God Bless You

by Landon Stark, Contributor
__________________________________________________________________________________________

It was 8:00. Paul sat across from the T.V. on a love seat filthy with cat hair to be in attendance for the party. Lonesome and nervous, Paul was ready to ask Tiffany out on a date with only his wit to help. Surprised to be invited, Paul was handed an invitation while working at the pet wash. Dogs and cats attract, and like Paul, dogs pant with anxiety.

His hands were sweaty, slippery as they rubbed together, repeatedly wiping his palms on the legs of his pants. His eye began to itch, and taking a finger to scratch under it created more irritation, leaving Paul’s eyes red like fire, soaked in blood, his cigarette ash slipping its way through the crack and triggering a sensation in his other eye. But to stop rubbing brought only itchiness; he was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

If only he wouldn’t have been so concerned with his masculinity, hopes of being with a woman, declaring his manhood and discovering life after virginity, he may have remembered that he was allergic to cats. One sneeze came. Mellissa, sitting next to Paul, said, “God bless you,” but Paul didn’t answer her because his eyes, when they weren’t being rubbed to hell, were glued to Die Hard being played on the T.V. across the room. Bruce Willis’ muscles expanding like lungs punching wildly at mad men and screaming for attention. Paul didn’t stare at the muscles for some sexual fixation. The muscles were a representation of which Paul was trying to be, a strong and daring bicep.

Tiffany saw Paul from the kitchen and began walking over to him. Paul began to stand up after seeing Tiffany and then sat down again and looked back at the T.V. Tiffany stood next to Paul until he looked up.

Hey Paul,” she said with her lips puckered tender like a steak warm straight off the grill, dipped in sauce, ready to eat.

Paul reached out to shake her hand, his palm greasy with sweat and sandy with eye crust. “Hi, Tiffany. Thank you for inviting me,” Paul said, denying himself confidence, a dull tool in a shed full of sharp ones. Tiffany was the head of the school newspaper, writing articles about the school, flaunting her goodies at the administration for leniency on her poor academic skills. Her guest list included the baseball team, the water-polo team, and the library club of which Paul was a part.

I’m really glad you were able to come,” biting her lower lip staring directly into Paul’s eyes, she said. “This is going to help me out so much. Thank you!”

Paul felt self-conscious about his eyes being red, rubbed raw. He looked down. “You’re welcome. I’m glad I was able to come too.” Abandoning all hope to prosper in maturity with Tiffany, Paul stood up and walked into the bathroom. He faced the mirror to stand in front of himself, eyes red as Old Spice. Two sneezes came. The Red Bull in his veins gave him back spasms creating the need for him to crack his shoulders and back using the bathroom doorknob.

What are you doing?” asked Mitchum who was hiding behind the shower curtain smoking a spliff.

I’m cracking my back.”

Here,” said Mitchum holding out the joint.

No thanks, I don’t smoke.”

Oh…have you ever smoked?”

No, I have asthma, I probably wouldn’t be able to breathe. I can’t even be around a bonfire for too long before I start wheezing.”

The only reason Paul smoked cigarettes was because he was addicted.

Oh man, they prescribe this shit to people with asthma, man. It’s like a medicinal drug that they use for cancer.”

Are you serious?”

Yeah man, this stuff is legit.”

It didn’t take much to convince Paul to smoke some of the joint. He took one hit, then two hits, and then four. Next thing he knew Mitchum had rolled their fourth joint. Time became obsolete for Paul. He looked at the clock on the wall in the bathroom and then looked at Mitchum, quickly realizing he had just been looking at the clock on the wall and wondering how long he had been looking at it for. He reached into his pocket to see what time it was on his cell phone because he forgot that he could tell time by looking at the clock on the wall. He set his cell phone on the sink forgetting why he took his cell phone out.

Paul looked at the clock on the wall and saw that it was midnight. He didn’t think he had been there that long. Mitchum held out the joint. Paul looked at it and waved it away. He watched as his hand was raised off his lap, cutting through the air, grazing the skin of hilarity. He realized that he was too high to smoke any more.

Paul left the bathroom feeling more confident, a sway in his stride he had never felt and a ghost at his shoulder telling him that strength is attainable if only reached for appropriately. He sneezed a third time, everyone in the room looked at him, an unsettling feeling; his eyes even redder than before, snot dripping from his nostrils, the last song on the playlist ended, the break in noise making Paul the center of attention. He was fixated on Tiffany who was talking to Matt, first basemen, and James, shortstop. Paul’s mouth hung open, a collapsing image of reality, dreaming of a world belonging to him, seeking for manhood in a competitive arena where he is cock-blocked by jocks. He realized everyone was looking at him. His confidence crushed, goose bumps, standing hairs, wondering where he was at, the room looking strangely unfamiliar, he didn’t even recognize the feeling of his own pants. Paul began walking to avoid some of the attention. He took small steps, his eyes wandering, his head jolting from angle to angle, one side of the room to the other, to the ceiling, to the floor, to the furniture, to the shoes people were wearing, to the carpet, to the garbage.

