Dear old friend,
You’ve shown me
And brand new
Was too shy
If I had
To start over
I wouldn’t dare
I sat alone,
I miss those rose-tinted days in the sun,
When fighting with wooden swords was a game.
No matter how many times we’d been slain,
We’d just stand up and go back to square one.
Back then, the war, to us, was exciting;
Being a soldier was a fine honour.
Or becoming a knight addressed as ‘sir’.
We never imagined death as something.
Now that I’ve seen it with my own two eyes,
I want no part in it any longer.
Keep the despair, the cries, and the somber.
Bring me back to my homely paradise.
I’ve been toying around with this concept for a novel a while now. Did a bit of an introduction! Hope you enjoy!
How much Benjamin liked what he saw could be found in the way he judged himself up and down in the bathroom mirror. First, he turned left, prodded the fat on the side of his hip, then did the same to the right. The way his finger sprang back out again, like bushing down on a memory-foam pillow, displeased Ben. Aged fat, judging by the density of the mass between bone and skin. Without a doubt, Benjamin’s overweight body caused him a great deal of shame. Sucking in didn’t help, it just made him look like wide oval instead of a wide circle, besides, he didn’t have the strength to keep that big gut sucked in always. It didn’t matter what the rest of him looked like; the first thing people thought of when they saw Ben, involves his unhealthy eating habits. Though, the condition of the rest of him certainly did contribute, at least a little, to his overall first impression. Greasy, dirt-blonde hair meekly hangs from atop his potato-shaped head, clinging to the sides of his pimple-face like an octopus desperately trying to hold on to a boulder during rough tides.
Gems amidst muck, a suitable description for the only appealing part one may pay attention to about Benjamin’s overall visage. His eyes. These are the kind of eyes that photoshop geniuses spend hours trying to produce in vanity photo-shoots. A green that can’t be compared to any corny gemstone or precious material. With any true treasure, however, it must be found. In Benajamin’s case, his eyes can only be found when he separates forehead fat from cheek pudge.
He had an appearance difficult to adapt to; luckily for him, he didn’t spend enough time around other people to give them the chance of judgement. Like many others in this technological era, cyberspace allowed Benjamin to be the person he wanted to be, and cram as many carbohydrates into his maw as he so desired. Psychologically, this fat lard convinced himself that every poor choice made in the real world, could easily have a pretty ‘cover’ thrown over it.
“I’m headed to the Gym,” he might say to one of his many lady followers. Little did they know, what he really meant goes along the lines of: “I’m about to mute your chat for enough time to convince you I was away at the Gym, but I’m actually just going to sit here and finish off my chicken wings so that I don’t get oily slime on my keyboard.” After Ben cleans his hands off enough to type again, always forgetting to pick out the crumbs from under his nails (Which he ends up chewing on later anyway), he might unmute the chat and say something like, “Man, I felt like I was the only one there. Had all the machines to myself, lol.” Of course, the reactions of praise from whomever he spoke tricked his internal chemicals to make him feel good about himself. Even if the life he created didn’t exist: who could call him out on it? It may as well be true.
What girl settles for an over-grown lima bean living in their mother-pod? Yes, to compliment poor Benjamin’s already unfortunate existence with a tasteful cliché: he lives in his parents’ basement. What used to be a recreational living space and laundry room: now a complete bedroom and bathroom for the chick that could never fly from the nest. At first, his parents seemed fully on board with the whole idea of staying an extra few years at home until confidence eventually plucks him away, but the notion has since grown less-appealing with Ben’s twenty-eighth birthday passing by.
Despite the many hundreds of times his parents have threatened to kick him out of he doesn’t start his own life, they just can’t bring themselves to following through and forcing him away. Benjamin had a troubling childhood. His weight gained him no friendships, and a whole bucket of bullies. Always a struggling little victim in his mother’s eye: he will always require babying. The generosity and patience of Mister and Mrs. Cole (Ben’s parents): two notions constantly taken for granted by their unmotivated son. With no idea what he wants to do or where he wants to go ‘when he gets older’, the Cole-family trio sits in limbo.
