Chapter One: Black and White —
Startling me every time, the alarm goes off and I think I must be dreaming. The thought of sleep rolls around in my head for a few breaths, then reality bites and I open my eyes with irritation searing at the morning darkness that permeates my tiny room. Clang-a-lang, clang-a-lang, clang-a-lang, the alarm keeps blaring, waking me from repetitious dreams that grant me peace and control to my worldview-asleep. Grumbling and moaning, I get up just like every other day, peeling back the sheet as if coiling back the seal to expose yet another can of fish to daylight. Breakfast is served. It is monotonous, monotone, just like the slippers I slide my bunion toes and greying-feet into.
Shuffling down the narrow hall, I can see the light staring through the door as the hollow orb of sun begins its slogging path across a vapid sky for the day. The light is also grey, even as I push back a spring-loaded screen-door and lower myself off the porch-step onto a crumbling concrete walk. Grey slippers shuffling through puddles of sprinkler-water are a reminder of life as I step forward intently, my bathrobe fluttering indistinctly in glistening, grey, soggy flops. Looking right and left I am greeted by neighbors exiting their paint and brick-clad hidey-holes as they shadow me exactly, walking to the end of their grey concrete walks.
We each collect a bleeding wet newspaper thrown down by a boy riding a shiny green bicycle with a sparkling yellow banana seat … that glints back and reflects the grey sun. We try not to take notice, but can’t help it, as we all move together glancing away and back down to the grey concrete walk in front of our methodical steps forward. The last thing we hear before that day’s work begins is an echo reverberating down the street. Our screen-doors smack shut like black and white dominoes crashing one on top of the other, slamming closed each of our collectively unified interactions for the day.
The drive to work is bland and auto-piloted. Once situated in my cubicle, I notice that the sun is a bit more than less grey, staring in from a plate-glass window, while I staple papers in the upper left corner for subsequent and further retrieval. Like scanning code for information relations, I notice the puncture marks made prior by someone else’s stapler through a portion of the pages. A thought bubble then appears, expectantly, as if I were in some kind of zombie comic; but, I wipe it clear with my apathy quickly in order to avoid thought plagiarism, black on white and in-between. I continue to staple methodically and deliberately. I’ll need to save strength for the copy machine later, I tell myself. I’ve always hated those things, demanding, repetitive, and opaque, communication at its worst.
On our work-break we sneak up next to the water-cooler. That’s what we all look forward to, where maybe something will change and a spark of color might appear above a tattered corner of someone’s cubby-hole, maybe mine. But it’s rare and unusual, an event that flies into the face of our own presence, worn and hollow. We wear the same clothing; we listen to the same shows, radio, and media; we know each other as we know ourselves, or at least wish to.
So, when the new girl said TV had shown her something unique, we lifted up our spirits with a tiny portion of available light.
“A rapidly spreading disease was affecting multiple population centers across the country and maybe the globe,” she said.
Reports on the TV were coming in saying that people were running insane, as if the entire world were becoming unglued at the envelope’s lickings. As she spoke I could hear a heartbeat slapping my eardrums momentarily, but then dripping down and dissipating into my chest as I realized that my cubicle was empty and stuff needed stapling.
After work I followed protocol leaving the parking enclosure and sped home right through the rules of the road: speed limit, driving rubrics, pots signs. Mapping my thoughts from the day on the way, I ghost-drove home, turning the wheel this way and that. It was the same, all of it.
Then … from out of a building’s corner, a man bolted and disappeared as I began my turn; then another man slipped and careened, out in front, and almost disappeared too. I followed the line he left, pitter-pattering the span of my hands over the wheel, steering rhythmically and sliding forth and back as the momentum of our turn caught up to the chasing-together men.
An alarm blared. Clang-a-lang, clang-a-lang, clang-a-lang. A police car skidded as it flew past, and then turned the next corner following the running men. I felt relief as I drove straight, past the corner and the cops. They were on it, had it covered; so, I went home to watch TV ... the same old crap, all flake-news and overstatement, black and white in the extreme with nothing in-between. What the hell do they think they’re trying to pull? I changed the channel. At least my sitcoms are real and not just the same staged-shenanigans-to-get-viewers like the news shows are these days…
The alarm goes off again: Clang-a-lang, clang-a-lang, clang-a-lang. Again it’s time to get up. I can’t even remember now what the hall looks like behind me as I step through the screen-door exiting my paint-clad hidey-hole to collect my soggy paper from the crumbling concrete walk, in schtuping chorus with all my neighbors. Left and right are walking too, robes flip-flapping and slippers slipping on thin pools of sprinkler water. I pick up my paper, bent-over, and grasp it by the fringe-and-band, which rings out in an echo as a snap-back flings grey droplets into the void. The black on white headline is blaring out to me, but all I can see is the day and date. It’s Saturday. We don’t have work to go to on Saturday.
The alarm is still blaring from a car down the road. Clang-a-lang, clang-a-lang, clang-a-lang. My neighbor looks up to see someone running. It’s the paper-boy, and he’s running towards me, fast, his bike on its side sprawled across the street. Smoke is rising somewhere up ahead, somewhere; is there a fire? The paper-boy’s face gets closer to mine, as if motions have slowed, and I see the rage in his eyes tearing down the world. I stumble backwards, tripping on my grey slippers as they stick down stuck under the crumbled concrete walk. My newspaper flies into the air, the wetness, banded-again, snaps at the fringes of soggy newsprint, then flutters apart with its sheaves shape-shifting into floating demons tumbling skywards.
Awake now: With eyes wide, seeing newspaper wads littering the wet-green grass and building patchwork dots of color between sprinkler blasts: I’m wet, and I can’t explain the hunger for gut-clinging rectitude. Rainbows fade in and out as water evaporates into blue sky. It’s all gone so wrong; everyone’s asleep. I can see my neighbor’s eyes on me still, red and bloodshot, having watched the paper-boy run, but much, much bigger than they should be; now, breaking pattern and stumbling backwards through shimmering puddles of light, the sky blue morning is reflected while my neighbor’s slippers get stuck and stop in the crumbling grey concrete life from the walk.
|Boza - Chapter Two: