Authors: Tao Lin
They drive around, not doing anything; not going anywhere. It’s dark and quiet outside. In the car they listen to really depressing music. Andrew feels disorientated and bored, or else lucid and calm; he can’t tell. The stereo system is pretty good. Honda Civics are strange. Andrew likes Honda Civics for some reason. They look like how he feels; is that it? Should’ve leapt to her branch and kissed her. Too dangerous. Should’ve suggested building a tree fort.
Let’s quit school and live in a tree fort. Like a garage
. Wink at her. Sara, laughing. Sometimes she’d laugh maniacally. Sara’s beautiful face, laughing insanely. Then calm and pretty.
“What if one of us started crying,” Andrew says loudly.
“I’m going to Seattle tomorrow,” Steve says. Didn’t hear. Music’s too loud. Or did he? Doesn’t matter. Steve will go to Seattle and
never come back. Sara in New York City, Steve in Seattle. Andrew alone in a tree fort, feeling sorry for himself. The mother squirrel staring at an acorn, disillusioned. The little sisters grown up and depressed, sarcastic high-fives in the living room. The balloon, smacking Steve’s face. The balloon.
They go to Denny’s.
“I need a wife,” Steve says in a booth.
“I need … I don’t know. I knead bread.”
“We’d go on a shopping spree,” Steve says. “Then she’d leave me and I’d go on a killing spree.”
Sara, married; she’s probably married by now. “Remember when the balloon slapped your face?”
“I’m going to kill them,” Steve says. “I will never kill anyone.”
Sara, laughing marriedly. “Remember …” Sara Tealsden. Stop thinking about Sara. “When I said, ‘remember when the balloon slapped your face?’ ”
“Yeah,” Steve says.
“What if your sisters marry each other?”
“We should start a band,” Steve says.
Steve in Seattle, drinking coffee with his dad. Steve’s dad, screaming. Doesn’t make sense.
“We will never start a band,” Andrew says. “I want to start a band called ‘Lesbian Incest.’ ” He feels stupid.
“What the fuck is a ‘Jhumpa Lahiri?’ ” Steve says.
“I don’t know. I told you about her. Didn’t I tell you about her?”
“Yeah,” Steve says. “Still. What the fuck is a Jhumpa Lahiri?”
“I don’t know. A person.”
“It’s not a person,” Steve says.
The waitress comes, a girl they knew from high school. Andrew doesn’t remember her name. They pretend they don’t know one another. They order quickly; she leaves. She has gotten fat. Working at Denny’s. Her life is over. If Sara worked at Denny’s Andrew would smile. Andrew works at Domino’s, a more cutting-edge version of Pizza Hut. He should quit. He wants to quit his life like a job. He is writing a book of stories about people who are
doomed. He will never commit suicide. He will never kill anyone, start a band, or commit suicide. His girlfriend in college once tried to commit suicide. Then she published a book. Andrew needs to publish a book. Publishing a book will not make him feel less fucked. He cries a little some nights. He worked in a library and a movie theatre in New York City and now works at Domino’s, and cries a little some nights. His parents moved to Germany. Germany is a more cutting-edge version of China, maybe.
“I forgot her name,” Steve says.
“Starts with an S.” No, that’s Sara. “Uh, she was in my English class.” Mrs. Poole had a bald spot. They put Rogaine brochures on her desk and she pretended it never happened. Sara liked that story. Andrew told her in the tree. He said he wanted to give Mrs. Poole a hug, and three wishes. What else, Sara said. A golden tiara, Andrew said. Sara laughed and said she liked Mrs. Poole. Andrew said he liked Mrs. Poole, then felt depressed and couldn’t speak anymore. Sara’s Popsicle was depressed.
His was green. “Starts with an F.” Should’ve thrown it at her; danced nimbly in the tree. “I don’t know. I just made that up. I have no idea.” No future. “I have no future.”
“I don’t want to think about this shit,” Steve says.
“Neither do I. It’s depressing.” And a waste of time. “What are you doing tomorrow?”
“Seeing my dad,” Steve says. “In Seattle.”
“Oh yeah. For how long?” Steve’s dad, screaming.
“One week or something. I can’t wait.”
“You really want to see him? When people get enthusiastic I feel like they’re being sarcastic. I hate that.”
“I sounded enthusiastic?” Steve says.
“Not really. I don’t know. You sounded strange.”
“I wasn’t being sarcastic,” Steve says. “I don’t really want to see my dad though. Um, I think I meant I can’t wait to not have to raise my siblings for one week.”
“I can’t process what you just said.”
“Neither can I,” Steve says.
“I feel good,” Steve says.