A resounding creek bounces off the walls of Benjamin’s little nook, created by an overburdened computer chair. If a reward existed where furniture could be commended for their outstanding performances, this chair would be the reigning champion ten times in a row. The arm-rests: naught but lazy limbs which loosely hung by each side; over time, Ben’s expanding thighs broke the sockets, leaving them impractical. The acne-laden oaf makes a few bold scoots forward; each time his rear lifts to jolt the seat forward, it lets loose an unintelligible scream of pain which humans can only acknowledge as a squeak. For everyone living above him, this noise symbolized two things. 1) Benjamin woke up and can now accept his lunch, or 2) Benjamin just returned from the bathroom. Any squeak before one in the afternoon indicates that he pulled an all-nighter.
A desperate stab at the computer’s on-switch, followed by irate tapping on the desk means all is not to accord with the pint-sized hippopotamus. An open phone on the un-made bed behind him, depicting a long wall of text from a female, confirms this. Sweat oozes from only the armpits and under-breast; adding fresh patches of hue to the other miscellaneous stains found on Ben’s sleep-shirt. When a blue screen pops up stating at a system update temporarily seizes his computer, two fists come down upon what appears to be a table. Plastic bottles, stiff tissues, and candy wrappers cover every inch of the desk; the only time when room is made upon it is when Benjamin swipes a corner-full of trash onto the floor and replaces it with trash-to-be. By the time Benji the Glutton manages to uncurl his sausage fingers and get the blood running through them again, the update completes.
Although the symbols on his keyboard’s buttons rubbed away long ago, Benjamin programmed his mind with the pristine whereabouts of each letter and number. Typing away through the dark nights trained him quite well. In a blur of movements, the password is typed in, and an instant messaging program pops up across the screen. After observing how quickly her son could type, Mrs. Cole often joked to her husband that Benjamin could be an Olympic racer if only the energy transferred to his pitiful excuse for legs.
Gulping down a wad of nervous saliva, Benjamin scrolls through a list of contacts: none of them bore notifications less than fifteen: popular for the wrong reasons. Britney, Samantha, Alie, Emily, Tania, Chloe: all female names. As the seconds rolled by, more notifications send a light ping through the speakers hidden beneath the plastic fallout of what looked like a child’s feast. The names scrambled as each new notification sent that particular girl to the top of the list, only to be taken over by another. It doesn’t take long to find the odd one out: Kat, with only one notification.
“I know who you are, and quite frankly, it makes me sick. I can’t believe you lied about who you are. That’s called Catfishing you know? It’s not right. You’re messing with people’s emotions. I’m going to make it my personal goal to talk to every single one of your followers and show them my evidence. You’re not getting away with this, Kevin- or should I say, Benjamin? Sick freak. This just goes to show that you -are- just like all the other guys. You aren’t as different as you say you are. Thanks for ruining my world. – Kat.” Attached to the bottom of the message is a screenshot of Benjamin requesting for edits to be made on a picture he used to serve as the mask to his cyber-identity. Most certainly, tact lacks in this instance. Foolish boy, to think that a few mere edits to an already existing picture might throw followers off his scent: karma in action.
The longer Ben stared at the message, the lower his heart sunk into his chest. His spine had been torn out and ice water filled its place. With a trembling hand, he dares to open the other messages.
“I told you my secrets… -Emily.”
“We were going to get married one day… -Samantha.”
“I hope you literally get hit by a car… -Britney.”
“LOL you’re so fat! -Tania.”
They all knew. Benjamin’s cyber life potentially ends here. All the relationships he’d been working on for the past eight years; all the memories and phone calls; all the emotions felt sat within a funeral coffin that embodied his instant messenger program, laid out for him to stare at with nothing but a quiver in his chin, and a sniffle at his button nose.
Protecting himself from real life consequences prompts Benjamin to delete every single profile he ever made. The last thing he needed: his parents brought into this humiliating mess. With everything deactivated and swept from the face of the internet, deleting his messenger account only remained. Plucking up the courage, the grief-struck man pushes his cursor toward the ‘Options’ button, treating it like a heavy paper-weight. On the way, he clicks once more on Kat’s chat box. He had one last thing to say.
“I’ll make it up to you, I promise.” The words typed are misspelled a few times, for the sporadic hiccups which make Ben’s entire torso bob up and down prove a difficult obstacle to work around. Immediately the bottom of the chat box displays the words, ‘Seen: 2:36 by Kat’. Three dots follow, indicating the girl’s reply is eminent.
Too afraid to see what she might have to say, Benjamin bolts his cursor around the screen and deletes his account then and there.
What could he do now? Any sane person might see this as a sign to break the cybernetic bonds and do something with their lives at last. Benjamin is not a sane person. At a steady pace, the cursor moves down the screen. Click: ‘Create New Account’; They never do learn.
