This short story was published in the Austin Community College literary journal, The Rio Review, April 30th 2015.
Her eyes are so empty. I can’t even tell if she is sad, bored, or lonely. They are just empty dark holes as though her spirit left her long ago. She’s not moving except for the slow methodical rise and fall of her chest as she stares with those empty eyes into the glass. Her exhibit in the zoo is a twenty by thirty with fifteen feet of headspace The ceiling is painted a never changing shade of blue and the walls remind me of walking around Cabelas. Every day is the same for her. There is no struggle, no purpose. All I can do is stare back into the small glass.
I don’t want to respond, but I know the message has been marked as ‘seen’ by me.
“Not much. Just watching this gorilla.” I wait for a bit, but no response. Figures.
I move on to the next thing that catches my eye. A man playing all sorts of instruments at once. A group of what seems like strangers busting out into a flash mob even though I already knew it was coming. A woman falling off of her bike onto her face. A boy trying to do a trick on his skate board hurts himself. Someone falls. Someone hits himself on accident. Someone runs into something. Someone gets hurt. Someone gets hurt. Someone gets hurt. Why am I watching this compilation of pain?
“You’ve been invited to play Candy Crush Saga!”
She still hasn’t moved. I wish I could say she looked stoic and proud to be such a powerful creature, but I see nothing in her black face. What would happen if she were freed suddenly? Would she return to her former glory, her natural prowess or would she forever be enslaved?
“Boring. Check this out: 19 Ways to Say ‘Hello’ With Bacon“
- Display the Bacon
- Extend Baconly Salutations
- Wave with Bacon
- Shake with Bacon
- Compliment with Bacon
- Offer Bacon
What am I reading? Why am I wasting my time with this? I have so many more productive things I could be doing. I have a lot of work that I need to catch up on. The house could use some cleaning. Maybe I will fix a nice meal. 68° and sunny. I should go on a run. A walk maybe. I just need to go outside and enjoy the fresh air. Oh, I bet there’s a new episode of something I like to watch. I’ll watch that first, then do something productive. I’ll fix a quick snack too. I am hungry actually.
That was good. The next one is starting, might as well. Another. Another. More snacks. Another.
I can’t believe I’ve been watching this for 3 hours. It’s good, but I feel like I’ve wasted so much time. I have to do something. Anything. I don’t want to feel the same again lying in bed after a day of nothing.
She is sitting in a different position now. Still the same nothing expression. I wish she would do something. Anything to show that she is alive in there. At least something to show that she wants to be alive. Just staring. At what though? Nothing? What is going on in her mind? They’ve dimmed the lights. Is it getting late? Clock says 7pm. It can’t be. I look outside for the first time today. I see only lights in the darkness. I missed the day. Again. It’s ok. I still have time to do something. I have time. I guess I could play a quick game before I start working on something. FPS? RPG? MMO? RTS? Doesn’t matter.
11pm. Regret. I’m lying here again in disappointment. I have done nothing to better myself or anything else, just wallowed in digital distractions. I can’t sleep. I have done nothing to be tired besides being awake. I’ve done nothing. I wonder if she is asleep. Maybe she is wondering the same thing about her day. I hope she is asleep. I hope she is dreaming wild dreams.
8am. Another day with nothing to do. I make the coffee and hover over and stare at my cup sitting on the counter. I can’t let yesterday be today. I would rather stand here and stare than be pulled away into distraction. hat a temptress. Turn off the brain and the time passes. The day ends. It always feels like the right thing to do, but it almost always produces regret.
What can I do? What can I do? What is she doing? No. I won’t go to the screen again. What is she doing? What is she thinking? What is she feeling? I want to know. I have to find out. It clicks in my mind. I have to go see her. I have to go see her in real life.
It’s still cold out as I leave my apartment. I can feel it burning my lungs, but bringing liveliness. Body fights it, waiting for action. An anticipatory feeling, the cold, so bitter to skin yet exhilarating. It urges movement, or shelter, igniting a struggle. It hurts, numbs. Not inconvenient nor uncomfortable, but a reason to be aware. A reason to move A reason to live. I can feel my heart beating as I drive. I feel as though I am really doing something. The sun’s glowing early morning warmth is magical. I feel as though I am floating into some mystical purpose. I am going to see her. Really see her.
I arrive and am exhilarated to navigate the zoo to find her. A mission. A purpose. It should take 10 minutes to walk to her exhibit. Cindy. Her name is Cindy. I notice my pace quickening the closer I get. A purpose. I haven’t felt this in a while. “Central Africa” the sign reads. I am here. There is so much life and movement here as I make my way to Cindy. Real noises, real movement, real excitement. Everything is alive.
As I come around the corner to her exhibit I see her immediately. She sees me. I can’t help but pause before slowing approaching. Our eyes never leave each other’s gaze. Her eyes are so deep and contemplating. She knows I am here. I see her. She sees me. She’s beautiful.