tagNon-EroticAnother Human Being

Another Human Being


In line at the grocery store, Don grasped the rubber divider and placed it on the conveyor belt. Behind it, he positioned a can of diced peaches and a toothbrush. His eyes zoomed in on the man in front of him, scanning down to his perfectly polished red shoes.

"Those peaches are great huh? I always eat them on the way to work," the stranger said.

"Yeah... they are."

Don picked the toothbrush up again and the pad of his finger molested the fresh bristles. A nervous swallow pulsed in his throat, and his mouth stuttered open as he glanced up from the brush. He wanted to continue conversation, but the man had already turned his back and was buying his items. The stranger had so many things in his cart, and there was so much time for Don to say something to him. He watched the cashier scan carrots, diapers, tuna, peanut butter, pepper jack cheese, two beach towels, on and on it went. He watched as the cashier scanned a life, a family. Don did not say anything. The man's change was handed to him, and it clanked as he dropped it into his shirt pocket. He red shoes carried him to the parking lot.


When Don got back to his dwelling, he stripped naked and thoughtlessly cleaned his surroundings. He wiped the table top with a rag. He jogged over to the television and ran the rag across the screen. In the kitchen, he wiped a ring of water that his glass had left on the counter. He was irritated when he realized that nothing was dirty because he felt cleaning was only worthwhile when it was demanded by a huge mess. Don remembered watching infomercials, and the guy with the British accent would always spill a big cup of muck or red wine on the carpet. He would clean half of the mess so that the audience could marvel at difference between the clean side and the soiled side. Don always wished there were bigger messes like that for him to clean up. When you wipe an insignificant amount of dust off a mahogany table, it's not fulfilling. These thoughts possessed him to run back to the store and buy a tub of dark brown shoe polish. At home, he popped open the lid on the polish. It smelled of chemicals and business. It was exactly what he wanted. He proceeded to smear the polish over his kitchen cabinets, making sure to rub it into the grain of the wood. He got his rag and went to work, cleansing half of each cabinet and leaving the other half covered with shoe polish.


Exhausted from the day's events, Don stumbled over to his bed chamber. He opened the door and a cloud of white air fell out of the chamber and spread onto the floor. Don slept in a giant industrial refrigerator. He did this so he could make a big cocoon of bedding. Layers and layers and piles and piles, he would form a big nest for himself, made from blankets, yoga mats, and wetsuits. At night he would strip to nothing but his socks, a ski mask, and gloves and quickly crawl into his bed hole. The blankets felt heavy enough to be another human being.

"...hope you're all enjoying this misty weather today. Comin' up in a couple minutes here, we've got the sig alert traffic report and..."

The grating morning traffic routine interrupted a maelstrom of crimson and lace. As Don's guilty fantasies dissolved into the digitized numbers on his alarm clock, he reached over to smack it until it shut up. He lay in his perfectly formed cubby, not wanting to step out into the frigid air.

Sleeping in such cold weather usually prevented him from having an erection in the morning, but some days it

would happen anyway. Today was one of those days, and today he decided to challenge himself. He scampered out of his hole and into the bathroom across the hall. To deal with the difficulty one faces when trying to pee with an erection, Don liked to take the narrow path. He aimed his hard-on upwards at a forty-five degree angle and tried to rainbow his urine into the toilet. He knew it was going to be a good day when he didn't piss all over the floor. Seeing his success, he smiled, prideful as a bronze statue.

Don didn't know what to do next, so he did what he always did when he didn't know what to do. He drove to his favorite spot. It was a short cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was dirty and small and in all of its delicacy, it was magnificent. He wandered up there, all alone, listening to his own heavy breath as he struggled up the last few steps. He took off all his clothes, his fist wrapped around car keys, and stood at the edge of his cliff. Arms outstretched, he felt the sun and breeze surrounding his body, touching him on all sides at once. Without hesitation, he stepped off the edge of the cliff and his breath tightened in his chest. Down he fell, foot after foot, feeling the gaping ocean rushing towards him and his stomach leaving him. As he fell he saw this big blue body of waves, a power large enough to swallow him. His body pierced the water with an ornate splash. The splash elated his soul. He surfaced, short of breath and excited. He floated and swam around in the ocean for as long as he enjoyed it. When he was through, he deserted his clothes on the cliff, which was slightly too tall for him to want to scale again, and drove home naked, hoping not to see any cops.