I am so very sorry, Professor,
For not giving my homework in on time.
I swear, I have a genuine reason
That will not lead you to think it’s a lie.
Well, you assigned the paper on Wednesday,
But I didn’t see it until Thursday,
I saw it was due by Saturday night,
But I had plans all day Thursday-Friday.
I woke up at lunch because I was sick,
A friend came in to town I never see.
My internet was down when I came back,
Printer broke: I couldn’t make a copy.
Accept my late work to prove I did it.
Oh! And how can I get extra credit?
Listing to tell a deeper story:
A rhinoceros beany-baby in one of my kindergarten classrooms: It was hard keeping track of all the stuffed animals I brought to school each day. A deck of Top Trump cards about safari animals in the playground: I suspect one of my classmates stole it from my bag. About one hundred-million hairbands, scattered everywhere I’ve ever been: I think it’s a normal girl thing though. My confidence at the door to fifth grade when the other children found out I was half American: I didn’t even know what a yank was.
I lost my friends when America appeared more in the news: America was a weird and mythical place to us, overseas. My pencil case, up on the shade of the bleachers: The bullies made a game of throwing my things up there. My chance to become friends with the other half-American at my school: Her parents transferred her too because of all the bullying, her name was Annie. I lost my kiss-virginity behind a portacabin: too bad it was just a dare on the boy’s behalf. One of the most important things I miss-located in my young life was a ‘life’: Computer games became more popular, and I spent as much time as I could, sucked into cyberspace.
I lost sleep for the first time when I was just ten years old, and still haven’t found it since. Time with my little brother: I was a recluse in my angsty, preteen phase. Opportunities to go out to parties or meet people: All I needed were the friends I made on the internet. A BFFs necklace I was given by a ginger girl that was also the victim of bullying: She didn’t know what a yank was either. Trust in my biology professor on the last stretch of middle-school: He said that I probably ate a lot of fatty food because I had ‘Murica’ running in me, when confronted he told me to get used to it.
I lost the bullies when I moved to an American school: Gained new ones that picked on me for being a Brit. Patience was left at the door of sophomore year: I had to say ‘water’ in my funny accent to all my other classmates about a hundred times each. Even more confidence left me at the start of each new course in High school: People treated me like something cool to show their friends, but they never wanted to get to know me past my pronunciation of words.
I lost my ability to give a damn when I entered college: I’d heard it all before, and I was just going to be me whether people thought it was weird or not. Fear is nowhere to be found, but I did locate the backbone I lost in Middle School. Loneliness: Being proud of myself opened doors to meet great people, and even fall in love.
The leaves fall dead. Upon the frozen ground is where they now lay, withered and useless, no longer part of something big or beautiful. It’s amazing to think that when tree and leaf are combined, a spectacle of majesty is formed; when separated, both variables seem naked, cold… sickly. The foreground blends into the background as the canvas is washed in grayscale monotony. All the colour and life is sucked down beneath the ground, suffocated by the sleeping, white precipitation. As if someone were to imbue the very air with tiny little needles, it was difficult to breathe, for fear of the cold to choke your throat. The usual flowery smell that once lingered around the nostrils, was now too strong to even stomach. I daren’t sit upon my usual bench; the bench that told a hundred stories past, now just a few planks of wood nailed together and covered in frost. We have a lot in common: the bench and I. From where I stood, I could see the same old bird house, hanging from the same old oaken branch. The birds that lived there were probably far away from here for the winter. I wish I had more in common with the birds than a rotten bench. Where are the songs of magpies and robins? The music is replaced by whatever leaf one happens to step on: a crunch as the deceased flora take their final breaths beneath careless feet. All I could taste was the salt in my mouth from a runny nose and leaking ducts. How many more times was I going to wander down this same path, expecting it to be different each time?
Oh, what a wonderland. Snow as far as the eye can see made it hard to tell where the land ended and the sky began. Everything around me screamed of Winter. How differently the park seemed without colour, but it retained its own splendor even so. The naked trees stand like a flock of zebras lined up in one long row, striped and proud. They watch as their old leaves are trod on whilst they prepare to bloom green when spring arrives. The infectious sound of crunching prevails throughout the air, daring the passersby to rhythmically plan their next steps or keep to a steady metronome. Even if it hurts to breathe in the frigid atmosphere, I do it anyway just to take in the full aroma of old bark. If anything, the cold merely adds a bit of a kick to it. Never usually do I come here alone, but today felt like a better day than any to visit the ancient memory bench. It still was as I always remembered it; dented with age and marks which each told a story of their own, and I knew all of them. The layer of ice wasn’t enough to stop me from sitting down. I knew my trousers could stop most of the moisture from travelling to my skin, though I wouldn’t mind too much if it did. The birdhouse was still around too, hanging valiantly from the stalwart oak’s branch. The magpies and robins were away on holiday, soaking up the sun on southern beaches. I await their songs like an adamant fan, but for now, I shall simply hum until their return.