“Wait. Aren’t your sisters going with you? Who will feed them?”
“Oh yeah,” Steve says. “They are coming with me.”
Andrew wants to go too. Andrew and Steve, in Seattle, burying Steve’s dad in the side yard.
“Wait, no,” Steve says. “Ellen is feeding them.”
“What if she kills them instead?” Ellen on a depressed rampage, quietly murdering things.
“She’s taking summer school to make friends,” Steve says. “She has no friends.”
“I just thought about going to Seattle with you and murdering your dad. And I keep imagining your dad screaming.”
The waitress walks by. She looks depressed and confused. She looks directly at Steve for some reason. She walks by again, confused. She has gained weight and given up on life. She gave up on life then gained a lot of weight. They happened simultaneously, like in a nightmare.
“Why does she hate me?” Steve says. “I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight. Why doesn’t she have a nametag? I’m angry. I can’t sleep tonight.”
“She’s trying to subvert the Denny’s Corporation. She’s against capitalism.”
“I’m going to subvert her face with a lead pipe,” Steve says.
“I hate faces.” Except Sara’s. Every face should be Sara’s face. That would be scary. If aliens looked like Sara Andrew would hug them and feel calm. Aliens should look like Sara. Andrew should look like Sara. Then Sara would look like Andrew and things would be reversed. The waitress comes back. Steve stares at Andrew. Andrew stares at Steve. Steve has three siblings; 4, 7, and 16, or something. Steve’s father left. Andrew wishes Steve were Sara. Why not? The waitress is here with no food or anything. Andrew glances at her face. She looks cutting-edge. Her eyes are a little wet but very clear and pretty. She’s not as confused anymore. Her life is not over, after all. Not yet. Soon. She takes the ketchup.
“What a fucking bitch,” Steve says, and moves his water to where the salt and pepper are. “I feel like Snoop Dog. Is this what Snoop Dog feels like?” Steve. Andrew likes Steve. He also likes Sara. Sara called people motherfuckers. It made Andrew smile. She did it on purpose sometimes, to make Andrew smile. Andrew would always think about what she did or said and understand that she was very interesting. One time standing in a bookstore she bit Andrew’s shoulder and Andrew bled. One time she called the register guy at Duane Reade a motherfucker.
the guy said.
, Sara said. The guy’s face was blank. He worked at Duane Reade. He was a young black man. A motherfucker. Andrew had to run away to laugh; he ran into an aisle and laughed. Sara pushed him and he fell on a shampoo bottle and it hurt. They came to Florida and climbed a tree. One time in a bookstore she bit Andrew’s shoulder and Andrew fell on the floor. Denny’s is comparable to Domino’s, probably. What is Denny’s a more cutting-edge version of? Depressing waste of
time. Steve is talking about casinos. He wants to start a Jawbreaker cover band, play in casinos. Mass grave behind a casino. Steve on TV with a lead pipe,
I’m going to kill her
. Sara, laughing. Snoop Dog, stoned.
“When people are winning money they want to hear sad songs,” Steve says. “They want to know even with a lot of money they’ll still be alone.” He sneezes. “That makes no sense. What if it did, though. Then we’d play Jawbreaker songs in casinos. My plane is going to crash tomorrow.”
Andrew realizes he has been staring across Denny’s at a man’s profile. The man’s face is abnormally large. His head is too big and his neck is also very large. Andrew feels very depressed and a little angry. “Look at that guy.”
Steve looks. “We should invite him to eat with us, then putt-putt.”
“I hope a genie gives him three wishes,” Andrew says. Sara,
“And a lead pipe.”
“When I looked we made awkward eye contact. Now I’m enemies with him.”
“I can’t process what you just said,” Andrew says. “Just kidding. I processed it immediately and I think it’s funny.”
A different waitress brings their food. Her name is Bernadette. They eat for a while. They are eating. (“How do you have fun?”) Jawbreaker,
You win, you lose, it’s the same old news
. Octopus. Mark was sad about his Octopus. Steve stands. “Andrew,” he says. “Come here.”
“Wait.” Steve in Seattle, playing putt-putt in the rain, with a lead pipe. “What are you doing?”
Bernadette comes back. Steve sits. When Bernadette is gone Steve stands and walks out of the restaurant. Andrew sits very still then stands and leaves without looking at anyone. In the parking lot the waitress without a name and whose life may already be over chases them halfway to their car. Andrew almost runs her over on the way out. Killing rampage. Andrew
laughs. Steve has his head outside the window. “Denny’s sucks,” he screams. His voice cracks.
“She was so depressed,” Andrew says. “I wanted to murder her with kindness and love.”