Once he got back to his spot on the love seat, he felt more relaxed and at ease about where he was at. The T.V. was still playing Die Hard. He watched as Bruce Willis wandered unknowingly into a building, being destroyed by bombs and exploding helicopters, barefoot and shirtless searching for Alan Rickman who was pointing a gun at Bruce Willis’ wife’s head. Meanwhile, the black kid driving Bruce Willis’ limo rams into an ambulance because he senses fishy behavior. Both of these characters proving their ambitious, heroic characteristics, while Paul sat idle on the couch with his elbows beginning to dig into his legs.

He sat up quickly, looking around wondering who was looking at him, nobody, who was sitting next to him, Mellissa, what was on the T.V., still Die Hard.

Paul!” yelled Travis, a friend of Paul’s and a member of the library club. He and the rest of the club were out on the back porch. Travis was waving for Paul to come outside. Paul stood up slowly, using Mellissa’s leg for support thinking it was the arm of the couch. He walked over to the back door and opened the screen. Standing there, he realized that he might have used Mellissa’s leg to support his cool poise, which instead had, at the moment of impact, become awkward. He turned around to look at her and she was staring right at him.

Fuck,” Paul muttered as he turned around and walked out of the house. The conversation outside continued.

I’m not doing this,” said Travis, looking at Paul.

Doing what?”

This thing for Tiffany, with the article she’s writing or whatever.”

What article?”

Mitchum stepped forward. “Tiffany took a poll sampling the senior class, asking them what school programs they liked the most. Baseball and Water Polo were tied for first while the Library Club came in last.”

Are you serious?” questioned Paul.

Tiffany wants to take funny pictures of us getting beat up, jokingly, by the two teams just so she can put it next to her article in the newspaper,” said Mitchum.

Paul was outraged. “What kind of journalism is that bullshit?”

Didn’t she thank you when you walked in?” asked Travis.

Paul remembered that she had thanked him, but at that point he was too nervous about his allergies to think about what she was thanking him for; he had assumed it was for coming to the party but he wasn’t sure. He was stopped dead in his tracks, stuck between another rock and a hard place. All of his friends were disputing the article and Paul was left wishing for Tiffany’s body. Paul’s muscles flexed like Bruce Willis’. He was angry and upset, knowing Tiffany only wanted him at this party to make fun of him, having been wasted by a cat for no good reason, and realizing he hadn’t thanked Mellissa for blessing his sneeze.

What time is it?” asked Mitchum.

Paul grabbed for his cell phone but didn’t feel it in his pocket. He checked his front shirt pocket and his back pockets but it was nowhere. He remembered having it in the bathroom. The screen door flew open and Paul walked quickly though the living room stopping to sneeze for the fourth time in front of the T.V.

God bless you,” said Mellissa, sitting on the love seat. Paul kept walking through the living into the bathroom. He shut the door and turned on the light, seeing his cell phone on the sink he picked it up and checked the time, 9:47. The bathroom clock was stuck at midnight. He peeked out of the bathroom and saw Tiffany kissing James. His mind was then made up, having chosen a hard place instead of the rock. He marched back to his friends and told them he was out of the article too. Having denied himself manhood, Paul realized that staying noble to the Library Club was more important. The bitch queen that Tiffany was shone brighter at that point than it had ever shone before. Her shine gleamed through Paul one last time, revealing to him that her pseudo innocence and stodgy style were not part of the Venus he had dreamt of while gazing the stars of copulation. Her sincerity was weak and she was closed off, a bridge over water under construction with no completion date, barriers forcing Paul to go another way hoping to find something else, gradually finding another path and making it over.

The music shut off.

Tiffany’s Mom is home, get outta here!” Travis hollered as he peeked his head inside to see why there was commotion. Paul looked into the kitchen from the backyard window and saw alcohol bottles scattered in all corners, an unfortunate sight as Tiffany was only sixteen years old. Paul’s indulgence simmered in his veins, he was appeased, knowing full well that Tiffany would be kept in captivity by her parents for her wrong doings, thus debilitating her from writing the article about the Library Club. He ran around the house being pushed by everyone else running away from a potentially consequential crime scene. The cars began peeling out from the house one by one, racing down the neighborhood street, everyone in everyone’s cars, people losing friends, going in whatever direction wasn’t Tiffany’s home. Paul got into someone’s car panicking hoping to just get the hell away. The car catapulted out of its parking spot and drove headfirst towards nowhere. Paul sneezed a fifth time.

God bless you,” said Mellissa as she took Paul’s hand and placed it on her lap. Paul looked over at Mellissa, sitting next to him in the back seat of the car, her smile as wide as her belly.

Thank you,” said Paul as he smiled back at her. He was accepting the bereavement of his thought for Tiffany but allowing room for obtainment of another.

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SOME THINGS ABOUT US

LANDFILLS is a grassroots literary, arts and culture online collective based in Chicago. All work is original, except the featured images that accompany text posts (which are blatantly stolen from tumblr.com). Complaints should be directed to Po via Twitter.
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