It was about that time again; University students often spent half the day worrying about school, and half the day worrying about what to make for dinner. Already five in the evening, and I still don’t know what to do. My stomach grumbles a storm, still grumpy from the morning of baby carrots and Dasani water. Hey, as long as it killed the hunger pains, right?
I had nothing in the fridge, nothing in the cabinets, heck, nothing hidden in the back-seat of my car either… which was odd. Sometimes, if I got lucky, I could fish out a packet of crisps from a forgetful Subway sandwich trip.
I sat my rear down at the desk, pulled back a drawer filled with menus, and laid them all out before me. “Greasy, greasy, greasy, healthy -but- boring, greasy… Perhaps I’ll just do pizza?” I spoke aloud. My self-conscious told me the right choice would be to pick something health; I -did- promise myself I would try not to pig out on as many carbs. Do I want that bikini-body or not?
As I reached for the menu of the local salad-extravaganza bar, the menu for Pizza Hut flipped over and covered the top of it. My heart leapt up into my throat for a sheer moment, until I realized the window was open. After dealing with the problem by shutting it, I returned to slide the Pizza menu to the side. Let’s try this again. I reach out to grasp the salad-bar menu, but this time, the 5 Guys menu dives in the way.
Abruptly, I stand up. The air conditioning had been off all day; the wind wasn’t causing anything to move. With fright spurring me to dash, I spin and flee toward the door. Before I could get my hand upon the doorknob, fast-food menus slapped against the door like a raining volley of ammunition. Regardless, I tug swing it open and charge toward the stairs. The menus cling to my body, making me run slower and slower. Each step forward caused my breathing to accelerate in exhaustion. The plastic, laminated material made my skin sweat and uncomfortable.
“Enough! Enough! Enough!” I cry, ripping each menu from my body to try and dispose of them within a garbage bin at the end of my apartment’s road. Goodbye burgers, goodbye fries, goodbye pizza, goodbye fried chicken. As each menu laid to rest within the bin, it seemed eternal.
I returned home, sweaty and unnerved, frustrated and tired. There sat upon my desk was one remaining menu.
“Who’s a good boy?” Coos the voice of Young Master Mary. Every time she wiggles her table scraps above our heads, her pastel-gray hair springs up and down on her shoulders like the long, skinny noodles she often eats for lunch.
“Mary, stop feeding the dogs from the table, they’ll develop bad habits.” Says Master Mom. If there was one thing canines and Humans had in common, it was that the young typically looked rather similar to their parents. Master Mom, too, had springy hair, but it’s a much darker shade of gray, and always tied up on top of her head. She’d be a poodle in another life.
Whilst her bright silver eyes were distracted, my co-dog, Dude, leaps up and snatches that which my short, stubby little legs can’t muster a bounce strong enough to reach. I whine, widen my eyes, and then scoot up to the heel of Young Master Mary.
“Sorry, that was the only thing left on the plate. Gonna’ have to wait for dinner.” She apologizes, then contrastingly kicks me away with the bridge of her foot. This was a universal sign to all co-dogs that it was time to leave the food-room. Sometimes the Masters indulge me in a treat from the fridge if I dragged my wet nose across the tiled floor in my departure. They said it made me look sad, like I have ‘real Human emotions’. If Master Dad was at the gathering place for food, however, the chances of getting anything were close to zero. ‘He’s a dog, he’s food oriented.’ Master Dad usually says.
“Dude, you know that I’m Good Boy, why did you take my food?” I yap, staring up at the shaggy, ebon-gray son-of-a-bitch that was my co-dog. Dude looks like one of those bushes I typically pee on with my friends, and the cat, and the cat’s friends. If I focused on that imagery enough, I could distract myself from our clear size difference.
