mind."
"Okay," she said.
"Can I lay down?" I asked her, eschewing proper grammar for practical purposes. Who wants to sound like they know how to use English good anyway?
"Also, can you take it from my hand?"
"Are you a hard stick? Most people don't usually ask me that unless they're a hard stick."
"Yeah, plus I tend to pass out, and the veins in my arm aren't that good either."
"Sure, we can do that."
We moved to another room and I laid on the examining table, mentally preparing myself for the sensations that were to come. It seemed like all at once the tourniquet was applied, my vein had been tapped, and my head anticipated the wooziness that would occur as a result of the bloodletting. The needle inserted while words shot up into the air and hung, motionless.
"Ex-husband, cholesterol, exercise, eating right, medication," she said, in that order, though she had used verbs, adjectives, and prepositions somewhere in between the nouns. I tried to concentrate on the conversation, but my concentration folded. A warm, fuzzy cloud settled all around me, begging me to lose consciousness. This is pretty cool, I thought, feels like I'm on drugs.
"Do you want me to turn the lights out?" she asked afterwards, not intending a pun.
"No. Just give me a minute here. I'll get up soon." I continued to lay there regaining my composure. I would eat and drink in a little bit. From memory: 1 Cinnamon Roll Pop-Tart -- 200 calories, 7 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 36 grams of carbohydrates; regular orange juice -- uh, a shitload of vitamin C.
I sat in my car, thinking. I decided that suffering, no matter how long or painful, is always momentary. Everything -- good, bad, or indescribable -- ends at some point. But as long as the payoff is as sweet as a Cinnamon Roll Pop-Tart, then we have nothing to worry about. So essentially, we have nothing -- nothing -- to fear.
That is, unless it's cancer.
Several are graphed out walking/driving patterns. I always take the west route -- you know the path that goes by the pond, and the ducks, and the geese. When I park, it's always in the gravel lot, in a spot facing south. The graphs seem to be subconscious, but the charts are different. The charts are on the walls, daily impressing my mental direction.
The most popular chart, presently, is the When Will I Graduate chart, and the What Will I Do After University charts, like the Become an Internationally Renowned Author with Works in Thirteen Languages chart, or the Better Yet an Internationally Renowned Filmmaker with Films in Thirteen Languages chart.
No Dubs, Only Subtitles.
I've charted out everything in my future world based on the graphs of my past. I've even charted out the Rise of the Future International Super Power, Miss China, who is wearing a beautiful, sequined red and yellow evening gown.
And I've based this on historic graphs, of course. They are in my year 2000 files, which was when I went to China and witnessed the Super Power Expansion graph firsthand.
The orphans were blind with severe burns and missing limbs. Except for the Little Sailor Kid, who was so perfect he must have been an accident. I have him under the Pain of Being the Second Perfect Son Born to Parents Living Under the One Child Law graph. And I have his pain all graphed out -- or at least my impression of his pain -- and stapled to the back is the Life of The Little Sailor Kid chart.
And maybe I'm overoptimistic, but I'd like to think that maybe he has it better now.
This is THE2NDTIME Jason Jordan has been published in THE2NDHAND. Before he dies, he would like to have his work grace the broadsheet. He should probably submit to the broadsheet.
Chad Blevins is from Louisville, KY. He sucked his thumb till he was six years old, and he believes invisible dinosaurs roam the earth.
Christeen Amburgey scribes, studies, and subsists in New Albany, IN. She is currently studying literature and writing at Indiana University Southeast.