Friday, March 14, 2008


by Silvan

“The bubbles fizz up, reaching for the freedom above them that they will never attain. Because they disperse into the air as soon as they escape their liquid prison. Plip... Plip.”

“Are you going to drink your soda or not?”

“Oh, I’m going to drink it. It will be digested before it even knows what hit it.”

“Could you not....” I don’t think James heard me as, true to his word, he had already chugged the whole soda and was licking any remaining drops from the inside of the bottle. It was his usual routine to dedicate himself so much to this activity that he completely forgot about the surrounding world, sometimes ending up lying on the ground, squirming, in his endless battle with the glass. I had tried to say something to James in the past. In a school where you are already the most ostracized weirdo, it doesn’t help to be seen at the lunch table with the kid who's so weird he doesn't count, who flails around sucking on a soda bottles.

James is my best friend, but he’s a weird kid.

“So what are you doing today?” James asked. He had given up on the bottle and was sitting up as if nothing happened. “Cause if you don’t have any plans I have something I really want to show you.”

“Sure. Can I stop at my house first though? I wanna get some stuff if we are going to be roaming across the city.”

“How did you know we were roaming across the city?” he asked.

“James, whenever you want to show me something it's never close by.”

“Well, now that the secret is out, meet me at three-thirty at the F train. Think you can manage that?” When James proposes these excursions it always feels like he’s daring me, but he should know by now that my life is very, very dull. I welcome the sense of flair that he brings.


The door is propped open. Classroom doors are always propped open before a class. Now that I think about it, I can’t remember if I have ever seen someone close the door. But the doors are always closed when the classes are in session. So who is doing all this closing? I wonder if there is some goulish imp who wanders the halls making sure that all the doors are shut when we are learning. Maybe that’s why we aren’t allowed to wander the halls...

There are people sitting around me. They don’t pay attention to me but they are definitely there. I can hear the rabble around the guy behind me. It seems that he has farted. I can smell the tuna fish that the guy next to me was eating. Apparently they didn’t have time to wash his hands before coming to class. I can see Sophia’s hair in the seat in front of me. It’s very pretty....

The teacher starts talking and my gaze shoots to the window on my left. Maybe the two things are connected in some way. It’s a beautiful day. There are birds flying across the pure blue sky. They look like seagulls; they’re not pigeons. Those are the options in New York. It’s a bird watcher’s nightmare. It must be nice to be a bird, flying up in the clouds, wind whipping at your face. I’d like to be a bird, maybe something fierce like a hawk. That is an extremely unoriginal thought. Hell, that kid two rows in front of me is probably thinking the exact same thing right this second.

“So does anyone have any idea what Marx was saying in that last passage?”

“Wow, that is the most cliche teacherism I have heard in a while. I didn’t know teachers still said stuff like that.”

Every head turned to me as I realized that I had just said that out loud.

“Well, I’m sorry my teaching methods are boring you, Doug.”

“No, it’s... I’m sorry.” I’m sorry for what? I’m sorry that my brain let that one past the filter.

In the end no one cares about the one time the quiet kid smart-mouthed the teacher. I get let off with a warning and by the end of the day all the other kids have forgotten about me again. I walk out of the school through all the people and they don’t look at me. I knock into them by accident and they don’t notice. I mean, I get it, no one cares about me. But this is just cold. Before I know it I am out in the light of the sun. It feels really good. I take a left. I usually take a left. Because my house is to the left and I usually am going to my house. There are times when I take a right, like when I am going to James’ house (James’ house is to the right).

The door opens when I push it as it is known to do; I run up into my room and throw my bag down.

“Mom! I’m going to go hang out with James!” I yell from the top of the stairs.

“Ok honey, be back for dinner!”

I run back out the door. I can’t step on the cracks. If I step on the cracks then something very bad will happen. Everytime I put my right foot down, the angle at the front of my shoe must point at the top left corner of the sidewalk tile. I used to only be allowed to step on the white parts of crosswalks, but that was too easy. So now I can only step on every other white bar.

Slightly down the block stands James, with two guys I recognize from school. They look like they might possibly be angry with James, and they look like they are quite definitely larger then him.

The guy on the right asks, “So how are you James?”

The guy on the left ascribes to the more silent school of menacing.

“Oh you know, can’t complain,” James says.

“We’re here about the money you owe us.”

“Seriously? You followed me all the way from school just for extortion? How very mundane and thuggish of you. Though to be honest, I’m touched. It’s sweet that you guys would want to be close to me…”

“Shut it! If you don’t cut out that wise-ass shit then this situation is going to have to get violent.” Shit!

“Oh, I don’t think you big guys want to push little ol’ me around. I have a friend who would not be happy about that. You definitely don’t want to involve him.” Double shit! Does James know I’m here? Did he see me?

Pleasedonotpointmeout pleasedonotpointmeout pleasedonotpointmeout plea… “You see, my uncle is in the mafia and if he hears that two punks are pushing around his dear nephew, then…” A punch came out faster than Sonic the Hedgehog on speed and landed square in James’ gut.

“Do you ever stop talking?” Another fist struck across his face and sent him to the ground. He was beat before it even started. James threw out some bills. The guys took the money and left.

“Shit! God damn.” I ran to him while he picked himself up. “Shit, shit. Shit! James, are you ok?”

The tears streaming down his face mixed with the blood from his nose and split lip.

“Oh, hey Doug. Didn’t see you there. Yeah, you know me, cool as a cucumber. Just hanging. Low and lazy and all that jazz.” The blood dripped into his mouth. He spat onto the sidewalk and shot me the biggest grin I’d ever seen.


The train tilts to one side, then the other. Me and James are sitting across from each other in silence. His face is puffy but clean. The blood has washed away and the bruise on his cheek is covered by the ear flap on his hat.

“So why didn’t you ever tell me that you were having trouble with stuff like this?” I ask.

He avoids my gaze, instead looking out the window at the industrial buildings passing by. The scenery changes to residential and back again.

“How’s that girl you like? What’s her name again?” he asks. He snaps his fingers in that way that people do when they are trying to remember something, three times. “Oh right, Sophia. Really gorgeous blonde hair right?”

Auburn, actually. But that’s not important right now.

“Can we just talk about you for just one second? I want to help you.”

He turns to me and is serious all of a sudden.

“You can’t help me. That’s not what you made me for.”


“I’m not real, James. You still don’t get it? I’m your imaginary friend. When did you meet me?”

“What?! Two thousand and three!”

“Exactly. Right after you first saw Fight Club. And you thought to yourself, ‘I want that.’” This is really confusing. “And that’s what I am. The one person you can talk to. The one person who doesn’t step all over you. The extroverted yang to your introverted yin. You feel so bad for me getting beat up but you don’t even realize that it was you under the fist and not me.” James has started to raise his voice and raise himself out of his seat. “See, this won’t even hurt me!” He rears back, slams his head into a subway pole and falls to the floor whimpering in pain, tears streaming down his face. I reach down and help him into the seat next to me.

“You’re real.”

“Yeah… hey, we’re at our stop.” His tears dry up and he leaps out the doors.

He runs down street after street. I can barely keep up.

“James! Where the hell are we going?”

“Don’t worry. We’re almost there, it’s awesome!” He turns a corner and stops short. Right there in front of his glowing face, nestled in between a run down hovel and an abandoned warehouse is… nothing.

“James, it’s an empty lot.”

“I know. Isn’t it great?”