“I’m Good Boy now.” Dude says: his tone, gurgling and menacing: sounding like the machine our Masters use in which food goes in, but drink comes out after the loud growling finishes. In a fit of rage, I defy the preposterous words of the big pee-bush by leaping upon the leather couches in excitement. They were all pushed together, so my stubby little legs easily met each new surface. The light of the living room, dim as it is, caused me to stumble where vision lacked, but I continued my demonstration.
“You cannot be Good Boy! That is my name! That is my name only! They told me! I heard them! You cannot deny it is my name! Look at me! Look at me! I am Good Boy!” My yelling went on and on, crazed. Dude laid under the coffee table, crunching on the ends of his toenails with indifference. Each time my little paws hit the top of his shelter, he’d express displeasure through agitating muttering.
“Shut up in there!” Booms the voice of Master Dad, causing me to lose my balance a final time and knock over a cup of drink.
“Uh oh…” Dude says, scooting out from under the coffee table to watch from the hallway instead. I couldn’t move, the living room wasn’t a living room anymore; it was a crime scene, and I was the culprit! Getting yelled at by the Masters is the worst fate any co-dog can ever experience. Even though I wanted to run away, I knew Master Dad would find me anyway. There I sat, beside the puddle of drink I spilled. My beady, black eyes dart toward Dude; he watched me like a funeral attendee, or a vulture observing the corpse of a fellow vulture: conflicted in what to do.
“Bad boy!” Yells Master Dad. “You are a bad boy!”
“Oh come on now, don’t do this to me.” No matter how many times or how many ways I sit down in grandpa’s old pickup truck, the damned seat-belt never wants to cooperate with me. I pull it slow, I pull it fast, it doesn’t matter. Heck, it doesn’t even matter -which- seat I sit in. The things are stubborn. Like tired old asses, the belts won’t progress a step forward or backward, they just want me to stay exactly where I am. They worsened over time, but in intervals.
The first time it came to my attention was when I dropped a nice, thick wad of hubba-bubba bubble gum straight into the buckle. I must have been about eight. Mum let me go on holiday with Grandpa for a week at Disney, but now it was time to go home. He spent two hours trying to get all the melted goop out of the button. It was a hot day and my sunburned skin stuck to the leather seats like syrup on a pancake. If it wasn’t for Grandpa putting on all those funny voices he used to do, I would have been totally miserable.
The second interval was my first day at High School (which I almost missed). Throughout the whole car-ride, I blabbered on about all the boyfriends I am bound to have over the next four years of my life. Grandpa kept shaking his head and telling me to put my studies before all that jazz. Once at the drop-off point, try as I might, I couldn’t get the belt to budge. “Oh for…” almost heard Grandpa swear that day, but I didn’t. The seat-belt confined me to my seat, wrinkling the brand-new clothes I bought two weeks ago for this day only. Eventually, I was released. Without even a fraction of a glance backward, I fled the scene in embarrassment, hoping nobody saw the struggle.
University-bound, was I, when the third hassle came. Mum’s busy working, and Grandpa’s truck is big enough to carry my futon in the back of it. I’m closer to him than anyone else in my family anyway, so I didn’t feel any misery from the lack of parent. “Think you’ll be coming back for Spring Break?” Grandpa asked. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it was along the lines of, “I just want to party!” Even if he laughed it off then, I wish I’d gone back for Spring Break after all. When we rolled up to my new dorms, I tried to unclip my seat-belt: it simply wouldn’t give out. The nerve and attitude of this damn contraption could put an angst-ridden pre-teen to shame. “You’ll have to take your classes in the car, I’m afraid.” Grandpa said after a good thirty minutes of trying to unjam the mechanics in the ill-mannered belt. Frustrated, I huffed without amusement.
Here I am now, at the fourth dilemma. No Grandpa this time, just me and the truck. Shortly after Spring Break his heart seized, then poof, out like a wick on a windy evening with a wide-open window. I stopped showing up to class; I stopped talking to mum; I stopped giving a damn. All I have left of Grandpa is a few pictures and this shabby pick-up. My intentions this evening -was- to drive out to the pier and drink to forget him, but the damn seat-belt won’t let me go. I tug and I pull, but it only tightens its embrace around me. As I scream out in grief and curse the way I never heard Grandpa curse, the belt pulls me in closer to the leather seats, where his smell still lingers.
Once calm, I decide against my evening of irresponsible intoxication and drive to my mum’s house. As I reached for the seat-belt, it clicked open without even the glimmer of a bother. “Thanks Grandpa.” I weep.