I Bet You're Amazing Too
fiction by Jason Edwards
The other day I was having the most delightful time, and by the other day I mean Thursday, and by delightful I mean absolutely awful. It’s called sarcasm, sweetie, and if you don’t want to fall into it and get your cute little hand trapped in a rock, better check your ropes or not even bother with the hike. You have been warned.
Most Thursdays I’m at home in my luxurious loft on the Upper-West Side, and by luxurious I mean shitty and by loft I mean shit-hole studio apartment, and by Upper-West Side I mean the Village, sipping a martini made by my lover Max, who doesn’t exist, and martinis give me headaches, anyway. And oh, by “most Thursdays” I mean never because I’m always at work on Thursdays. I hate Thursdays, hate my job, hate my life! Kill me with fellatio, as Max would say if he existed and we were being playfully, like watching really bad Glee reruns or something.
Anyway, there I was in my khaki pants and my baby blue shirt and my loafers and my apron and a haircut that looked way better than that mongoloid at O-Shearies usually gives me, no sarcasm this time, honey, I looked pretty good for a Fed-Ex Kinko’s employee. Not.
And in walked this, this, this guy. He was just so, I don’t know, plain. I mean boring. I mean he oozed dullness. It was like he was shellacked and shiny, coated in oh-my-god-who-cares. I mean it was nearly fascinating. Nearly, but not quite. I wanted to yawn, and I almost did, one of my patented great big theatrical yawns that shows off some truly exquisite detail to oral hygiene. But I didn’t because, well, even though he was so boring that it was almost interesting, the last time I did one of those yawns at work Carlos said something very rude about large cocks and sweetheart, we do not talk about large cocks at Fed-Ex Kinkos, that is, like, rule number one.
He walks up to the counter and I am speechless. Me, speechless! Can you imagine? Well, I can’t. I mean, the last time I was speechless, let’s just say Carlos would have had something to say about it, and leave it at that. But not, you know, with Carlos. He’s a fat Mexican. I don’t have a problem with Mexicans, sister, so don’t get your high dudgeon up. I’m just being descriptive. Max could me a Mexican, although I’d prefer Columbian.
Where was I? Not in a loft sipping a martini and looking at the skyline and texting Ryan Murphy to leave me alone and stop bothering me to be in his next TV show, although secretly I was just playing hard to get because it would give me more creative control over my role. No, I was standing behind the counter agog at the most normal looking person on the planet, in his shoes and his pants and shirt and jacket and haircut, holding a manilla folder with exactly three pieces of paper in it. If you had told me a few years ago that working at Fed-Ex Kinko’s would give me the superhuman ability to be able to count pieces of paper based on millimeter thickness alone, I would have stabbed you in the face. But there I was. Kill me with a Max, so to speak.
I managed a “Can I help you?” instead of a “I know I can’t help you, you entirely pathetic, poor little man with your normal and your boring and your dull and your other words I could use that are probably in a thesaurus except nobody except maybe a person like you even owns thesauruses anymore.” That took will power, let me tell you.And he goes “I need fifty copies of this, stapled.”
I died. Not literally, but if there’s a figurative heaven, my figurative soul was sucked out of my figurative body and flew up to the figurative clouds to lounge on figurative barcaloungers and sip figurative martinis that didn’t give me figurative headaches while Max gave me a foot rub and Jesus Christ himself mixed wicked tracks on a pearly DJ turntable. I don’t even know what a barcalounger is!
I said “Sure!” in a chirpy voice, the kind of voice that the baristas at Starbucks use when you order a simple mocha, which is exactly, to the decibel, the same voice they use if you order a half double decaffeinated half-caf with a twist of lemon, which is why I never go there anymore, and of course when I say never I mean rarely, like once a day, tops-- look, I’m sorry, but the other coffee shops around here, let me just say that if I see one more septum piercing I am going to scream. Loudly. “Give me, like, 15 minutes, you wretched little non-person devoid of anything even resembling a personality, I’m sure,” I said, except for the parts after the word “minutes.”
“Okay,” he said. Okay! He said, “okay,” just like that, just like you would expect. Gag me with a copy of The Stranger, are you even paying attention, do you even know you exist, do you even know, can you even explain why trillions of atoms would even bother to cling together in the shape of a you for several decades before doing us all a favor and falling apart and just sort of spreading out across the rest of the universe over the course of the next billion years?
I turned around. I was desperate. I went to the third biggest machine, the one that collates and staples automatically. Carlos says it staples “automagically” and every time he does I want to kick him in the balls as hard as I possibly can. Which might not be that hard, considering how often I’ve been to the gym this year. Look up “not one single time” in the dictionary and there’s a picture of me at the gym this year. But it’s not my fault. The gym smells like socks.
What I needed right then was to lose myself in the chugga-chugga sound of the photocopiers and the hum of the computers and bright fluorescent lights and bits of color from scattered highlighters and the sharp smells of toner and electricity and sour tendrils coming out of the garbage can where my daily mocha cups go when I’m done with them.
I put his pages in there. I stabbed the right buttons, for collating, for stapling, for doing it 51 times. He asked for 50, but I hate even numbers like I hate older Macaulay Culkin for what he did to younger Macaulay Culkin. (Can you believe he dated Mila Kunis? Can you believe I can swallow an entire can of Reddi Whip in one go? God, Saturdays alone can really suck. And by really suck I mean really suck.) I had to do something, or my brain was going to jump out of my head and run down the street doing Dexter things to people. Literally, figuratively, metaphorically, philosophically, whatever. All I could think of was to invent a little story about this guy, while I stood there, a little story to keep me sane.
