by Emery Pajer
He is seated alone on a dark green love seat. He is wearing clothes that someone else picked out for him. A string tie. A sweater with a zipper down the front. His head is tilted slightly and he stares off in one spot. In his lap is a card: Hello! My name is Stephen. I blink once for "No" and twice for "Yes."
Here he is, looking otherwise healthy except that he is perfectly still and has a small trail of drool glistening from the corner of his mouth to the side of his cheek. His arms are slack by his sides. One hand rests palm-up, as if expecting something to fall into it.
He sits in a room where a big fancy party is going on. People at this party are important or married to important people or surveying the important people for someone to have sex with later in the night. People here at the party were born in many different places and have gone to many different places before coming to this party. The people here at this party have all picked out their own clothes. Most of the clothes are black and shiny and the people in the clothes move around in circles like machines.
Stephen hears everything that each of the party-goers says. He hears every word and every potential meaning of every word. He hears the man with the red bow tie say that he left his partner because of a career opportunity. He hears the woman with the silver metal clutch purse wonder why her husband is so late. Stephen builds the sounds into a window in his head, and through them, all the unsaid words are born. Every word is a spear that lodges into space. Each spear pierces and takes down its own past and future in every language, even the ones that have never been spoken. The man in the red bow tie has a horrible temper, and has lost the only man who could ever really love him. The woman with the silver clutch purse will get a phone call about the car accident. Stephen builds the sounds. The window is an open window.
Stephen blinks at a woman with very short white hair. She is holding a glass of gin and tonic and taking long sips. "No, no, no," he blinks. He listens as the woman tells the man with the red bow tie that her son is depressed, so she's giving him a surprise vacation to Cozumel. "No, no, no," blinks Stephen, "No, no, no."
The woman senses Stephen, excuses herself from the man with the red bow tie, and walks over to him. She gently wipes the drool with a cocktail napkin. "What...?" she asks. Stephen blinks "No, no, no!" and sends her this:
Your son will die in Mexico if he goes there. Your son is selling drugs out of his apartment. Your son has not gone to classes in weeks. Your son trusted someone he should not have trusted and the people who trusted your son will be very, very angry with him. Your son has lost a lot of money and a lot of drugs. People will want to hurt your son. When your son gets to Cozumel, your son will try to vanish. Your son will run away from the expensive hotel and back to the mainland. But your son will not vanish like he thought. Your son will travel for days and get lost. Your son will be robbed and badly beaten outside of a junkyard. Your son will not wake up for hours. When your son wakes up, he will not be able to stand upright. Your son will limp into a dusty restaurant and be turned away. You son will have his last drink from a half-empty bottle of warm Coke. Your son will finish bleeding to death in a gas station bathroom and his body will go back to the junkyard where he was beaten. Don't send your son away. Keep him close. Help him.
Stephen sees the woman's son. He is small and handsome. His brown hair is dyed blond on the top, he has green eyes and a friendly smile. He will be 20 years old in springtime.
The woman with the short white hair says, "What? What have we here?" She picks up the card in Stephen's lap. Hello! My name is Stephen. I blink once for "No" and twice for "Yes." The woman makes her left index finger peel away from the glass of gin and tonic. She wiggles the finger at another black shiny woman. This woman has candy-red hair.
"Is this performance art? What is this?" asks the woman with very short white hair.
"Hey," says the candy-haired woman, "How is that lady killer doing at Penn? God, your son is so adorable! Is he still pre-med?" And the woman with very short white hair starts to talk again about her son's depression and her plan to surprise him with a get-away and her words shoot out like spears into the smoky air of the room and up, up, through the ceiling into the night sky where they stab and stab at every meaning they have and every language they have meaning in, even the languages that haven't been born yet, and a small trail of drool forces itself out of the corner of Stephen's mouth, tumbling over itself, glistening with tiny perfect bubbles of air until it reaches his chin and stops.
Copyright©2003 Emery Pajer