“I feel stupid,” Steve says. “I felt bad for her too. She was a bitch to us. I don’t know. I’m broke. I feel stupid. Did you hear what I yelled?”
“I want to be her. And come kill me. I feel like shit.”
“We should go back and apologize sincerely,” Steve says. “And then overturn a table.”
“And then run away with cunning and speed.”
“Yeah,” Steve says.
“I’d be overjoyed if someone did that at Domino’s. If we had tables.” Too cutting-edge for tables. “We don’t have tables.”
“That was fun,” Steve says. “I don’t feel stupid.”
“I know. I admit it was fun.”
“My plane is going to crash,” Steve says. “Remember when my mom died?”
“I hate the world,” Andrew says. “I’m putting my head out the window to scream ‘Fuck.’ ” He puts down the window, puts his head out, screams “Shit,” and puts the window back up.
“The world is stupid,” Steve says.
“I feel stupid.”
“This is stupid,” Steve says. “I don’t know what ‘this’ is.”
“I don’t know how to have fun.”
“My sister is more depressed than both of us,” Steve says.
“I feel terrible,” Andrew says.
Steve talks some more. While Steve is talking Andrew thinks about conveying that he had an image of Steve playing putt-putt with a lead pipe in the rain, alone, in Seattle, and that the reason Steve was doing that was because he was driving in the rain and listening to music and had felt very happy suddenly, parked the car, and broken into a putt-putt place to play putt-putt alone at around 3 a.m. The sentence is too long. He can’t keep it in his head. He
feels tired. He feels bored. He wants to scream the word ‘shit’ at people while driving past them, then maybe follow them home and apologize sincerely before head butting them into a human-colored paste. He drops Steve off. On the way home Arby’s, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Walgreen’s, Kmart, Starbucks, in a row. Andrew stares at that. He wants to subvert them somehow. He is against capitalism for some reason; something about how it directs human perception away from sentient beings and toward abstractions; he is also against being against things, because the binary nature of the universe is against being against things. Still, he wants to cause destruction to McDonald’s. It would be good to subvert all these places. Sara would agree. They’d go in Starbucks, wreak complex and profound havoc. People would scream and make faces of agony and intrigue. At home people would sit with Kleenex and contemplate what had happened, then quietly weep. He and Sara would run to his gigantic house, laughing complexly. The house is enormous. A mansion. No it
isn’t. Just a large house. A mansion is a large house. Andrew’s parents live in a tower in Berlin. Andrew saw photos: eight towers, in a row. In one hundred years the Earth will resemble a metal ball with spikes. It will move shinily through the universe—confused, deadly. Grade-schooler,
Why does the Earth look like a medieval weapon?
When Andrew saw the tower photos he thought of them falling like dominoes. He works at Domino’s, a version of Pizza Hut. Something is wrong with his mom. Cancer or something. She won’t say what. She is a good person. The man with the enormous head is a good person. Is he? Everything is so good and sad somehow. Andrew is crying a little. It’s the music. He is listening to very depressing and catchy music. He should go back to Denny’s and throw a wad of cash at a customer’s face, and run away. Money won’t make that waitress happy. She needs romantic love. She’ll never get it. She was confused because of her life being already over. It is impossible to be happy. Michael Fisher sitting in the lobby reading the
wants to destroy the world with a series of startling acts of kindness; each successive act more unheard-of than the previous. When Andrew gets home Sara will be there, laughing at the idea of living in a tree fort. They will swim. Why did he think that? Because of having no future.
Next afternoon, eating cereal. Staring at the Lucky Charms box. Andrew is eating Lucky Charms because he has given up on life. He should create Anathema Charms. One time Andrew’s mom came home with Lucky Charms instead of Cheerios. She was happy and held the Lucky Charms in her right hand, not in a grocery bag. When Andrew saw the Lucky Charms it made him happy. They were in the kitchen and were both very happy about the
unhealthy change from Cheerios to Lucky Charms. Now Andrew just feels like Snoop Dog all the time. No he doesn’t. He hasn’t once felt like Snoop Dog. “That was Steve,” Andrew says out loud, for some reason. He feels nauseous. He’ll never see Sara again. What if Jhumpa Lahiri were in love with him? Would he spurn her? She lives on a diamond-studded cruise ship. Her Pulitzer Prize is afraid of her. Andrew grins. As a person, he is lonelier than Sara. She is shorter. Sara Tealsden. Thinking her last name makes Andrew feel miserable and good. Sara Tealsden. Andrew will cry. He should throw the Lucky Charms. Marshmallows, flying through the air. He does it. The box hits the refrigerator and falls to the ground. No marshmallows. No future.