I decided he had a tattoo, on his back. He’d gotten it when he was young, although I had no idea how old he was. Thirtysomething? Fortysomething? I added that to the story. He got a tattoo on his back, just a Jesus, when he was in his twenties, and he thought he could tell people “Jesus has my back,” as a joke, the joke being he wasn’t even religious! But he never did. He never got a chance to. No one knew he had a tattoo on his back. He wasn’t dating anyone, never went to the gym and took a shower. And then, like, he started getting into it. Tattoos, I mean, not Jesus. He had more ink done. Pretty soon he had the Sistine Chapel, more or less, all over his back. And you know how, like, Michelangelo put secret stuff in those paintings, anatomy and turning bishops into devils and Lacoon’s arm and all that? So did the tattoo artist. Some shit he went through with his fat wife and arguments about leaving the seat up and the biker she dumped him for.
And this guy, he figured it out. Eventually. The tattoo artist died, I don’t know, emphysema, can that still kill people? He died, and the guy was looking at his back in some triple mirrors and he started to figure out all the little jokes. He didn’t know the specifics, of course, but he saw places where his back and the Sistine Chapel were different and the faces looked a little too modern and he did some research and figured out the tattoo guy was a genius. A sad, depressed, chain-smoking genius, just like Michelangelo, except for the smoking part. And wasn’t Michelangelo gay, or something?
Nevermind. Just a fantasy to get me through this. Pathetic, right? No point to it, really. The machine chugged out the last copy, the extra one, so I took it off the stack, put it to the side, grabbed his originals, shoved the stack back into the folder, and turned around. I walked towards the register, and the guy saw me, and he walked over to. Was he sort of rolling his shoulders? Like he could remember what it was like getting the tattoo, all those needles? That toner smell, that smell of ink, reminding him of the tattoo parlor, just a tiny bit, even though mostly it smelled like cigarettes and empty cans of Yuengling, that cheap-ass beer from Pennsylvania?
I punched some numbers in the register, and because I felt sorry for him, I gave him the employee discount, and then I felt like if he had enough money to pay for a huge-ass tattoo like that he could afford the regular rate, and then I added a surcharge because I’d done the job when he could have used one of the self-service machines himself, and then I took off the surcharge because it wasn’t like I was busy anyway, not like I need to get my shit done so I could clock out at five and meet Max and have headache-free martinis and sea trout and oyster tartar at Chez Fuck Me, Right, right? I gave him a total. Of course he paid with a credit card. Of course he did.
I swiped he signed said there you go said thanks nodded walked out watched him leave. The earth stopped spinning, the universe stopped expanding, the mitochondria in my cells stopped fucking each other silly and my pituitary gland froze into an absolute zero ice block. Depression, ennui, lethargy, inertia descended on me like a sack cloth on one of those girls who sees a gorgeous chick pull off a sack cloth look and make it work and then she tries it and it is awful. The last remaining noodles of the tattoo fantasy were eaten away by my intestinal acids and I was left empty and malnourished.
Seriously, if a literal Max had walked in right at that point with a martini and some Advil and two tickets to that thing I love, I would have slapped the shit out of him for not existing for the past my whole life.
Eventually, I got moving again. I cleaned some things, I sorted some things, I looked at the clock, looked at Facebook on my phone, looked at my heart and found it still reluctantly beating. Whatever. Life was a great big fat whatever, always had been, always would be, and as soon as you get over Sisyphus, who gives a fuck.
And you know where I’m going with this, right? The whole point of the stupid little story? The funky little plot twist at the end that puts everything in perspective, the payoff, the big reveal, revelation, justification. The orgasm to all this masturbation. It’s that extra copy, the one he didn’t ask for and the one I didn’t charge him for. I’m going to tell you that I was so stunned by his boringness that I never looked at the pages themselves, that the machine works by putting in the originals face down. I’m going to say that Carlos called and asked if I could take his evening shift and I said why not because a stick’s as good as a dildo if the world was made just fuck you in the ass.
And then, late at night, eleven at night, eleven pm on a Thursday night, all those fluorescent lights, the edges of my vision yellow from standing under those lights all day, caffeine grit in the back of my throat and the sweet sickly stink of mayonnaise from the Subway wrapper in the trash can on top of the Starbucks cup, me closing up, no customers for the last three hours and my eyes unable to blink from staring at my phone and scrolling my Facebook newsfeed back and back, rereading shit from yesterday and last week and a month ago and last year and as far back as the 80s, it feels like, and just as I’m about to lock the door, I see that leftover copy, from the guy, and I finally look at it, and?
And fuck you, I want someone else to feel as frustrated and stupid as I do all the time. I’m not telling you what it was. I’m not telling you what the big twist was. I’m not telling you what it was I saw on those pages that made me forget about Max and say to hell with the Upper-West side and why I stopped watching The New Normal and American Horror Story and went to the doctor and found out about my vermouth allergy and started taking my martinis so dry you could use one to towel off after a shower, which is what I did after finally going back to the gym again.
Because, bitch, none of that happened. There are 52 Thursdays in a year, sometimes 53, and every single one of them is amazing. And by amazing, I mean it’s amazing I haven’t killed myself yet. I bet you’re amazing too.