Don used to have a different favorite spot. It was this little park near the house he grew up in. It was small and linear, with trees and bushes on both sides of a curvy dirt path. Pretty yellow lamplights dotted the park at night and there were always dragonflies, his favorite insect, swarming at day. When Don was little, he would never go there after sundown because he thought it to be infested with ghosts and spiders. As he aged, though, it became quite the place of sanctuary, a place for him to unwind, reflect, and vent his troubles to the trees, which always seemed to huddle around him as he sauntered down the dirt path.

One particular night, about a decade ago, he decided to go for a walk through this park. He could not remember now why he felt the need to take this stroll because the events that followed were so heavy they claimed all of his memory of that day. His cold hands made fists in his pockets as he shuffled through the park, enjoying the crisp air and quaint surroundings. His thoughts wandered to reminiscing about his youth and the ignorance he once possessed. He thought to himself, "I bet I know this park so well that I can walk this entire path with my eyes closed." So he did. He closed his eyes and continued walking. Further down the path he was startled from his pretend sleepwalk when his toe tripped on something big and rubbery. He opened his eyes to find it was a dead human body. There it lay, its mouth gaping open, and blood seeping out bullet holes on both sides of its head. Its face was mangled with cuts all over and blood drooling out the mouth. Its eyes stared up at him as if to say, "Would you mind not stepping on me?" The blood seeped into the dirt and into the treads on the bottom of Don's shoe.

Don collapsed in horror at the sight. The scene filled him with fear, for he had never seen something so real and petrifying. He stared at the face in disbelief for a moment, and then turned away, unable to look any longer. He shivered and cried, his pulse quickened and a cold sweat formed on his brow. When he had regained control of himself, he pulled out his cell phone and called the police.

And when Don closed his eyes in bed that night, and every night after that, the image of the indignant corpse with bullet holes on the sides of its head was seared on the inside of his eyelids.


Don went down to the bus stop. He had a car, and he didn't want to go anywhere, but he wanted to get on the bus anyway. Its brakes screeched to a halt for him and he climbed three tall steps into the ever-changing microcosm. He sat in the back on the hard, orange seat, a composite of recycled plastics. Don enjoyed this point of vantage; it gave his eyes access to all that was around him.

To his left sat a man with wrinkled hands and face, purple veins showing through his translucent skin, and thinning white hair. He looked at ease and contemplative. Don knew he must be thinking about the good times he shared with his wife, who passed away several years ago. Don's eyes zoomed in on a man at the front of the bus. He was lost inside a huge black shirt, and he carried a backpack. Don wondered if the backpack was filled with weed or books for a biology class at the local community college, or both, or something else. Next, Don turned his attention to a woman with very short, frizzy hair that curled around her face. She wore a colorful button up shirt and carried a big, plain purse. Her mouth, which was not a frown, but definitely not a smile, had a small beauty mark on the upper left corner. He knew she was once in pageants and would sometimes look in the mirror and pretend she had just received a crown. Across from her sat a younger woman who leaned her head on her boyfriend's shoulder. She had greasy strings of hair and her plump stomach showed a little under her short t-shirt. Don knew she probably smelled like fruit. He knew she was a quick reader and she and her mother were very close.

The bus came to a stop and in walked a pair. One was a boy, about age 19, with long brown hair, long legs, and long gecko fingers that gripped a skateboard. With him walked an equally tall girl, with large eyes and mouth and many loud metal bracelets banging on her arm. They scooched into the seats directly in front of Don and began a conversation.

"So I'm gonna try to explain this to you, but I don't know if you'll get it. Like every man is an island and even with days and days of explanation, I could never fully tell you about this experience," was the part in their conversation that Don picked up on. He tuned his ears to what they were saying and soloed out their voices.

