Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gold After Gray - Short Story – Part 1

The spot on my shirt is blood; it once belonged to a man in a suit. The blood, that is, not the shirt. I beat him to death with a tire iron in the parking lot of a gas station in New Mexico. I watched as he pushed around the woman who was with him, I was going to walk away, until he hit her. That dark spot on my sleeve will probably be the first thing you notice about me, and the only thing. Most of my life no one I have met twice could remember my face, or put a name to it. It’s not quite like being invisible, but it is close. It never occurred to me until I was twenty two years old that I was a ghost, or a shadow, or whatever it is you want to call me. As a child things were not this way. I was not a remarkable child, never stood out at much of anything, but most faces looking back at me carried a spark of recognition. Parents, teachers, friends, and classmates all knew my name. It wasn’t until puberty that my identity just started sliding away, it was there but it couldn’t be grasped, like oil on water.

Soon I was the kid in the back of the class; I had to repeat my name every time the teacher had a whim to call on me for an answer. When my name was read for roll call it was like it was the first time, I was always the new kid. It started slow; most people still caught hold of me, all but the least astute. Gradually it became worse, by the time I graduated high school only the most observant, the sharpest, with the most organized minds could recognize my face. I attempted to go to college, but I began to resent being asked every day if I belonged in each class. Before long I felt like I didn’t. It became impossible to hold a job. I spent many long hours wondering what was going wrong with the world. Then I wondered what was wrong with me, what was my flaw, why did nobody care to know me, to be close to me, to learn my name. For a long time I struggled and when I found no answers I went home.

My mother slammed the door in my face.

The police officers who arrived after I refused to leave the doorstep escorted me off the property and asked me not to return. But I did. The next day I went back, my mother smiled when she opened the door and asked pleasantly, “can I help you?” No. The truth about what I was began to needle itself into my brain. At first I refused to listen to it, I laughed at myself. After returning every day for three weeks I could no longer hold back the tide of reality. I was nobody. There has never been a name for what I have become. Not a doppelganger, I can’t change my appearance. I don’t look like someone new every day. I look like myself, when I see my reflection in the mirror it is always the same. There is no fancy descriptor for my face, my hair or my skin. “Not quite” would be the preferred verbiage were someone to attempt to detail me to a sketch artist. “Not quite tall, or short” “Not quite blonde or brown” “Not quite heavy or thin” with gray eyes. The mean cloak of mediocrity has taken away everything that I am… or could have been.

So I began to wander and test the limits of my strangeness, for that is all I can call it. For a while I thought I might be a super hero blessed with a mighty power to use to fight crime and help those besieged by the criminal element. But I never have had much of an imagination, and the luster soon wore off that idea. What would the damsel in distress cry moments before she is ravaged by thugs, “Help me…uh, what’s his name again?” A proper super hero gets the credit; he is valiantly humble of course and hides behind his mask. But the world knows Batman saved the day. It does not work like that when you are your own alter ego.

So here I am, in a gas station in New Mexico buying a pack of cigarettes. The clerk asks me if I saw what happened to that guy outside. She did. She explains it to me, apparently some maniac bashed his head in with a tire iron. She left out the part where that maniac walked behind the station, washed his hands in the restroom, put his jacket on to cover the blood stain on his sleeve and is now handing over three one dollar bills.

My name is Elias Gray.

I am 38 years old.


Shanyn said...

This has got a very strong male narration! Seems like something my husband would read... not me so much, but it's a good teaser!

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