"Got it. Island. Let's try to make a bridge between ours," she wittily replied.

"Alright. So essentially what happened was that I had a really really bad trip, if we're going to look at in a literal sense."

"Been there."

"But this was different. I think my mind may have been on to something. Because I was smoking in the park and out of the blue, shit just hit the fan. Suddenly, it was like my life was a movie and the camera felt as if it was dollying forwards and back. The room was pulsing."

"You mean like zooming in and out?"

"No, babe, zooming happens inside the lens. There's no movement except within the camera. Fuck it, that's neither here nor there. As I was saying, I felt myself conscious and aware of the surroundings one second, and the next, I was totally detached from everything, as if looking in at the world from a glass case. I realized my entire life had been a dream and that now, I was about to wake up from this dream that is my life into my previous reality. As the room pulsed, my consciousness switched with each beat of the pulse. One moment, I was sitting in my room, in this life with my friends watching The Lawrence Welk show. The next moment, I was waking up from this dream that is my life and seeing it as cardboard, like everything around me was not real. I fuckin' started crying."

"Crying? Are you kidding me?" she interrupted, her voice tripped up with stifled cackles.

"You know what, fuck it. You just can't grasp it." Don sat, listening intently, but trying to look like he was paying attention to his own foot. He wanted so much to jump into this conversation and tell the boy, "I know exactly how you feel! In fact, even still I am convinced that this world could easily be a movie set or something out of my mind." But instead he sat and watched the pair as they wandered off the bus, continuing their excited chatter all the way.


Don spent much time thinking about what the teenage boy said about reality and nonreality as he trekked to the wet alley behind the butcher shop. Standing on a crate, he searched the dumpster with his eyes until they spotted the red black bags he knew he would find there. The filthy rusted metal of the dumpster pressed into his stomach as he leaned in as far as he could, holding his breath to avoid the stench. He grabbed two bags and hoisted himself out of the dumpster, stumbling into a green puddle and wetting the ankles of his pants.

When he was home, he put on his favorite Tchaikovsky record. He cut open one of the bags and slowly poured the animal blood onto his milk-colored kitchen counter. It flowed, slow and thick, forming a perfect circle that distorted into the cracks between the tiles. He poured a bit more until one trail of blood reached the edge, made a right angle, and then plummeted to the fake wood floor. He stopped pouring and watched other trails follow the vertical route. He meticulously placed a sturdy metal ruler on the table and dragged it across, funneling the blood back in to the bag. Whatever his ruler didn't catch was left to stain the floor and table, which, of course, he would clean half of later. He then opened the second bag and strained the blood with the finest strainer he could find. He poured it through over and over and watched the little pieces of pig and cow get stuck in the metal wires. Once he felt the blood was purified, he placed it in his fridge next to his leftover salmon, and discarded the meat particles that had been caught in the strainer.

The next morning, Don walked from one fridge to the other to retrieve his new obsession. He poured the immaculate blood into a Carls Jr. cup he had saved from a value meal. He put a lid on the cup and stuck a straw through the lid. He took it with him to the mall. Don felt powerful and proud knowing the contents of his cup. It felt heavy in his hand, and thick. It felt real.

He made his way into a department store, up the escalator, and into the women's lingerie section. He spent a few minutes pretending to browse the bras before he felt his grip loosen on the cup. Slowly, he released one finger from the cup at a time, till he was holding it by only two fingers, and then by one, and then by none. The cup dropped to the floor, the lid exploded off, and thick, red blood splashed on the surrounding victimized lace and saturated the carpet. The splash elated his soul. Don stood, expressionless, as an attractive saleswoman went to grab some rags to clean up the mess. It was not until she had returned, knelt down, and dipped her rag into the blood that she realized just how immense this mess was. A look of horror crossed her face and she shrieked, "It's blood! This is blood all over the floor!" A crowd immediately gathered, all of them looking at the huge pool of blood on the floor and the man who had dropped it. Don stood, expressionless.

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